Florida catcher Luke Heyman (28) looks on before a matchup at 121 Financial Ballpark in Jacksonville earlier this season. Heyman's homer Friday gave Florida a 7-4 lead in the 10th inning at Georgia. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Florida Baseball Steals Game At No. 9 Georgia In 10 Innings

What a baseball game between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs on Friday in Athens, Ga. With the season on the line for the Gators, they pulled through.

Florida won off the backs of a late offensive surge and dynamic bullpen pitching at Foley Field.

The Gators defeated the No. 9 Bulldogs 7-4 with Luke Heyman’s three-run home run in the 10th inning the decisive factor that ended Georgia’s nine-game winning streak.

Florida (27-26, 12-17 SEC) has an opportunity to win the series against Georgia (39-13, 17-12) on Saturday afternoon. Jac Caglianone (5-1, 4.07 ERA) is scheduled to pitch in what could be his last start as a Gator.

Friday’s win was the 14th come-from-behind victory of the season for Florida. The Gators are now 31-18 against Georgia under coach Kevin O’Sullivan and have won 17 of the last 29 meetings.

Late Heroics

The Gators entered the top of the eighth inning down 4-2 and were six outs away from fan meltdowns on social media. A Caglianone single to start the inning brought up the tying run to the plate.

With two outs and Caglianone 180 feet away from scoring, sophomore Cade Kurland came to rescue the Gators. Kurland rocketed a ball into the trees over the left field fence to tie the game 4-4.

https://twitter.com/GatorsBB/status/1791552528100004086

The sophomore from Tampa rejuvenated a struggling Florida lineup that up to this point had five hits through 7.2 innings. But in extras, the Gators saw the ball the best they have seen all series.

Ashton Wilson, who was 0-for-4 coming into the at-bat, singled to start the 10th. Caglianone followed with a bloop single to center. With runners at second and third after a Colby Shelton sacrifice bunt, Heyman came up to bat to potentially give Florida the lead.

Heyman was coming off a two-homer performance Thursday in Florida’s 9-4 loss. An 0-for-4 start would not detour the sophomore catcher, as he belted a Brian Zeldin (3-3) pitch beyond the fence and into the left field trees for his career-high 14th home run on the year.

Night Night Neely

No UF player has had a more chaotic season than pitcher Brandon Neely (2-4). Neely started the season as a closer, became the Friday starter, then returned as the closer in the past couple of weeks. But one thing has stayed constant, Neely has shown up when the Gators needed him most.

The senior came into the Georgia sixth inning with the bases juiced and one out. Freshman Luke McNeillie faced just two batters before being taken out for the veteran Neely. Neely shut down the surging Georgia offense on back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.

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Neely was tasked to take the rest of the game and did so in a dominant fashion. Outside of a miscalculated pitch to Corey Collins, who homered, the preseason All-American showed why he is the trusted arm in the bullpen. Neely went 4.2 innings, allowed two hits and struck out six Georgia batters to halt one of the better offenses in the SEC.

https://twitter.com/GatorsBB/status/1791566561485996243

Up Next

Florida’s last regular-season game is Saturday against the Bulldogs at 2 p.m. (SEC Network+, ESPN 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF). The rubber match of the series is a pivotal game to determine Florida’s status for the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., that starts Tuesday. It is also worth noting that any team .500 and below is ineligible to play in the NCAA Tournament unless it wins their conference tournament.

 

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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