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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Gators finish off series sweep against Columbia

Tyler Shelnut led Florida with four RBI

Gators baseball left-handed pitcher Jac Caglianone pitches the ball in the team's 12-5 win over Columbia University on Sunday, February 25, 2024.
Gators baseball left-handed pitcher Jac Caglianone pitches the ball in the team's 12-5 win over Columbia University on Sunday, February 25, 2024.

Twenty-six seconds.

Gators third baseman Tyler Shelnut took nearly half a minute to round the basepaths as he watched his three-run home run soar through the clear blue skies at Condron Family Ballpark.

The 462-foot blast earned every second of viewing time from its perpetrator. It’s not often a player hits a ball as far as Shelnut did Sunday morning. 

“When he gets in on them, he hits them pretty far,” Florida first baseman Luke Heyman said of Shelnut’s home run. “It set the tone early, and we were able to break it open.”

The ball landed past the visitor’s dugout, outside of the ballpark and onto Hull Road. Shelnut produced four of 12 RBI the No. 4 Gators (5-1) totaled to sweep the Columbia Lions (0-3) 12-3 Sunday.

“Overall, it was a really good weekend,” said head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

Florida began its week with a 15-6 victory on Friday and followed with a 7-4 win on Saturday.

It took almost the entire game for the Gators’ bats to break out Saturday night. Florida’s six-run eighth inning appeared to carry over into Sunday’s matchup with a five-run first inning. 

Sophomore outfielder Michael Robertson scorched a leadoff double and was driven home two batters later with a double by Heyman. Sophomore shortstop Colby Shelton walked, junior outfielder Ty Evans doubled for a run and then Shelnut swung at the first pitch he saw for a three-run home run.

Meanwhile, Gators two-way player Jac Caglianone cruised through the first two innings of the game in his first start on the mound in 2024. The junior struck out the side in the second inning but allowed Lions senior designated hitter Cole Hage to connect on a pitch for a three-run home run in the third. 

Despite the errant pitch, Caglianone was pleased with his command.

“It was good,” he said. “It was good for a first outing. Just made one bad pitch, paid for it. Thankfully our hitters were on top of it and gave me plenty of run support, so I really wasn’t stressing too much about it.”

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O’Sullivan elected to pull him after the third inning for freshman reliever Alex Philpott, who looked dialed in from his first pitch. 

He finished his first inning one pitch away from an immaculate inning and struck out the side on 10 pitches. In three innings, Philpott struck out six batters and allowed zero runs. 

“He was outstanding,” O’Sullivan said. “I can’t say enough about his effort today.”

Florida’s pitchers cruised until the ninth inning as its offense added four more runs in the middle innings. 

Lions pitcher Will Harrigan entered the seventh inning and allowed a single to Caglianone. Then, the freshman walked four of his next five batters and walked in two runs. He left the inning with the bases loaded, and Florida added one more run on a sacrifice fly from senior catcher Tanner Garrison.

Two Gators freshman relievers made their first appearances on the mound. 

Freshman right-hander Grayson Smith pitched 1 ⅔ innings and struck out two without allowing a run. Freshman lefty Jacob Gomberg followed and struck out the final batter of the eighth inning before creating a mess on the basepaths, loading the bases with three consecutive walks.

With two outs, O’Sullivan elected to go to freshman lefty Robert Satin. Satin surrendered a double to push two runners home but recorded the final out for the series sweep.

The Gators continue their season with a midweek matchup against the Stetson Hatters (3-3) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Conrad Park in Deland, Florida. 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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