Florida Gators baseball edges TCU in ninth, moves to first College World Series finals since 2017

By OnlyGators.com Staff
June 21, 2023
Florida Gators baseball edges TCU in ninth, moves to first College World Series finals since 2017

Image Credit: UAA

Surviving its third straight one-run game, No. 2 Florida Gators baseball on Wednesday advanced to the College World Series Championship Series for the fourth time in program history and first since 2017, an appearance that resulted in the program’s first national championship. Florida ultimately plated a run in the top of the ninth inning to earn a 3-2 semifinal win Wednesday over the TCU Horned Frogs, a contest that felt tenuous from the start of the game but nevertheless resulted in UF’s eighth straight 2023 NCAA Tournament victory.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Jac Caglianone, making his first start since June 2, was all over the place throwing two wild pitches, hitting three batters and seeing a number of other errant throws corralled by senior catcher BT Riopelle. The Gators defense provided plenty of support for Caglianone — twice getting out of bases-loaded jams — but he still needed 35 pitches to get out of the first inning and exited after 4.1 innings with an earned run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

Caglianone had a lead his entire outing thanks to a two-run home run from junior shortstop Josh Rivera (3/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) in the top of the first. However, Florida struggled to plate numerous base runners over the remainder of the contest.

After three combined scoreless innings from redshirt sophomore RHP Ryan Slater and freshman LHP Cade Fisher, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan decided to call on sophomore RHP Brandon Neely to close out the game for the Gators. Unfortunately, Neely quickly gave up a double and ground-rule double as TCU tied it up 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth.

Just as it has all CWS, Florida’s offense kicked back into gear with its collective back against the wall, this time after a seven-inning drought.

Junior left fielder Tyler Shelnut opened the ninth with a leadoff double to right center, and two outs later, freshman second baseman Cade Kurland legged out an infield singled deep to shortstop scoring redshirt freshman pinch runner Michael Robertson from third for a 3-2 lead.

Now in the game, Roberson moved to centerfield for the bottom frame. Neely forced consecutive outs only to see his third batter rocket a ball deep to center with Robertson sprinting to the warning track to haul in a game-saving out that sent Florida to victory and put tick in the win column for Neely.

The Gators’ best player and college baseball’s home run king this season, Caglianone has struggled in the CWS. He’s just 1 for 12 with a run and a walk, striking out three times in as many games. It’s unlikely he returns to the mound unless it is in an emergency scenario.

Florida will face either No. 1 overall seed Wake Forest or SEC rival LSU in the best-of-three CWS Championship Series beginning Saturday. The Demon Deacons and Tigers play Thursday night with Wake needing one victory or LSU needing consecutive wins to advance.

The Gators on Wednesday matched a program record for most wins in a season (53 — 2011) and started a CWS 3-0 for the second time in program history (2011).

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