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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Florida baseball wins 16th-straight weekend series at home thanks to walk-off home run from Caglianone

A two-run home run from the junior propelled the Gators to a 4-3 win against Mississippi State

Gators junior two-way player Jac Caglianone energized after hitting a walk-off, two-run home run to defeat Mississippi State 4-3 on Sunday, March 31, 2024.
Gators junior two-way player Jac Caglianone energized after hitting a walk-off, two-run home run to defeat Mississippi State 4-3 on Sunday, March 31, 2024.

Mississippi State decided to intentionally walk him earlier in the game. But with the tying run on first and the winning run at the plate, there really wasn’t any other option but to pitch to him.

The inescapable scenario caught up to the Bulldogs.

On a 1-2 count with no outs, sophomore reliever Evan Siary’s fastball leaked too far over the plate. Jac Caglianone pulled the center-cut heater past the right field wall for a walk-off, two-run home run.

“Keep fighting for each other,” he said. “That's going to carry us back to Omaha.”

The No. 6 Florida Gators (16-11, 6-3 SEC) beat the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs (19-10, 4-5 SEC) 4-3 Sunday afternoon at Condron Family Ballpark, winning its 16th-straight weekend series at home.

In addition to Caglianone’s ninth inning heroics, he started on the mound and was nearly perfect through the first four innings Sunday. He retired 12 consecutive Mississippi State batters after plunking his first hitter of the game.

However, after surrendering his first run in the fourth inning, his command got completely away from him. Caglianone walked four batters, one intentionally, the following inning and surrendered two runs. 

“I need to do a better job for all those guys in the dugout to make sure the wheels don’t fall off,” he said. “Can’t have great outings all the time.”

The southpaw’s final two innings eerily mirrored Bulldogs right-hander Karson Ligon’s start. Ligon lasted just 2 ⅓ innings, walking three and hitting two batters.

The Gators capitalized on his erratic pitching when Colby Shelton advanced home on a wild pitch in the third inning.

Florida held a one-run lead until Caglianone’s no-hitter was broken up in the fifth inning.

Senior center fielder Connor Hujsak led off with a double, and sophomore designated hitter Bryce Chance blistered an RBI single to right field to even the score at one run apiece.

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The Bulldogs quickly gained a lead when Caglianone allowed four walks the next inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan elected to go to freshman right-hander Luke McNeillie.

“We made our mind up that if we had gotten in trouble in the sixth, and that’s what happened, then we would go to Luke right away,” O’Sullivan said. “I had an idea it was going to be a low-scoring game, not a normal Sunday game.”

McNeillie’s second pitch was driven to right field and looked destined to result in a bases-clearing double. Out of nowhere, right fielder Ty Evans fully laid out and made a diving catch to end the inning.

“That was the play of the game,” McNeillie said. “If he didn’t make that, we definitely would’ve lost that game.”

Gators pinch-hitting freshman Hayden Yost hit a slow-rolling, infield single down the third base line to shave Florida’s deficit to one run in the bottom of the sixth.

McNeillie pitched the final three innings of the game, and Caglianone walked it off to record the Gators’ 16th-straight series win at home.

Florida resumes play against the Florida A&M Rattlers at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Condron Family Ballpark. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.

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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