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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Florida evens series against No. 9 Georgia to keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive

The Gators are just one win away from being eligible for the field of 64

Florida baseball head coach Kevin O' Sullivan takes the ball from Brandon Neely in the team's loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday, April 12, 2024.
Florida baseball head coach Kevin O' Sullivan takes the ball from Brandon Neely in the team's loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday, April 12, 2024.

The Florida Gators baseball team needed to win the last two games of its series against No. 9 Georgia to keep its regular season record above .500.

In doing so, UF would ensure a spot in field of 64 for the NCAA Tournament. Though, it didn’t look promising when Florida trailed 4-2 heading into the top of the eighth inning. 

But sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland delivered a clutch two-out two-RBI home run to left field to tie the score at 4-4. With the game sent to extra innings, sophomore catcher Luke Heyman came up huge for the Gatorswith a game-sealing three-run home run in the top of the tenth.

Florida (27-26, 12-17 SEC) battled No. 9 Georgia (39-13, 17-12 SEC) into extra frames in a back-and-forth affair and claimed a 7-4 victory in Athens, Georgia.

Freshman starting pitcher Liam Peterson looked solid in the opening frames. Peterson kept Georgia scoreless through four innings of work before Georgia senior outfielder Corey Collins sent a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the fifth and claimed a  2-1 lead over Florida.

Peterson was replaced by fellow freshman pitcher Luke McNeillie in the very next frame after giving up a lead-off double to freshman infielder Tre Phelps who later scored to extend Georgia’s lead to 3-1.

Florida sophomore center fielder Michael Robertson had a sensational performance Saturday. Robertson posted a three-hit game and cut the Bulldogs’ lead to just one after an RBI double to center field scored senior third baseman Dale Thomas from first base.

Collins came through with another home run in the bottom half of the frame to extend Georgia’s lead to 4-2. However, Kurland’s two-run home run in the top-half of the inning proved that the Gators wouldn’t go down without a fight.

Florida put two runners on in the top of the tenth as Heyman stepped to the plate with a chance to give the Gators their first lead since the first inning.

Back-to-back singles from sophomore outfielder Ashton Wilson and Caglianone set up Heyman to deliver his third home run of the series while keeping Florida’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

Georgia had one last chance to score three runs in the bottom of the tenth inning, but Neely worked out of the frame without a Bulldog crossing the plate.

Next, Florida will take on No. 9 Georgia in a rubber match Saturday at 6 p.m. in Athens, Georgia. 

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Max Tucker

Max Tucker is a junior transfer student at UF. After obtaining his A.A. in Journalism from Santa Fe College in 2023, he chose further his education at Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. Max is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a specialization in sports and media. He enjoys golfing and going to the beach with his friends in his free time.

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