Florida Gators baseball advances to 2024 College World Series walking off Clemson in extra innings

By OnlyGators.com Staff
June 9, 2024
Florida Gators baseball advances to 2024 College World Series walking off Clemson in extra innings

Image Credit: UAA

Continuing to exceed expectations and prove doubters wrong, Florida Gators baseball on Sunday swept past the No. 6-seed Clemson Tigers, going 2-0 in Super Regional play and advancing into the College World Series for the second straight season. Florida won 11-10 over Clemson in a dramatic 13-inning affair Sunday after winning 10-7 in Game 1 on Saturday; in both cases, the Gators came from behind to achieve victory.

Florida redshirt sophomore centerfielder Michael Robertson, batting ninth, took advantage of a bases-loaded, one-out situation with a blooper into left-center field to score the game-tying and game-winning runs in the bottom of the 13th. UF trailed 10-9 entering the frame after giving up a tie-breaking solo home run in the top of the inning.

The chaotic contest included five lead changes and two ties. It also featured a benches-clearing tussle, multiple (frustratingly) elongated replay reviews and three Clemson ejections with two coaches being sent off during extra innings. In the end, the Gators won their ninth straight Super Regional, extending an NCAA record.

“It’s a long season for a reason,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Our guys just kept fighting and fighting and fighting. We had our inconsistencies early in the year because our pitching was young. … We just continued to stay the course. It was an up-and-down season, but we did what we needed to do at Georgia, won two out of three, and here we are.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Jac Caglianone (1/3, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K) got it done on both ends for Florida, opening scoring with a two-run homer jacked 432 feet out of the stadium in the` first. He now stands one home run shy of tying Matt LaPorta’s career record of 74 in the orange & blue.

Caglianone (5.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) did give up two dingers on the afternoon, however — a two-run blast in the third that gave Clemson its lone lead of the game and a solo shot in the sixth that brought the Tigers within a run of the visitors. “He pitched his tail off today,” O’Sullivan said. “It was hot. We certainly would not be where we are without him.”

Sophomore shortstop Colby Shelton (2/7, 3 RBI, 4 K) had his teammate’s back, though, driving in a run in the third to tie the game 3-3 and two more in the fifth to push the Gators back in front. Sophomore catcher Brody Donay (1/6, HR, 1 RBI, 3 K) followed Caglianone’s lead in the sixth with a two-run homer of his own that gave Florida some needed cushion as Clemson rallied to score twice in the eighth to cut UF’s advantage to a run.

It was clear sophomore right fielder Ashton Wilson (2/6, HR, 2 RBI, K) had no desire for a tight finish just one frame later as he blasted a clutch two-run bomb to boost Florida back in front by three runs with as many outs to go.

That advantage did not last long for the Gators, though. Junior RHP Brandon Neely, who threw 59 pitches for the save in Saturday’s game, entered in the eighth after redshirt freshman Jake Clemente (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER,BB, 3 K) put two runners on with no outs to start the frame. Neely (4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 K) ultimately got out of that jam only to give up a three-run, game-tying homer in the ninth — one pitch after Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan visited the mound to check on his arm — to the Tigers’ Cam Cannarella.

One inning later, Cannarella again saved Clemson from defeat with a Willie Mays-esque overhead catch to prevent the would-be game-winning run in the 10th inning.

“Really had a tough decision to make with bringing Neely back in,” said O’Sullivan, who shared that Neely wanted the ball when UF had the lead and therefore stayed in the game because he would have been unusable Monday. “Tried to get through the eighth inning there and just use him for the ninth. Obviously, [we] weren’t able to do that, but we showed a tremendous amount or resiliency and beat an outstanding Clemson team. Just awfully proud of our players.”

Donay stranded the potential game-winning run on second in the 11th, and Shelton did the same with a runner on third in the 12th. Both particularly painful failures for the Gators given the Tigers’ Alden Mathes rocketed a two-out solo homer in the top of the 13th. Mathes spiked his bat on the play, and while he was not ejected for the celebration, Clemson head coach Erik Bakish and assistant coach Jack Leggett were tossed while arguing.

Florida opened the bottom frame sophomore first baseman Luke Heyman and senior third baseman Dale Thomas getting on base and moving into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Donay was then intentionally walked to get to Robertson, who got the job done with his game-winning double.

Some believed the Gators did not deserve a NCAA Tournament bid on the back of being 28-27 in the regular season. However, Florida played one of the nation’s toughest schedules and ended up being a no-doubt inclusion by the selection committee given it hit nearly all of the group’s other metrics.

Since NCAA Tournament play began, the Gators have gone 6-1, outscored opponents by two runs per game and eliminated both the No. 6 (Clemson) and No. 11 (Oklahoma State) seeds by going 4-1 against them.

Florida returns to the CWS after finishing runner-up last season. The Gators are seeking the second national championship in program history after first winning in 2017.

Join The

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux