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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Gators’ bats keep hope alive in College World Series finals

Florida hit six home runs Sunday against LSU

Florida sophomore two-way player celebrates with his teammates during the Gators' 8-2 win against Connecticut Sunday, June 4, 2022.
Florida sophomore two-way player celebrates with his teammates during the Gators' 8-2 win against Connecticut Sunday, June 4, 2022.

OMAHA, Neb. — Resilience and tenacity have been two of the most glaring qualities of the Florida Gators baseball team this season.

Florida has a knack for rising to the occasion in the season’s most decisive moments and have tallied nearly two dozen come-from-behind victories. UF has found a way to emerge victorious even when it seemed hopeless.

Game two of the College World Series finals was no different. With their backs against the wall and facing elimination, the Gators came out swinging.    

Florida (54-16, 20-10 SEC) defeated the Louisiana State Tigers (53-17, 19-11 SEC) 24-4 in game two of the College World Series finals Sunday.

UF broke the College World Series run-record set by Notre Dame in 1957 with its 23-2 victory against Northern Colorado. 

Florida outfielder Ty Evans shined Sunday with a pair of home runs in the first three innings and set the Gators’ momentum throughout the rest of the contest. 

“Ty stepped up in the biggest way possible this week,” sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone said.

The wind has been a constant struggle for teams in Omaha, Nebraska. Dozens of hard-hit pitches stayed inside the ballpark due to strong gusts infield throughout the entirety of the College World Series. 

It’s been especially frustrating for a Florida lineup that is reliant on the longball.

“The wind was in our favor,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

It was a different scene Sunday. The flags that had blown in throughout the week suddenly began to wave outward. Game two had threatened to be a high-scoring game, and it certainly played out as such. 

Florida tacked on its first score in the second with a solo home run from Evans to even the score Tigers senior second baseman Gavin Dugas knocked in the first with an RBI double.

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The Gators scored two more runs in the third inning with three singles from the top of the Gators’ order. The game slipped out of the Tigers’ hands when junior shortstop Jordan Thompson committed an error to load up the bases. 

Evans took advantage of the opportunity and hit a towering flyball that pushed just over the left field wall for a grand slam. 

The Gators were in the driver’s seat, but right-handed starter Hurston Waldrep continued to struggle to get outs. 

Waldrep began his start with 29 pitches in the first inning. He couldn’t find his way around batters like his three previous starts where he struck out 37 hitters. 

LSU had three runs on the board and looked primed to add more with two walks and a hit-by-pitch in the third. 

O’Sullivan strutted toward the mound with the bases loaded and out came sophomore reliever Blake Purnell to clean up the mess. 

Purnell had been called upon only three times in the last two months but in one pitch, he delivered. 

He retired LSU sophomore slugger Tommy White with a ground ball to second base for an inning-ending double play.

Florida’s lead grew with back-to-back home runs by junior outfielder Wyatt Langford and Caglianone in the sixth plus an RBI single from junior outfielder Tyler Shelnut. 

The lead reached double digits, and O’Sullivan called upon sophomore righty Nick Ficarrotta to preserve the Florida bullpen.

“[The bullpen] was the difference in the game,” O’Sullivan said.

The right-handed entered in the fifth inning and worked his way into the ninth while the Gators tacked on 16 more runs. 

Caglianone tallied his second home run of the day and his 33rd of the season for the BBCOR era home run record set by Ivan Melendez in 2021. 

Ficarrotta surrendered a solo home run but secured the final three outs of the contest  to defeat the Tigers 24-4. 

“All those runs today, we can’t carry over to tomorrow,” Langford said. “But we can carry over the momentum.” 

The Gators’ chances at the national title remain alive. College baseball’s 2023 National Champions will be decided at 7 p.m. Monday, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN. 

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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