Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone threw six-hitless innings Sunday with nine strikeouts. [Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports]

Gators Cruise To 10-0 Win In Series Finale Vs. Saint Mary’s

Coming off of a frustrating Saturday night loss to the Saint Mary’s Gaels, the Florida Gators baseball team had enough. They came into Sunday’s series finale looking to send a message to the rest of the country: they are not a team to trifle with.

No. 4 Florida dominated Saint Mary’s en route to a 10-0 run-rule win in eight innings at Condron Ballpark. Jac Caglianone put together one of the finest performances of his career on the mound. The Gators’ two-way star pitched six hitless innings, striking out nine along the way.

Florida (10-5) looked unstoppable from the opening pitch. All nine UF starters finished with at least one hit, while five Gators notched multi-hit outings. Redshirt sophomore center fielder Michael Robertson led off the fireworks with a two-RBI double in the second inning.

Sophomore first baseman Luke Heyman followed with a two-run knock in the fourth inning to make it 4-0.

Senior left fielder Tyler Shelnut led the charge as Florida’s offense continued to surge. Shelnut knocked a two-run homer over the wall to fire up the crowd. Senior catcher Tanner Garrison secured the mercy rule with an RBI double in the eighth inning to cap off an explosive offensive outing for the Gators, who outhit the Gaels 14-2.

“Jac was outstanding again for the second week in a row, and offensively, we got production up and down the lineup,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Overall, it was a really good game for us.”

Robertson Starts Off The Day With A Bang

Florida’s defense was clicking on all cylinders from the get-go on Sunday. In the opening inning, the Gaels went three up, three down. Caglianone sat down a pair of batters on strikes in the following inning before surrendering a walk to Dalton Mashore.

But as Mashore attempted to advance to second base in the next at-bat, Garrison hit sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland in stride to catch him attempting to steal for the third out.

Garrison got right back to work for Florida in the bottom of the frame. But this time, he made his presence felt at the plate instead of behind it. After senior third baseman Dale Thomas walked, Garrison doubled to give the Gators two runners in scoring position.

Robertson blasted a ball deep into right field for a two-run double. Florida had now jumped to a 2-0 lead.

Caglianone Keeps Getting Hotter And Hotter

Caglianone (2-0) kept firing away at the Gaels. The Florida left-hander sat down three consecutive batters on swinging strikeouts in the third inning.

In the following frame, Gavin Napier led off with a walk for the Gaels. Christian Almanza built the count to 3-2 in the following at-bat, setting up a crucial payoff pitch for both sides. But Caglianone kept his cool, delivering a perfect pitch to catch Almanza swinging for strike three.

As Almanza swung and missed, Napier took off running for second base. Garrison immediately cocked back his arm and found Colby Shelton on the base path to complete the double play. Caglianone quickly sat down the subsequent batter on strikes in another impressive defensive inning.

In the fourth, the Gators loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk to Kurland. Heyman then belted a two-run single to put the Gators up 4-0.

Florida Keeps The Momentum Rolling

Ty Evans kept Florida’s momentum rolling in the fifth inning. Evans led off with a single and eventually made it home on a double-play ground out by Garrison to make it 5-0.

At the start of the sixth inning, it appeared Caglianone had finally started to run out of gas. After taking care of the first batter he faced with a swinging strikeout, Caglianone allowed back-to-back walks. O’Sullivan came out to visit, but Caglianone remained adamant about finishing out the frame.

The decision paid off, as Caglianone forced a weak ground ball to third in the next at-bat. Thomas stepped on third for an out before throwing to first for the double play.

“When you walk two guys, it’s like, ‘OK, this can go one of two ways. Let’s make sure it doesn’t go the other way,'” Caglianone said. “Having [Tanner Garrison] behind the plate to make sure that I’m staying with him, each pitch was very helpful.”

Finding Plenty Of Luck In The Seventh Frame

After the Gaels landed a man on first via a fielding error to lead off the seventh inning, O’Sullivan decided the time had come to pull Caglianone from the game. The crowd gave Caglianone a standing ovation as he returned to the dugout.

In his last two outings, Caglianone has allowed no runs, three hits, six walks and struck out 20 in 12 innings.

“I think it’s just the command,” O’Sullivan said of Caglianone. “Once again, his slider and change-up were very good today and he’s getting a lot of swings and misses.”

Upon taking over on the mound, Ryan Slater quickly took care of business against Saint Mary’s, but not before it broke up Florida’s combined no-hitter. With two outs, Coleman Schmidt hit a single through the left side for the Gaels’ first knock of the ballgame.

In the bottom of the inning, Evans avenged the bullpen with a perfectly hit ball down the left field line. As Shelton, who had singled, crossed home plate to extend Florida’s lead to 6-0, Evans rounded second base and dove for the bag at third. After a lengthy review, the umpires ruled Evans safe on the play.

Evans’ close call at third had already riled up the fans, but Shelnut found a way to one-up his teammate. Shelnut crushed a ball over the right field fence and into Dizney Grove for a two-run long ball to make it 8-0.

 

Garrison Sends The Gators Home

Now just two runs away from triggering a mercy rule, Florida went for the kill shot in the eighth inning. Heyman and Shelton led off with a pair of base hits. Both runners advanced into scoring position on a ground out from Evans.

Shelnut loaded the bases on a walk. Thomas followed with a sacrifice fly into deep center field to score Heyman. With two outs, it was time for Garrison to put this game on ice.

“We don’t like to talk about the mercy rule, we just want to win baseball games,” Garrison said. “But people are lying to you if they’re telling you they’re not thinking about it. I knew if that run scored, we won the game. Base hit scores, no matter what.”

Garrison belted a deep line drive into left field. As Shelton took off running from second base, the Florida players had already begun to file onto the field. Shelton waltzed across home plate to score Florida’s 10th run and cap another strong weekend at the plate for the Gators.

Florida won its 13th consecutive regular-season home series.

Up Next

Florida will return to Condron Ballpark on Tuesday for the Sunshine State Showdown against the Florida State Seminoles (14-0). First pitch is set for 6 p.m. (SEC Network, ESPN 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF). FSU and Texas A&M are the last two undefeated teams in Division 1.

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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