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Monday, May 27, 2024

Offensive avalanche gives No. 3 Florida series win over Auburn

Gators scored 14 unanswered runs in comeback victory

Catcher Luke Heyman celebrates with his teammates after he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth in a 17-8 victory against the Auburn Tigers Sunday, April 2, 2023.
Catcher Luke Heyman celebrates with his teammates after he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth in a 17-8 victory against the Auburn Tigers Sunday, April 2, 2023.

Freshman catcher Luke Heyman stepped to the batter’s box in the bottom of the eighth with four runs batted in already on his batting line. UF roared back from down 8-3 to take a 10-run lead, and Heyman was about to put the cherry on top.

Heyman emptied the bases with a grand slam to left field. His eight RBI was just a slice of the offensive pie in No. 3 Florida’s 17-8 win against the Auburn Tigers Sunday afternoon at Condron Ballpark.

Junior left fielder Wyatt Langford reached base six times, and junior third baseman Colby Halter drove in four runs. 

Sophomore two-way Jac Caglianone tossed just 3.1 innings in his start. He was less wild than his appearance at Ole Miss last week but still allowed some hard contact when facing Auburn. Caglianone allowed four earned runs, walked three and struck out three.

Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan praised Heyman’s career game.

“He is doing everything we can ask of him,” O’Sullivan said. “Eight RBIs really speaks for itself.”

Caglianone dealt with traffic on the bases early. 

Auburn senior left fielder Bobby Peirce reached second base on a throwing error by freshman second baseman Cade Kurland. Senior third baseman Bryson Ware was hit by a pitch after Peirce advanced to third on a wild pitch. 

Caglianone escaped the runners-on-the-corners jam by striking out senior right fielder Justin Kirby swinging. 

Tigers senior starting pitcher Tommy Vail struggled to hold back the Gators’ bats in the first inning. Vail yielded a single to junior shortstop Josh Rivera and walked junior left fielder Wyatt Langford and senior first baseman BT Riopelle to load the bases. 

Heyman cleared the bases when he lined a base hit to left field. The ball squeaked behind Peirce and allowed Riopelle to score all the way from first base to deliver UF a 3-0 lead. 

Auburn struck back in the top of the second. Sophomore first baseman Cooper McMurray sat back on a 2-2 offering from Caglianone. He lofted the ball over the left-center field wall and onto the Dizney Grove. McMurray’s third longball of the season brought the lead down to 3-1. 

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Caglianone walked two to place runners on first and second when O’Sullivan made his first mound visit. Peirce squared up a line drive to right-center that looked destined for extra bases. However, UF freshman center fielder Michael Robertson ran the ball down in the right-center gap to save at least one run and end the inning.

Florida was unable to cash in on Vail’s lack of command in the second frame. The senior starter hit Robertson with a pitch and walked Langford to put runners on. He forced Caglianone to line out to center field to end the threat.

Caglianone left two more runners on in the third inning before finally surrendering the lead in the fourth. Facing the bottom of Auburn’s order, senior catcher Nate LaRue singled to left field to begin the inning. 

Junior second baseman Caden Green stepped up next and tattooed a two-run shot to the left-field berm to even the score at three. 

Peirce and freshman designated hitter Ike Irish recorded hits to put two men in scoring position. O’Sullivan removed Caglianone from the mound in favor of sophomore right-hander Blake Purnell. 

The sophomore’s wildness was apparent from the start. 

He hit Ware with a pitch to load the bases and then threw a pair of pitches that reached the backstop. The latter pitch allowed Peirce to score from third and gave Auburn a 4-3 lead. After recording the inning’s second out, Purnell was replaced by freshman lefty Cade Fisher. 

Fisher walked the first batter he faced to load the bags but induced a groundout to third from Auburn senior center fielder Kason Howell to end the inning and keep the deficit at one. 

Fisher didn’t have such good luck in the fourth inning; Auburn exploded for four more runs. A Peirce RBI single brought around Auburn’s fifth run. Fisher then gave up a three-run homer to right field off the bat of Ware to allow the Tigers to break open the score to 8-3. 

Vail didn’t make it out of the fifth inning after he walked Langford and hit Rivera with a pitch. Sophomore right-hander Chase Allsup inherited a two-out, two-on situation. Allsup touched 100 mph with his fastball but failed to locate it well. 

He walked Heyman to fill up the bases and allowed a two-run single to junior third baseman Colby Halter. The knock cut Auburn’s lead to 8-5. 

Allsup then walked pinch hitter Matt Prevesk and Robertson to force home another run. Senior righty Chase Isbell replaced Allsup and struck out Kurland to halt UF’s rally. 

The Gators picked up right where they left off in the bottom of the sixth. Isbell allowed a Langford double and got Caglianone to pop out before wincing after a pitch to Rivera. He was replaced by freshman left-hander Drew Nelson due to an injury. 

Nelson walked three consecutive batters to bring Langford home and shave the lead down to one. Halter followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field that would have been a go-ahead grand slam if the ball traveled five more feet. 

With the game now tied at eight, Prevesk struck out to end the inning and leave runners on the corners. 

Florida hung four on Auburn in the seventh inning to complete the comeback. Another Langford double put runners on second and third base for Caglianone, who drove them both home to put UF back on top 10-8. 

Heyman singled home another run two batters later. Halter kept up the pace with an RBI double to right to extend the Gators’ advantage to 12-8. 

UF added a boatload of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth thanks to Langford’s 10th home run of the year and a towering grand slam from Heyman to left field.  

Right-hander Ryan Slater dazzled in his four innings of relief. The sophomore faced 12 Tigers and retired them all, striking out four. 

“I think his confidence grew as the game went on,” O’Sullivan said.

Slater said his fastball-slider combination was what was working for him.

“Obviously we burned [Brandon] Neely last night, so we needed some guys to step up,” Slater said. “Thankfully they put me in there, and I was able to do my job,” Slater said. 

Florida faces Bethune Cookman Tuesday night at home before traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee, for a three-game series with the No. 10 Volunteers. 

First pitch Tuesday against the Wildcats is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.

Contact Ethan Eibe at Follow him on Twitter @EthanEibe.

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Ethan Eibe

Ethan Eibe is a second-year UF sports media major and covers Gators baseball for The Alligator. Outside of his writing, Ethan is a play-by-play broadcaster for UF student radio and has spent two summers announcing professional baseball with the Alpine Cowboys. He is a long-suffering Miami Marlins fan.

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