The Florida Gators celebrate after sophomore Michael Robertson hit a walk-off double to help the Gators win in the bottom of the 13th inning against Clemson in the NCAA baseball Clemson Super Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Sunday. [ Ken Ruinard - USA TODAY Sports]

Clemson Super Regional: Robertson Leads Gators To Omaha With Walk-Off Win

It’s the bottom of the 13th inning Sunday and the Florida Gators are down 10-9 in Game 2 of the Clemson Super Regional. Florida has the bases loaded with one out. It all comes down to redshirt sophomore outfielder Michael Robertson.

Robertson is no stranger to clutch situations, but Clemson fans at Doug Kingsmore Stadium are throwing everything they have at him as he steps into the batter’s box. Robertson lets the first pitch he sees fly by for ball one. He takes a beat to compose himself before stepping back to the plate. The pitch comes in, and Robertson lets his bat rip.

The ball travels into deep left center field. As Robertson rounds first base, pinch-runner Jaylen Guy and Tyler Shelnut are charging home. Guy steps across the plate, followed by Shelnut, as Robertson lands at second base. The stadium has gone silent, save for the roaring Florida dugout and cheering section.

Robertson erupts in celebration as his teammates pile on top of him in the outfield after the Gators punched their ticket for the College World Series.

Florida (34-28) came away with a hotly contested 11-10 win in 13 innings against No. 6 seed Clemson (44-16). After finishing the regular season with a 28-26 record, the Gators have turned into a modern-day Cinderella story as they are Omaha bound for the 14th time in program history and second consecutive year after their fifth consecutive win.

The Gators have won nine consecutive Super Regionals, the longest streak by any school since the NCAA added the round in 1999.

“We put ourselves in a position where we needed to get over .500 to qualify for the tournament,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Honestly, for the last month, we’ve been playing playoff baseball. Every game matters.

“But I think us going through those struggles and have every game matter, the last two or three weeks of the year, probably helped toughen us up a little bit.”

Game 2 Box Score

Florida’s Key Performers

Jac Caglianone and Colby Shelton chipped in with another pair of powerful performances. Caglianone sent out a two-run homer to get the Gators started in the first inning. Shelton led Florida with three RBIs, while Cade Kurland scored a team-high three runs. Brody Donay and Ashton Wilson each provided two-run home runs to help power Florida.

Caglianone led the way for the Gators on the mound as well. Florida’s two-way standout threw out 5 2/3 innings, finishing with a line of five hits, two walks, four runs and six strikeouts. After some turbulence from Florida’s relievers in the waning innings, freshman Luke McNeillie earned his fourth win of the season. McNeillie (4-6) finished with a line of one hit, no walks, one run and one strikeout through two innings.

Caglianone Comes Out Swinging

The Gators could not have gotten off to a better start. After Caglianone pitched a scoreless frame to start the game, Clemson starter Aidan Knaak hit Kurland on his first pitch.

Caglianone made his way back into the batter’s box looking to do some damage. He let the first pitch he saw fly past him before launching a ball over the center field wall and into the parking lot for a 2-0 Gator lead with his 33rd home run of the season. He has 33 home runs on back-to-back seasons and is one home run shy (73) of tying Matt LaPorta’s program record (74).

Tensions soon boiled over between the squads in the top of the second inning of a must-win game for Clemson. With two outs, Nolan Nawrocki hit a weak ground ball between the mound and first base line. As Caglianone scooped up the ball and rushed over to make the tag, Nawrocki appeared to shove the Florida pitcher off the base path. Caglianone immediately retaliated with a shove of his own, prompting the dugouts to clear as the two players were separated.

Clemson Claps Back

The umpires spent nearly 15 minutes reviewing the incident before announcing their verdict: Caglianone and Nawrocki remained in the game, but Clemson first baseman Jack Crighton was ejected for making contact with an umpire during the altercation. After a 20-minute break in action, the squads resumed play.

But as the Clemson fans in attendance continued to hurl their boos onto the field, there was still plenty of tension in the air.

Following their second-inning spat, the Tigers came back out firing away in the third inning. Jarren Purify led off the frame by reaching first on a walk. Two at-bats later, Jacob Hinderleider brought him home on an RBI double.

With the tying run now aboard, Clemson third baseman Blake Wright sent a long fly ball into deep center field. Florida center fielder Michael Robertson gave it chase, but he could not come down with it as the ball landed just beyond the fence. Wright had given the Tigers their first lead 3-2.

The Gators came right back with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame to tie the ballgame. Kurland knocked in a leadoff single before reaching second on a wild pitch later in the inning. With two outs, Shelton knocked a single through the right field gap to bring Kurland home and tie the game at 3-3.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but… we just keep battling and battling,” Shelton said. “It just shows how tough we are and how resilient we are.”

Florida Regains Lead

The Gators took a 5-3 lead in the fifth. Florida loaded the bases with back-to-back walks and a hit-by-pitch on Ashton Wilson. Shelton went down 1-2 in the count before sending a knock into deep right field to score Kurland and Caglianone.

Clemson came right back with a run of its own in the sixth courtesy of a solo homer from Jimmy Obertop. Caglianone and reliever Jake Clemente combined to prevent any more bleeding in the frame ash, Florida hung on to a 5-4 lead.

Dale Thomas led off the sixth with a single before Donay drilled a ball over the right field wall and just past the Clemson Cajun Café for his 12th home run of the season and a 7-4 UF lead.

Racing To Finish Line

The Tigers, seeking a trip to the CWS for the first time since 2010, kept fighting. Wright led off the eighth by reaching second base on a Florida throwing error. He scored on Cam Cannarella’s RBI single. Clemente allowed a walk in the subsequent at-bat, prompting O’Sullivan to pull him.

With the tying run on base for Clemson, Florida went to closer Brandon Neely, who pitched four innings in UF’s Game 1 win Saturday, in hopes of shutting the door on the Tigers for good. While Neely did his part to keep the Tigers in check, pinch hitter Tryston McCladdie came through with a clutch RBI single to bring home another run to pull the Tigers with 7-6.

In the bottom of the eighth, Wilson, the MVP of the Stillwater Regional, got both runs back for the Gators. Wilson drilled a two-run home run over the left field grandstand to put Florida back up three at 9-6. Wilson’s second home run of the season (both in the NCAA Tournament) appeared to make the game all but over.

But Cannarella was not ready to say goodbye just yet. With a pair of runners on base for the Tigers, Cannarella blasted a ball past the right field foul pole and out of the ballpark. In the blink of an eye, the Gators had gone from a three-run cushion to a tie ballgame at 9-9.

Neely prevented any further bleeding in the frame, but Florida could not respond in the bottom of the ninth. Game 2 went to extra innings.

Robertson Dons His Cape

Florida had a chance to win the game in the 10th inning with two outs and two runners on, Cannarella made an over-the-shoulder catch in center field to rob Wilson of a game-winning double.

In the 13th Alden Mathes mashed a long ball over the right field fence to give the Tigers a 10-9 lead.

Clemson coach Erik Bakich was ejected after the umpires conferred whether to eject Mathes from the game for his bat spike following his home run swing. Mathes, though, remained in the game.

With their backs against the wall, the Gators had to find a way to get back on the board. Luke Heyman and Tyler Shelnut led off the bottom of the frame with back-to-back singles. Thomas laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Guy, who had replaced Heyman, and Shelnut to third and second base.

After the Tigers intentionally walked Donay, the stage was set for Robertson to play hero. Facing a 1-0 count, Robertson hit a laser into deep left field to score Guy and Shelnut. Robertson sent the Gators back to Omaha for a second consecutive year.

“I was looking for something down the zone, just a pitch to hit,” Robertson said. “It was there, I was able to put a swing on it… and find a gap. But obviously, none of that happens without the guys in front of me. Super proud of this group of guys.”

Up Next

The Gators will play No. 3 seed Texas A&M (49-13), the winner of the Bryan-College Station Super Regional, at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., that starts Friday. The Aggies swept their super regional against Oregon to advance to the CWS for the eighth time in program history.

The UF-Texas A&M rematch is set for 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN, 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF). The Gators won the season series 2-1 against the Aggies in Gainesville (8-6W, 10-6L, 4-2W) in March.

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.

Check Also

Florida Gators Jac Caglianone

College World Series: Gators Knock Out NC State To Stay Alive In Omaha

The 2024 Men’s College World Series has already been filled with all kinds of thrilling …