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Friday, September 29, 2023

Florida drops series to Texas A&M

Neely’s ninth-inning balk leads to Aggies’ walkoff win

Florida pitcher Ryan Slater walks off the field in the Gators' 5-3 win against the Florida State Seminoles Tuesday, April 11, 2023.
Florida pitcher Ryan Slater walks off the field in the Gators' 5-3 win against the Florida State Seminoles Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

Florida sophomore closer Brandon Neely returned to the mound to keep the game tied and force extra innings against the Texas A&M Aggies. The right-hander earned a save against the Aggies Friday, and he worked a strong relief heading into the final inning.

However, things ended in heartbreak for the Gators’ closer. Texas A&M put a pair of runners in scoring position, and Neely balked as Aggies pinch-runner Travis Chestnut feigned towards home plate. The balk gave Texas A&M the walk-off win and secured a series loss.

The No. 4 Florida Gators (37-12, 15-9 SEC) fell 3-2 to the Texas A&M Aggies (28-20, 11-13 SEC) Sunday afternoon in College Station, Texas. The loss secured UF’s second Southeastern Conference series loss of the season. 

Junior right fielder Tyler Shelnut broke through the early stalemate after two scoreless innings. The Santa Fe College transfer smoked a leadoff home run in the top of the third to give Florida an early lead.

The Gators failed to add any further runs in the third, but they handed an early lead to sophomore left-hander Jac Caglianone. The two-way star forced a pair of long fly outs to the outfield to post his third-straight shutout inning.

The Aggies finally got after Caglianone in the fourth. Texas A&M infielder Trevor Werner smacked a leadoff single, and Caglianone proceeded to walk three batters to load the bases and walk in a run. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan opted to send in redshirt sophomore Ryan Slater to get out of the jam.

Slater got out of the jam with a groundout, and he tossed a shutout in the fifth inning to keep the game square at one heading into the sixth inning. 

Junior left fielder Wyatt Langford broke the deadlock in the top of the sixth. The Trenton, Florida, product smoked the pitch deep over the left field wall for a go-ahead leadoff smash. Slater failed to keep the lead in the bottom of the inning.

Outfielder Jace LaViolette ripped a leadoff triple, and designated hitter Ryan Targac hit a sacrifice fly to score LaViolette and tie the game at two.

Slater struck out a batter but gave up a single with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Neely replaced Slater to see out the frame and lock down the end of the game.

Neely struck out one and forced a foul out to get out of the inning and give the Gators another chance to take the lead. Florida failed to capitalize, however, and the game was tied heading to the bottom of the eighth. Neely responded with a quick 1-2-3 inning to keep the stalemate.

Freshman first baseman Luke Heyman had the final chance to give Florida a lead in nine innings, but the Longwood, Florida, product struck out swinging to end the frame.

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Neely looked to keep his strong outing going, but he wouldn’t be able to save the day. His walk-off balk ended the game and secured a series loss for UF.

Florida will return to Gainesville for its second-to-last SEC series of the season against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Game one is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a fourth-year communications major and in his fourth semester with the Alligator. He previously covered football, baseball and women's basketball. He also enjoys professional lacrosse and Major League Soccer.

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