Gators sophomore Cade Kurland swings against Stetson in the Condron Family Ballpark. [Lee Ann Anderson/WRUF]

Gators Outlast Bulldogs In 19-11 Slugfest To Secure Series Victory

Everything the Gators had worked for this year had come down to this. One final game to either stay alive in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament, or all but sink to the bottom of the pack. With their lives now on the line, the Florida Gators not only answered the call; they made a statement for the ages.

Florida rode a 12-run fourth inning to the finish line in a dominant 19-11 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. The win secured UF’s first series victory in conference play since the end of March.

More importantly, however, Florida is now two wins above .500 entering the SEC Tournament. Even if the Gators are eliminated in the tournament’s opening round, they will still finish the regular season with a winning record, putting them in prime position to earn a berth in an NCAA Regionals bracket.

Florida Key Performers

Senior Tyler Shelnut led the way for Florida in the batter’s box, going 3-for-5 on the day with two doubles and two RBIs. Redshirt sophomore Michael Robertson and sophomore Ashton Wilson each finished with two hits apiece for a combined five RBIs.

Florida was swinging for the fences all afternoon long. Sophomore Cade Kurland knocked out a pair of home runs on the day, while junior Jac Caglianone sent out a moon shot of his own. Rounding things out, sophomore Luke Heyman recorded a team-high four RBIs.

On the mound, Caglianone initially struggled to keep the Bulldogs in check in his final start of the regular season. Through 2 1/3 innings, Caglianone surrendered three hits, four walks and three runs en route to an early exit. Junior Fisher Jameson subsequently came out of the bullpen to record his fourth win of the year. Jameson lasted 3 2/3 innings on the bump, finishing with a line of five hits, three runs (two earned) and two walks. He also sat down five Georgia batters on strikes.

Blasting Off In The Fourth Inning

Florida initially struggled to keep up with Georgia’s red-hot offense. The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead by the end of the second inning, courtesy of a sacrifice groundout from freshman Tre Phelps and a two-RBI knock from redshirt sophomore Charlie Condon.

Refusing to back down, the Gators bounced right back with an offensive explosion of their own in the top of the fourth inning. Wilson led off the frame with a single into the heart of right field. With a man already on board, Caglianone took to the plate ready to send one over the fences.

Facing a 2-1 count, the UF two-way phenom blasted a ball into the right field stands to put Florida on the scoreboard. Sophomore Colby Shelton followed up with a triple into center field, allowing him to score on a ground out one play later. In the blink of an eye, the Gators had tied this game up at 3-3. But they were still far from done here.

Offense Goes Into Overdrive

With the bases now empty, Kurland crushed a solo shot of his own over the right field wall to give Florida a 4-3 lead. Shelnut followed suit with a double into deep left field, while sophomore Brody Donay landed on base via a hit-by-pitch in the subsequent at-bat. Robertson proceeded to bring Kurland home on an RBI single into right. Returning the favor to his teammate, Wilson scored both Robertson and Donay one play later on a hard-hit single into left.

Following a pair of walks in the next two at-bats, Florida had managed to load the bases once again. Heyman immediately cleared them back out with a three-RBI double into left center. After Kurland was hit by another pitch in the subsequent at-bat, Shelnut sent yet another double into the heart of center field to bring both runners in. The inning finally ended on a fly out from senior Dale Thomas, but the Gators had already done more than enough damage in the frame. By the time the dust had settled, Florida’s lead had grown all the way out to 12-3.

Georgia Strikes Back

Even with this ballgame seemingly out of reach, the Bulldogs refused to quit up until the very end. After the Gators tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh inning, Georgia came right back with a three-run frame of their own. The Bulldogs led things off in the bottom of the inningwith a single and a walk. Graduate Clayton Chadwick then blasted an RBI-double into left center to get Georgia back on the board.

The Bulldogs went on to score another pair of runs in the inning via a Florida fielding error and an RBI single from sophomore Kolby Branch. The Gators managed to get two of those runs right back in the top of the eighth on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and sacrifice ground out from Donay, bringing their lead back up to 16-6.

But once again, the Bulldogs made it clear they were not going down without a fight. Condon and junior Slate Alford led off the bottom of the eighth with a pair of moonshots, while graduate Dillon Carter chipped in with a one-out RBI single to bring the lead back down to 16-9.

Even after Florida went back to the bullpen and sent redshirt freshman Jake Clemente out onto the mound, Georgia kept on rolling in the batter’s box. After senior Sebastian Murillo welcomed Clemente to the ballgame with a single into left, senior Fernando Gonzalez knocked a two-RBI double into deep center to cut Florida’s lead to just five runs.

Wrapping Things Up

Before any more damage could be done, Clemente was quickly pulled from the game and replaced on the bump by sophomore Cade Fisher. Fisher got the situation under control with ease, retiring the Bulldogs in the eighth without allowing another run to score. Kurland went on to knock out a three-run bomb in the top of the ninth to all but seal Georgia’s fate and clinch the series victory for Florida.

The Gators now turn their attention to Hoover, Alabama, for the upcoming 2024 SEC Tournament. Day one of the tournament is set to kick off on May 21 at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

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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