Florida Gators Baseball
Jun 19, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; The Florida Gators meet in the dugout after being defeated by the Texas A&M Aggies at Charles Schwab Field Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

College World Series: Florida’s Season Comes To An End In Semifinals

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Over the last month, the Florida Gators baseball team has put together one of the most action-packed and thrilling underdog runs in college baseball history.

From winning three elimination games within a 24-hour span to advance past the Stillwater Regional and walking off the Clemson Tigers in an action-packed Super Regionals finale, to upsetting the NC State Wolfpack and Kentucky Wildcats en route to the College World Series Semifinals, Florida has shocked the world of college baseball time and time again in their run through this year’s NCAA Tournament.

But on Wednesday evening, the clock struck midnight on Florida’s Cinderella run. The Gators came up short in a 6-0 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies in the CWS Semifinals, thus officially ending their 2024 campaign. Just weeks after finishing the regular season only two games above the .500 mark, Florida will finish at 36-30 on the year. Texas A&M (52-13) now advances to the CWS Finals, where they will take on the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers (58-12).

“We had a terrific year,” UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs. Our players persevered throughout a lot of different tough moments. [I’m] awfully proud of our team. This time of year is really difficult to put into words. It’s like you’re going full-speed at a sprint, and all of a sudden, it just comes to an end like that.”

Key Performers For The Gators

Florida’s CWS Semifinals loss proved to be one for the record books, as it snapped the team’s historic 144-game streak of scoring at least one run. Wednesday’s matchup marked the first time the Gators had been shut out since a 10-0 loss to Texas A&M in the 2022 SEC Tournament.

In what looks to be his final game as a Florida Gator, Jac Caglianone put together another strong performance at the plate. Caglianone went 2-for-4 on the night, accounting for half of Florida’s hits in the game. While Florida’s elimination marks a bittersweet ending to his time as a Gator, he had plenty of praise for his teammates and coaches alike for helping him blossom throughout his three years in Gainesville.

“Day in and day out, I just wanted to play for these guys,” Caglianone said. “I can’t thank the coaches here enough for all they’ve done to help me get to where I am today. The people that I’ve met along the way and played with is something that I will never take for granted.”

On the mound, Florida freshman standout Liam Peterson’s postseason woes carried over into Wednesday’s matchup en route to his sixth loss of the 2024 campaign. Peterson only managed to record a single out on the evening, finishing with a line of zero hits, four walks, two runs and one strikeout.

UF reliever Fisher Jameson took Peterson’s place in the first inning, finishing with the strongest outing from any of Florida’s bullpen arms. Through 4 2/3 innings, Jameson only surrendered three hits, no walks and one run. He also sat down five batters on strikes. Nevertheless, his performance alone was not enough to keep Florida afloat in this ballgame.

Gators Stumble Out Of The Gates

Peterson struggled to find the zone from the get-go in Wednesday’s matchup. The Florida freshman walked four of the first five batters he faced, the latter of which scored Texas A&M’s first run of the evening. With the bases still loaded, O’Sullivan pulled the plug on Peterson just one out into the ballgame.

Fisher Jameson swiftly took his place on the bump, only allowing a sacrifice fly through before retiring the side. Nonetheless, the Aggies were already up to a 2-0 lead to start things off.

Florida nearly managed to strike back with some offensive action of its own in the bottom of the third inning. Michael Robertson led off the frame with a one-out walk. Caglianone and Cade Kurland followed him up with a pair of infield singles to load the bases.

But alas, a third-inning rally was not in the cards for the Gators. Following Kurland’s hit, Tyler Shelnut went down swinging on strikes for out number two. Colby Shelton proceeded to pop out into foul territory to leave all three runs stranded for the Gators. By the end of the inning, Texas A&M still held on to a 2-0 lead.

Texas A&M Keeps Its Foot On The Gas

The Aggies eventually found their way back onto the board in the top of the fifth inning. Kaeden Kent kicked things off with a leadoff double down the right field line to land in scoring position. Two at-bats later, Gavin Grahovac returned the favor with a ground-rule double of his own to score Kent.

With the clock now against them, the Gators opted to send closer Brandon Neely onto the bump in the top of the sixth. But not even Neely could save Florida in this one. As soon as he took to the mound, Cade Sorrell welcomed Neely into the ballgame by taking him deep over the right field wall for a two-run homer. Sorrell took his time in trotting around the bases before greeting his squad outside the dugout. The Aggies were now all the way up to a five-run lead on the night.

https://twitter.com/AggieBaseball/status/1803606579721245118

Florida had another prime opportunity to strike back in the bottom of the sixth, but once again, the chance came just as fast as it went. After Kurland and Shelnut landed in scoring position on a pair of walks and a ground out from Shelton, the Gators had a chance to drive in two runs and cut away into their deficit.

Instead, both runs ended up stranded following back-to-back strikeouts from Luke Heyman and Ashton Wilson. Rather than finding a way back onto the scoreboard, Florida still trailed 5-0.

Florida’s Final Moments

While the Sun set over the Omaha skyline behind Charles Schwab Field, the Gators turned to face the music en route to their own curtain call. In his final collegiate at-bat, Caglianone drilled a single up the middle to lead off the bottom of the eighth for the Gators.

From there, however, Caglianone ended up stranded in scoring position once again. Following a pair of pop outs, the Aggies sat down Heyman on his fourth strikeout of the afternoon to retire the side. Florida left another pair of runners on base as a result, while Texas A&M kept its shutout alive heading into the final frame.

In the top of the ninth, Wilson crashed into the right field wall while chasing down an Ali Camarillo triple in the top of the ninth. The collision left Wilson immobilized for quite some time, but he was eventually able to exit the game on his own power, albeit a bit shaken up.

Kent drove a single down the right field line to score Camarillo on the next play, pushing Texas A&M’s lead to 6-0. The Gators subsequently went down without a sound in the bottom of the frame. Just like that, Florida’s roller coaster ride of a season and improbable tournament run had come to an end.

“Any time you lose a game to end the year, especially in Omaha, it’s going to be heartbreaking,” Shelnut said. “I’m just super proud of my teammates and the rest of this group who pushed through a lot to get here.”

Wrapping Up An Electrifying Season

But while Florida’s 2024 campaign may be over on the diamond, this squad’s legacy will be secure for years to come. From Caglianone’s countless record-breaking performances to a total of seven players hitting double-digit home runs, there was never a dull moment with this Gators squad.

There were plenty of highs and all kinds of lows throughout the season, but the team made it clear that they never truly lost their at any point in the year. With a roster featuring numerous MLB-ready prospects and young talent across the board, this Gators team came together to embark on one of the most unthinkable (and exciting) postseason runs in NCAA history.

“There’s really not a moment that I’ll take for granted,” Caglianone said. “Being able to wear this jersey for the past three years has been something that I am never going to take for granted. All these guys who have worn it before us, all we try to do is make them proud. We really appreciate what Florida is about, and everything that Florida is.”

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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