UF's Colby Shelton hits against St John’s at the Condron Family Ballpark on Feb.16. [Lee Ann Anderson/WRUF]

Gators Bounce Back by Defeating Bethune-Cookman

The Florida Gators baseball team defeated Bethune-Cookman 9-2 Wednesday night with a combination of clutch pitching and big at-bats from their veteran leader and transfer phenom.

Entering Wednesday’s matchup against the Wildcats, the No. 4 Gators (6-2) were upset Tuesday night in their trip to Deland facing Stetson. It is never a great feeling dropping a game to a team everyone penciled in for you to beat. The Gators could not afford to lose the home game against Bethune-Cookman (4-4).

Early Bats

It seems to be a recurring theme of the Gators starting the game with multiple runs through the first inning. Five of their eight games have had early offensive output by the Gators. A Michael Robertson walk and Jan Caglianone single left the corners occupied for Ty Evans. A wild pitch by the Bethune-Cookman pitcher scored Robertson. Evan would later walk and bring up the Alabama transfer Colby Shelton.

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Shelton has been a solid contributor in his first seven games for the Gators slashing a .348/543/.696. With runners on first and second, Shelton blasted a fastball above the leaping right fielder’s glove that landed in the Gators’ bullpen for a 4-0 lead.

Shelly Showstopper

Tyler Shelnut once again had himself a game. Shelnut started at third base for the first time this season and showed off his fielding prowess multiple times by robbing Wildcat batters from would-be hits. While he is primarily used in the outfield, Shelnut did not stop practicing his craft at the hot corner.

“I never neglected infield work … it wasn’t necessarily [practicing the infield and outfield] 50/50,” Shelnut said. “It 100/100, I put in the work in the outfield and then doubled with the work I put in the infield.”

With the bat, Shelnut went 3-4 with a solo homer in the third and an RBI double in the fifth. If the Gators want to make another deep run in Omaha this year, veterans like Shelnut need to deliver, so far he is exceeding expectations with his .345/.486/.724 slash line.

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Freshman Arm Barn

Five of the nine innings pitched by the Gators were pitched by freshmen. Junior Fisher Jameson opened the game for the Gators and gave 2.2 innings of no-run baseball. However, he was pulled in the third after allowing two straight hits with two outs.

Kevin O’Sullivan chose to go for freshman Robert Satin to come in for Jameson. Satin got out of the jam striking out the Bethune-Cookman batter in just four pitches. Satin would then pitch three innings of no-run baseball adding four strikeouts. He also picked up the first collegiate career win, and his coach was pleased with his performance.

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“When [Satin] came in, threw three scoreless, kind of slowed things down for us,” O’Sullivan said. “I think Bethune is much improved and I was a bit concerned coming in because our pitching was going to be young on the mound, but I thought Robert came in and did a great job.”

After Blake Purnell gave up the only runs in the game for the Wildcats, Alex Philpot, another freshman, pitched the last two innings for the Gators. Philpot allowed just one hit in his time on the mound with most of his outs being minimal contact off the bat. Philpot has pitched the second-most innings on the team with 9.2 and still has not allowed a run.

Jac Attack

There was a small comeback by Bethune-Cookman in the eighth that made it a four-run ballgame with just one inning left. That was until a bad man named Jac Caglianone entered the box for the Gators with runners on the corners. Caglianone hit a missile into the right-field parking lot, something the lefty did many times in 2023. This was his first home run of the season at Condron Family Ballpark.

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Compared to last year’s historic season, Caglianone is off to a slower start in terms of home-run numbers. But looking at the stats, Caglianone is having a spectacular season. He leads the team in batting average and hits while having a 9% strikeout rate. He is second on the team in OPS and has a .575 OBP.

Cade Kurland Injury Update

Starting second baseman Cade Kurland has not been in the lineup in the four games since bruising his hand in last Friday’s victory against Columbia. O’Sullivan is optimistic about his return Friday.

“We’re looking forward to get Cade back again, he’s trending in the right decision and hopefully we’ll get him back on Friday,” O’Sullivan said.

O’Sullivan reiterated that since Kurland’s injury was a bruise, there is still a chance the Gators can be without Kurland for the start of the Miami series.

“He feels good right now, he’ll take [batting practice] for the first time tomorrow, if his hand allows him to he will be right back in the lineup.”

Looking Ahead

The Gators will travel to South Florida to face off against the Miami Hurricanes in their annual series. The usual weekend series rotation of Cade Fisher, Liam Peterson and Caglianone will be in for the Gators. The first pitch for Friday is at 7 p.m. (SEC Network+, ESPN Gainesville 98.1-FM/AM-850 WRUF).

About Nick VanZandt

Nick VanZandt is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida and this is his third semester working for WRUF.

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