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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Florida overcomes sluggish offense, defeats Florida A&M in NCAA regional opener

The Gators secured the win behind six shutout innings from Jac Caglianone

Florida sophomore pitcher Jac Caglianone stands on the mound during the Gators' 3-0 win against Florida A&M Friday, June 2, 2023.
Florida sophomore pitcher Jac Caglianone stands on the mound during the Gators' 3-0 win against Florida A&M Friday, June 2, 2023.

Few signs pointed to Friday’s matchup between the Florida Gators and Florida A&M Rattlers being a low-scoring affair. The Gators’ top-ranked offense were matched up against a Florida A&M team that struggled with pitching all season. 

When the two teams faced each other April 18, the Gators needed just seven innings to rout the Rattlers 17-7.

After a two-run first inning, it seemed Florida would tack on a heavy outpour of scoring. But behind a strong outing from sophomore starter Jac Caglianone, the first inning scores were enough for the Gators to pave their way to victory. 

“Sometimes you’re gonna win with your offense, sometimes you’re gonna win with your pitching,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We did enough offensively, and our pitching was outstanding.”

The No. 2 Florida Gators (45-14, 20-10 SEC) defeated the Florida A&M Rattlers (29-29, 18-12 SWAC) 3-0 Friday in the opening round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Gainesville regional. Florida failed to score any runs for seven consecutive innings but held FAMU scoreless through the entirety of the contest. 

The Gators’ offense positioned themselves early with a leadoff double from freshman second baseman Cade Kurland. 

Rattlers sophomore pitcher Caleb Granger earned two outs via contact before UF shortstop Josh Rivera stepped up to the plate. The junior crushed a ball past the left-field bullpen for a two-run home run. 

“I was fortunate enough to catch my pitch when I was ahead in the count 2-0,” Rivera said. 

Florida’s bats went down swinging in the second inning and were retired 1-2-3. The inning set precedent for the remainder of the contest that would feature minimal offense from both sides.

Caglianone — who entered Friday after a rough outing against the Commodores in the Southeastern Conference tournament — looked sharp all throughout his start. 

The two-way sophomore made it through five frames, surrendering only three hits and three walks. 

Florida positioned itself to provide cushion for its starter with a trio of baserunners in the bottom of the fifth inning.

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Freshman center fielder Michael Robertson and Kurland both reached base with one-out walks, and junior outfielder Wyatt Langford hit a line drive past the outstretched glove of Rattlers junior third baseman Adam Haidermota to load the bases. 

The brewing offensive storm came to a screeching halt when Caglianone stepped up to the plate. The sophomore swung at the first pitch and hit a chopping ground ball to second base that resulted in a double play.

Caglianone closed his night on the mound in the sixth inning after stranding a runner on first. He finished with seven strikeouts through six frames. 

Florida sophomore right-hander Ryan Slater entered the game and tossed 15 pitches to make it through two innings and positioned sophomore reliever Brandon Neely to close out the affair. 

The final inning provided some late-inning suspense with two FAMU runners thrown out at home plate. 

Gators graduate student right fielder Richie Schiekofer was subbed into the game in the ninth and immediately called to action. With a runner at second, Rattlers sophomore second baseman Will Brown drove a single to left field. Schiekofer approached the ball and fired a throw home to gun the runner down and preserve the shutout. 

The drama at the plate was repeated after Brown stole second. FAMU freshman outfielder Ben Kim hit a single to short. The ball gradually approached the outfield grass and provided enough time for Brown to make a split-second decision to turn home. Rivera fired a throw to home and recorded the final out of the low-scoring contest. 

“A win’s a win this time of year,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s not anything to get upset about or overanalyze.” 

The Gators resume their NCAA regional run 6 p.m. Saturday against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. 

Contact Luke Adragna at ladragna@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @lukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.


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