After walking the bases full in the fifth inning of the Florida Gators’ series finale with the Cincinnati Bearcats, sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone was pulled off the mound. By the end of the inning, a 3-1 Florida lead became a 3-3 tie ballgame.
The response was immediate.
Caglianone stepped to the plate the following frame. He took one pitch and sent it careening off his bat and deep past the right field wall for a two-run homer, which eventually would become the deciding score in the Gators’ win.
Florida (7-1) defeated Cincinnati (2-5) 13-5 Sunday at Condron Family Ballpark. Caglianone’s three homers and six strikeouts helped propel the Gators to their second weekend series sweep of 2023.
The Bearcats would strike first under some unusual circumstances. Sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone hit the leadoff batter and then gave up a single for the opening hit. Freshman catcher Luke Heyman lost a pitch and allowed both runners to advance. Then, Caglianone walked the bases loaded.
“Other than the first, I though he threw pretty good,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Keep in mind, this is only his second start.”
A fumbled double play scored a runner to give Cincinnati the opening run. The Gators would escape the inning without any extra damage, but would enter their first at-bats trailing by one run.
The Gators had a quiet first inning on offense before Caglianone stepped back on the mound for the top of the second. He struck out two batters and recorded three-straight outs after his turbulent opening frame.
Florida came out in the bottom of the second and got to work on the scoreboard. Junior infielder Josh Rivera sent a solo-shot homer off the center field wall for his second homer of the weekend and the season. He became the fifth UF player with multiple home runs already this season.
Caglianone continued to move past the rough start with three more strikeouts in the third frame.
Rivera stepped up to the plate again in the fourth with BT Riopelle at first. He sent a deep shot to right field and plated himself and Riopelle to make it a 3-1 Gators lead. The two home runs marked his first multi-homer game of his career.
“It was definitely a very fun experience,” Rivera said.
From there, things took a questionable turn for the Gators.
After Caglianone walked the bases loaded again in the fifth, O’Sullivan decided it was time for a change. He pulled his starter and sent Blake Purnell to the mound in relief.
Purnell ended up hitting and walking two batters of his own, making it just a 3-3 ballgame. O’Sullivan went back into his bullpen, this time opting for midweek starter and true freshman Cade Fisher. The lefty was able to close the frame and keep it a tie ballgame.
After being pulled from the mound, Caglianone stepped to the plate the following frame. He took the first pitch deep past the right field wall for a two-run homer and reclaimed a 5-3 lead for Florida.
Fisher came out in the top of the sixth and gave up a trio of singles to score a runner and make it just a 5-4 Gators lead. Despite the early slip-up, Fisher was able to strike out two consecutive batters to close the frame and escape the jam.
Heyman and Colby Halter added back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the sixth. Caglianone sent another ball yard himself, this time a whopping 462 feet, to make it a 9-4 lead for the Gators. He watched the ball leave the yard before trotting around the basepaths.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever hit three home runs in a a game,” Caglianone said. “So I wanted to soak it in a little bit.”
Cincinnati would add a few runs late, but the Gators would pile on three more, including Caglianone’s third homer to take an overwhelming win.
Next up, Florida takes on Jacksonville (5-3/4-4) in a midweek doubleheader. The Gators will travel to John Sessions Stadium in Jacksonville for game one Tuesday before hosting the Dolphins in the series finale Wednesday. Jacksonville lost three straight after winning on opening day but took four wins and a series series sweep versus Siena this weekend.
First pitch Tuesday is set for 6 p.m.