Jun 15, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators first baseman Jac Caglianone (14) runs off the field at the end of the seventh inning against the Texas A&M Aggies at Charles Schwab Field Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Gators take on NC State in CWS Elimination Game

The Florida Gators look to stay alive in the College World Series, taking on NC State in a win or go home matchup. The game features two teams coming off heartbreakers, as the Gators lost to Texas A&M in a nine-inning thriller in their opener, while NC State dropped an extra-innings 5-4 contest to Kentucky.

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Florida Gators: What to Watch For

The Gators are coming off a crushing defeat against the Texas A&M Aggies. Trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth with a man on, Cade Kurland crushed a pitch to deep right that looked like it would give Florida the lead. But 6’6″ Jace LaViolette had other ideas as he leapt to rob the Florida second baseman of a go-ahead blast and Gators immortality.

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With their season on the line, Gators superstar Jac Caglianone will take the mound to keep the season, and his own college career, alive. The two-time Perfect Game Two-Way Player of the Year brings in a 4.71 ERA in 15 starts. Cags went 5.2 innings against Clemson in the Super Regionals, giving up four earned runs while striking out six.

But the projected top-five MLB draft pick has brought Florida this far mostly with his bat. Caglianone is one of the most feared hitters in College Baseball and is currently riding a 49-game on-base streak. He reached base four times against Texas A&M and will look to extend his streak to the half-century mark versus NC State.

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Florida is 6-1 in their last seven elimination games and will need to continue their success if they hope to stay alive in 2024.

NC State Wolfpack: What to Watch For

The Wolfpack had a similarly, if not more, heartbreaking loss than the Gators. They came into the ninth leading 4-3. But that lead was erased with one swing of the bat as Ryan Nicholson lifted an opposite field homer to left, tying the game at four. And after NC State was unable to score in the top of the tenth, Mitchell Daly sent one deep into the Omaha sky to give Kentucky the walk-off win.

With starter Sam Highfill likely unavailable after seven innings against Kentucky, there are a few possible options for NC State.

Ryan Marohn holds NC State’s best ERA, with a 3.97 in 16 appearances, 10 of which were starts.

The other Wolfpack possibles are Logan Whitaker and Dominic Fritton, though both have struggled this season. Whitaker holds a 6.06 ERA, while Fritton’s is up at 7.35. The Wolfpack may have to lean on their bats, led by Alec Makarewicz, who went two for five with a home run in NC State’s College World Series opener. He boasts a .380 average with 23 homers and 82 RBIs on the season and will look to add to those totals against Florida.

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Looking Forward

The winner of this matchup will stay alive and advance in the College World Series, while the loser’s season will end. But whoever advances will have to overcome the improbable.

Only twelve teams have ever won the national championship after losing their first game. Florida or NC State will look to become the first to accomplish this feat since Oregon State in 2018.

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