After the Gators’ historic 2023 campaign, there is speculation if they will be a similar team this season.
In Sunday’s exhibition game against Stetson, there were signs of that same successful team from last year. Here are some takeaways about what to expect this upcoming season.
- Consistency will be key. Offensively, the Gators have many weapons. That’s no secret. At his first at-bat, the very first pitch he saw, Jac Caglianone hit a 448 foot homerun. The Gators have the strength and talent through the whole lineup, but it’s a matter if they can stay consistent enough to close out teams. On Sunday, the Gators got up early, 3-0, in the first inning, but didn’t score again until the 6th off of an 2-RBI double from Caglianone. The Gators will need other people to step up more often in the lineup to produce runs.
- Pitching roles to fill. With 2 out of the 3 weekend starters in Brandon Sproat and Hurston Waldrep drafted to the big leagues, that only leaves Caglianone as the remaining weekend starter. Through one inning on Sunday, Caglianone threw 16 strikes in 27 pitches thrown with 1 hit and 0 runs scored. The Gators will need consistent strikes thrown from Caglianone this season. The Gators will most likely look to sophomore Cade Fisher to fill another weekend spot. Fisher did not have the best outing Sunday with 2 runs scored against him, but after seeing what he was capable of in big situations in the World Series last season, there’s little doubt that he will will be in the weekend rotation this season. As for the 3rd weekend spot, the Gators will have many options. Bradon Neely could move into a weekend rotation spot, but it’s unlikely given his role as a closer last season. He was named second team All-American as he was one of the best closers in the game last season. The Gators also have a lot of talent in freshman pitchers in Luke McNeillie, Frank Menendez, and Robert Satin, but it’s unlikely a freshman will fill this role. Most likely, the Gators will look to veteran Ryan Slater to take the last spot.
- The Gators added a lot of talent in the offseason that will fill in for a lot of the drafted talent. Alabama transfer Colby Shelton will take over at shortstop this season. In his freshman year, he hit 25 homeruns, setting the Alabama record for homeruns by a freshman. The combination of Shelton and Caglianone back-to-back in the lineup will be a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Virginia Tech transfer Brody Donay adds depth at the catcher position. Freshman year, Donay put up 12 homeruns and 38 RBIs, a solid addition to the Gators offense. Another catcher transfer from Coastal Carolina, Tanner Garrison, will look to be a contributor this season as well. The Gators will have lots of options at catcher this season with Heyman, Donay, and Garrison. Another addition for the Gators was Landon Russell. Russell originally was committed to Auburn but enrolled at Golf Coast Community College. Russell started at right field for the Gators on Sunday but could be used as a utility player this season as the starting right fielder will most likely be Ty Evans.
The Florida Gators will officially open their 2024 season Friday, February 16th at home against St. John’s. The Gators will have similar expectations to last season’s team and have the ability to make a deep run into June.