Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Gators walk it off against Alabama to claim Game 1 of double-header, series

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The Florida Gators trailed the Alabama Crimson Tide all afternoon in the first game of a doubleheader, but the offense continued to chip away until Josh Rivera finally delivered a walk-off infield single to put UF on to, 8-7.

Florida entered the bottom of the ninth down one, but third baseman Colby Halter quickly tied things up with a solo home run to left field. Michael Robertson singled up the middle to give the Gators their fastest runner on base with no outs, and Cade Kurland turned his back on an inside pitch to take first and move him over.

Jac Caglianone, who started the afternoon on the mound for Florida, had his shot to come through, but he didn’t quite make it happen. A fielder’s choice moved Robertson over to third, though, which was crucial to the game-ending play.

Rivera was coming off a strikeout to freshman Riley Quick in his last at-bat and wasn’t seeing the ball well. He made weak contact that essentially served as a swinging bunt, and Quick couldn’t get to the ball in time before Robertson slid into home.

Florida might be known as a home-run hitting team, but it was small ball that earned them the win at the end on Friday.

Caglianone didn’t have his best stuff on the mound. His fastball was a little flat and it led to a strong day for Alabama’s power hitters, especially lefty clean-up hitter Drew Williamson. He got things started early with a three-run opposite-field home run in the first inning off a Caglianone 97 mph fastball and doubled in a run in the fifth off the slider that usually buckles left-handed hitters. Credit him for being brushed up on the scouting report to win the lefty-on-lefty matchup.

Williamson also drove in a fourth run in the seventh off freshman Cade Fisher, so that might be the last time Kevin O’Sullivan turns to a lefty to get him. Fisher was the second Gators reliever of the game. Nick Ficarotta came in for the sixth after five innings from Caglianone, but he got pulled after running into trouble in the next frame.

Ryan Slater ended up closing out the seventh as the third reliever of the night, and Phillip Abner came in for him to get the last out of the eight. Abner pitched the ninth, but pitch counts were kept low enough to use some of these arms again in the second game of the doubleheader. Fisher only threw three pitches.

Florida kept pace with Alabama for most of the night. BT Riopelle answered Williamson’s three-run home run with one of his own in the bottom of the first to tie things up, and UF scored a run in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Kurland hit his second home run in as many games against the SEC and brought his total up to seven on the year — that’s more than Wyatt Langford — Rivera[/autotag] also hit his ninth homer of the year and Michael Robertson singled in the run in the seventh.

One of Florida’s biggest advantages is that it has a good enough offense to stay in any game, and that was on full display Friday. Chipping away slowly until the very end works for this club, even if it’s not the way they usually have to play. It’s a good sign to see this kind of fight early on, and it should come in handy once the playoffs begin.

Top Performers

Riopelle: 2-4, HR (3), 2B; 3 RBI

Rivera: 3-5, HR (9); 2 RBI

Kurland: 2-3, HR (7), 2 HBP; RBI

Abner: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K

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By: David Rosenberg
Title: Gators walk it off against Alabama to claim Game 1 of double-header, series
Sourced From: gatorswire.usatoday.com/2023/03/17/florida-baseball-alabama-crimson-tide-game-recap-jac-caglinaone-josh-rivera-walk-off/
Published Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2023 22:33:52 +0000

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