As the Missouri Tigers brought the Florida Gators’ lead down to two runs in the eighth inning Sunday, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” rang out over the Condron Family Ballpark speakers. The crowd responded with relief knowing that meant closing pitcher Brandon Neely was exiting the bullpen.
After coming out to an 8-3 lead, the Gators squandered their cushion and presented Neely with six outs to go and a save opportunity.
Count ’em: Sacrifice fly, putout, strikeout. Strikeout, putout, strikeout. Ballgame.
No. 4 Florida (35-10, 14-7 SEC) defeated Missouri (24-19, 5-16 SEC) 8-7 Sunday to pick up its fifth weekend series sweep of the season.
UF began with a dominant Friday night victory to start the series. The Gators needed just seven innings to pick up an 11-1, run-rule victory as they went yard four times. Brandon Sproat tossed all seven frames, allowing the Tigers’ only score in the fourth inning.
Missouri came out to an early lead in game two before UF tied things up with a 4-run third inning. Florida put together a late-inning surge led by juniors Wyatt Langford and Tyler Shelnut to secure the series with an 11-7 win. The Gators entered the Sunday matinee with an opportunity for their fifth weekend series sweep of the year.
Sunday starter Jac Caglianone started out on the mound throwing heat. He touched 100 mph in his first 20 pitches. The fastball was turned on for a single. He walked a batter later in the inning to put two runners on before striking out the last batter of the opening frame.
Florida started off hot on the offensive end as well. Junior outfielder and top MLB prospect Wyatt Langford worked a full count before sending one deep past the center field wall to give the Gators a 1-0 lead after the initial inning.
“I’m just going up there like I always do and getting ready to hit,” said Langford.
Caglianone struck out two more on the way to a scoreless second inning.
Things continued to roll in UF’s favor in the bottom half of the second. Back-to-back doubles from freshman Luke Heyman and junior Colby Halter put the second run on the scoreboard. Halter scored thanks to a sacrifice fly from Shelnut to put the Gators up 2-0 early.
Mizzou went 1-2-3 through the top of the third as Caglianone recorded his fifth strikeout of the game. Langford singled and Caglianone reached on a fielder’s choice in the bottom third but the Gators couldn’t convert and kept their lead at 3-0.
After loading the bases with two hit batters and a single in the fourth, Caglianone was pulled in favor of freshman lefty Cade Fisher. He forced a double play to get the first two outs which allowed the runner to score from third. He picked up the third out to close the frame with a 2-run cushion.
UF put two on base with a Heyman single and a Shelnut walk, but left both stranded on the way to back-to-back scoreless innings.
The Tigers stranded a batter at second to put up a zero in their fifth frame.
Caglianone made some noise at the plate in the fifth after stepping off the mound for the afternoon. He sent his 25th home run of the year past the center field wall to make it 4-1 Gators. He is now one away from tying Wyatt Langford and Matt LaPorta’s single-season record.
Mizzou put up consecutive scoreless innings in the sixth.
After being hit by a pitch in the bottom half, Halter stole second and reached third on a wild pitch. He scored thanks to passed ball and put the Gators up 5-1 through the middle third.
Missouri put two runners on with an HBP and a single. Trevor Austin launched a double into right field to plate both runners and cut the Tigers’ deficit to 5-3. Fisher was pulled for left-handed reliever Philip Abner with one man down in the seventh,
Abner was able to secure the second and third out without letting up another run.
Florida wasted no time getting its runs back. Freshman Cade Kurland homered for his first hit of the day to make it 6-3. Langford doubled behind him followed by a Caglianone reach on a HBP to put two on with nobody out. Junior shortstop Josh Rivera walked to load the bases, and Heyman hit a sacrifice fly to score the runner from third.
Halter hit an RBI double to score Florida’s third run of the frame. After seven innings, the Gators led 8-3.
The Tigers singled and worked an HBP to put two on with zero down in the top of the eighth. Abner was pulled for right-hander Ryan Slater. Missouri loaded the bases then singled to plate two runners and make it an 8-5 ballgame. Another single made it 8-6. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan called Neely out of the bullpen.
He picked up the first out on a sacrifice fly to make it 8-7 before picking up the second out and punching out the frame. The Gators couldn’t add a run in the bottom eighth and sent Neely in with a 1-run cushion.
The closing ace secured the win and the sweep.
“Anytime you have a chance to sweep somebody, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” O’Sullivan said.
Next up, the Gators finish up their season series against Florida State in Jacksonville. Florida won the first two matchups this season. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.