Caglianone stands looking at Condron Family Ballpark. Photo from @jac_caglianone on Twitter.

Gators Baseball Beats Kentucky, Claims Share of SEC Regular Season Title

Dominant pitching and clutch hitting late paved the way for the number four Florida baseball team on Saturday as they concluded the regular season with a 5-2 series-clinching win over number 19 Kentucky in Lexington.

With the win and losses by number five LSU and number two Arkansas, the Gators (42-13, 20-10 SEC) are the SEC’s regular season co-champion with the Razorbacks, their first share at the championship since their outright title in 2018. Florida’s 42 wins this season are the second-most in program history.

Jac Caglianone (1 for 2) and BT Riopelle (1 for 3, RBI) combined for clutch moments offensively and defensively throughout Saturday’s series closer. Meanwhile, Luke Heyman (2 for 4, 2 RBIs) provided two insurance runs, including a solo home run in the ninth inning.

https://twitter.com/GatorsBB/status/1660016382413783041?s=20

In his 14th start of the season, Caglianone (6-2) pitched a career-high seven innings with eight strikeouts while allowing four hits with no earned runs. He recorded at least one strikeout in six of his seven innings pitched and finishes the regular season with a 3.96 ERA.

Clutch plays contain the Cats

Caglianone provided clutch pitching throughout the early innings with at least one strikeout through the first four innings.

The Wildcats had an early scoring opportunity after a leadoff double and stolen base by Devin Burkes. However, a sacrifice bunt attempt failed as Caglianone rolled the ball with his glove to BT Riopelle to record the out. He struck out one more batter to keep Kentucky off the board.

As the Gator bats struggled throughout the game, the defense continued to provide clutch moments in the fifth inning.

Kentucky’s James McCoy singled to end a two-inning hitless drought but was caught stealing by Riopelle for the second out of the inning. Grant Smith walked, and Jackson Gray singled to put two on base, but the Gator defense shut down Kentucky’s momentum with a fielder’s choice out at third to end the inning.

Gators’ offense pulls their weight

With no runs and only one hit for the Gators through six innings, Caglianone walked, stole second and advanced to third. Riopelle stepped into the batter’s box and hit a sacrifice fly to score Caglianone for the game’s first run, which proved to be the difference maker.

Tyler Shelnut singled and reached second off an error. Heyman’s RBI single in the next at-bat gave the Gators a 2-0 lead.

Kentucky sent Evan Byers to the mound, and Florida sent Dale Thomas to pinch hit. Facing an 0-2 count, Thomas homered for the first time in his Gator career; his two-run shot put Florida ahead 4-0.

The Gator defense would continue to shut down the Wildcats. Reuben Church singled to begin the seventh frame, but a line out and a 6-4-3 double play ended another chance for Kentucky to score.

The Wildcats did get on the board in the eighth inning with a solo home run from Smith, but Philip Abner forced three-straight outs to prevent any more damage.

Heyman provided another insurance run with a solo home run in the ninth inning, and Church plated one for Kentucky with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning but the Gators held on for the win.

The Gators now turn their attention to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, which begins on Tuesday. Florida will begin play on Wednesday as a top-two seed. The tournament concludes the following Sunday. The Gators last won the SEC Tournament in 2015.

About Cam Parker

Cam is a fourth-year broadcast journalism sports and media major at the University of Florida. In addition to writing and recording radio trendings for WRUF, Cam covers North Florida HS football for The Prep Zone and Mainstreet Daily News and UF football and basketball for Inside the Gators.

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