One would think back-to-back run-rule victories would be making all the headlines for the Florida Gators’ baseball team. However, sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone took up all the hype for the Gators’ opening weekend. That’s because before this season, Caglianone was just another freshman infielder producing well at the DH spot. After a solid spring on the hill, fans clamored to see Caglianone take on a two-way role with the team.
Sunday, the Tampa, Florida, native made his debut on the mound and shut out the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, cementing himself as a weekend starter for UF. He finished with two hits allowed, zero earned runs allowed and nine strikeouts on the way to a 8-0 win and series sweep for the No. 7 Gators (3-0) over the Bucs (0-3).
Caglianone wasted no time getting to work, striking out his first batter with pitches of 96 and 97 mph on his way to a 1-2-3 frame.
“He was outstanding,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He threw like a number one tonight.”
The Gators got to work on offense too. An error and a walk placed BT Riopelle and Josh Rivera on the base paths. Sophomore outfielder Ty Evans walked up to the plate and launched an RBI double into the left field corner. The scores marked his seventh and eighth RBIs of the series and put Florida up 2-0 early.
Florida kept it rolling in the second with some production from its newcomers. Freshman infielder Cade Kurland doubled and was brought home on a triple by classmate and catcher Luke Heyman that nearly went over the fence to take a 3-0 lead.
Caglianone was caught in a jam for the first time in the third inning. Facing two outs and two runners in scoring position, the two-way sophomore threw 96 down the seam for a strikeout and trotted back to the dugout. From there it was smooth sailing for the lefty flamethrower. He went 1-2-3 through each inning of the middle third and notched a strikeout in each inning.
In the top of the seventh, after tossing his 79th pitch, Caglianone was pulled off the mound to a standing ovation. Florida cruised the rest of the way with a closing effort from Blake Purnell and Brandon Neely, adding five more runs in the seventh for good measure.
“The scoreboard kind of sums it up,” Caglianone said. “These were statement games.”
Next up, the Gators have a midweek doubleheader with the Bulls of South Florida. USF picked up a game one win in its opening series with No. 13 Maryland and will likely provide a greater challenge for Florida in the midweek than its opening series opponents. First pitch on Tuesday is set for 6 p.m. The game will stream on ESPN+.