Backed by a stellar performance on the mound, the Florida Gators opened NCAA regional play with a 3-0 shutout victory over Florida A&M Friday night in front of 7,367 fans at Condron Family Ballpark.
Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan opted to start LHP Jac Caglianone against the 4-seeded Rattlers and his decision paid off as the two-way star completed six innings limiting FAMU to just four base hits.
“Jac was outstanding tonight, he kept his pitch count down for the most part and got us through six,” O’Sullivan said of the sophomore starter.
Perhaps more impressive was the two inning outing out of the bullpen by Ryan Slater. The Palm Harbor, FL native tossed two perfect innings in relief on just fifteen pitches.
“The pitching overall was just outstanding tonight,” O’Sullivan reiterated after complimenting Slater’s effort.
Florida got on the scoreboard early as Josh Rivera crushed a two-run homer, his 16th of the year, to left-center. With the blast, Rivera surpassed Brady McConnell’s 2019 single season record by a Gators shortstop.
The Gators had a chance to increase its lead in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. Caglianone, however, grounded into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
In the eighth, Florida added an insurance run as Luke Heyman singled to score Wyatt Langford, who led off the frame with a walk, from second.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any drama in the top of the ninth. Defensive substitute Richie Schiekofer recorded an outfield assist at home plate with a bullet of a toss to BT Riopelle from his right field perch. That was followed up by Josh Rivera making a play on a ball in shallow center field, making a full 360-degree spin before throwing a dart home to catch an aggressive base runner for the final out of the game.
- Caglianone: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K
- Rivera: 1-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, R
- Heyman: 2-4, RBI
- W: Caglianone (7-3)
- L: Granger (6-5)
- S: Neely (11)
Florida advances to the winner’s bracket and will face Texas Tech. The Red Raiders defeated UConn 3-2 in Friday’s early game. First pitch is scheduled for 6:02 PM Saturday. The Gators will serve as the away team and bat first.
Florida A&M and UConn will square off in an elimination game set to start at noon in Gainesville.