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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Florida unable to outlast No. 3 Kentucky in extra innings

Senior outfielder Tyler Shelnut tied the game in the ninth with a solo home run

Florida baseball first baseman Jac Caglianone stares the pitcher down in the team's opening night loss to St. John's University on Friday, February 16, 2024.
Florida baseball first baseman Jac Caglianone stares the pitcher down in the team's opening night loss to St. John's University on Friday, February 16, 2024.

For the second time in three days, Florida battled No. 3 Kentucky into extra innings. This time around, the winner would claim the series victory and build momentum heading down the stretch of the season into the SEC and NCAA Tournament.

It was senior day for Florida and it didn’t look promising for this year’s senior class to be sent off on a high note once the matchup went to extras.

Junior right-handed pitcher Brandon Neely allowed a three-run RBI-double to left field, sailing over senior outfielder Tyler Shelnut’s head to clear the bases while providing the Wildcats with the necessary insurance runs needed to secure the victory in the top of the 10th inning.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to finish .500 right,” O’Sullivan said. “We know what we need to do [to make the postseason] and it’s still right there in front of us. It’s not like we can’t do it, it’s just we’ve made a difficult road just a little bit more difficult.”

Despite showing signs of fight in the late frames, Florida (26-25, 11-16 SEC) was edged by No. 3 Kentucky (36-11, 20-7 SEC) 7-5 at Condron Ballpark in Gainesville Sunday.

Junior right-handed two-way star Jac Caglianone has been sensational this year both at the plate and on the mound. He brought in a 5-1 record on the season in 11 starts but Kentucky wasted no time applying pressure on Caglianone.

“He gave up three in the first and there weren’t a whole lot of hard hit balls honestly, O’Sullivan said. “He kept his composure and put up a bunch of zeros after that.”

The Wildcats plated back-to-back unearned runs in the top of the second inning on ground balls to the left side of the infield scoring Kentucky graduate student infielder Ryan Nicholson and redshirt junior outfielder Nolan McCarthy.

Caglianone settled into a grove after a shaky second inning. The junior went on to record 4.1 shutout innings allowing just two hits while striking out three Wildcat batters.

Florida failed to capitalize on the solid middle innings of work that Caglianone put together. UF was held scoreless until the bottom of the seventh when sophomore outfielder Ashton WIlson came up with a clutch pinch-hit two-RBI double to right field, scoring freshman outfielder Hayden Yost and Shelnut on the play.

UF trailed 3-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth inning and were down to its last three outs. On the first pitch of the at-bat for Shelnut, he crushed a game-tying home run over the left field fence, sending Condron Ballpark into a frenzy.

“There’s nothing really like it [playing at home],” Caglianone said. “I’m obviously gonna miss it a lot, it’s been nothing but great for me and my family.”

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Though, UK struck first and struck hard in the extra inning. The Wildcats facilitated a four-run 10th inning knocking junior right-handed pitcher Brandon Neely out of the game in what was far from his best outing of the season.

The Gators put together one last final effort to pull off a miraculous comeback in the 10th after Yost roped a double down the left field line that kicked towards the wall, scoring sophomore shortstop Colby Shelton and Caglianone to cut the UK lead to 7-5.

But Florida’s luck ran when sophomore utility player Landon Russell struck out swinging to secure the series victory for Kentucky.

Next, Florida will travel to Athens, Georgia for a three-game set against the Bulldogs. First pitch will be Thursday at 6 p.m.

Contact Max Tucker Follow him on X @Max_Tuckr1.

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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. Max will be covering the Gators Golf teams this Fall for The Alligator.

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