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Florida punches its ticket to the Mens College World Series in exciting fashion

Florida punches its ticket to the Mens College World Series in exciting fashion
Florida punches its ticket to the Mens College World Series in exciting fashion


About two weeks ago, the Florida baseball team was fighting for its life and even to become eligible for the NCAA tournament.

But the Gators fought their way into a super regional and took the field Sunday with a chance to punch their ticket to a ninth Men's College World Series under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan.

UF's playoff run has been nothing short of improbable. The Gators showed incredible perseverance in hard-fought games and second-year center fielder Michael Robertson was a prime example in the bottom of the thirteenth inning.

With the bases loaded, Robertson sent the Gators to Omaha on a base hit to left field, putting in the game-winning run.

Florida (35-28, 13-17 SEC) is Omaha-bound after a thrilling 11-10 victory over Clemson (44-16, 20-10 ACC) at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Sunday.

I was just looking for something in the area, said Robertson. I managed to give him some good momentum and I thought I had enough barrel to find the gap, but obviously none of that happens without the guys in front of me.

It was another packed crowd at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, and Clemson fans were brought to their feet for the first time in the game when senior third baseman Blake Wright sent a double to the left field wall.

Junior left-handed pitcher Jac Caglianone is no stranger to taking over for his team in big games, and Game 2 of the super regional was his opportunity to do just that.

The left-hander allowed a two-out double to the left-field wall in the first inning, but he kept his composure by forcing a groundout to end the top half of the frame.

The two-way star has been sensational at the plate this season, and he has wasted no time in showcasing his offensive talents.

Sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland was hit by a pitch to his first spot to set the stage for Caglianone to crush a two-run homer to center field and give the Gators an early 2-0 lead.

Florida seemingly maintained its momentum heading into the second inning before the game ended unexpectedly following a scuffle between Tigers freshman designated hitter Nolan Nawrocki and Caglianone.

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Following a slow dribbler down the right side, a hard shot was placed on Nawrocki by Caglianone and led to the two players facing each other. Clemson's bench was completely emptied as the two players were separated by the referees, and the call was reviewed to see who should be ejected.

After a lengthy review, Tigers second-year first baseman Jack Crighton was ejected for making contact with an umpire who was trying to break up the heated altercation. After the rally, the Clemson home crowd became even more engaged with each throw.

Clemson held the Gators scoreless in the bottom half of the second inning, setting up an offensive explosion for the Tigers early in the third. Freshman second baseman Jarren Purify drew a leadoff walk and scored on an RBI double from senior right fielder Aiden Mathes.

The Tigers took their first lead of the game and threw the stadium into a frenzy the very next at-bat. Senior third baseman Blake Wright took Caglianone deep to center field for a solo homer that snuck just over the wall.

However, just as they have done so many times with their backs against the wall throughout their playoff run, the Gators fought back.

Kurland delivered a leadoff single to right field and reached scoring position on a wild pitch thrown by Clemsons freshman starter Aidan Knaack.

Despite his 0-4 performance in Game 1, Florida sophomore shortstop Colby Shelton bounced back in Game 2. He stepped up in a decisive moment in the bottom of the third with an RBI single to right-center field to score Kurland from second while tying the game. score 3 each.

“We've had our ups and downs, but hats off to everyone on our team and the coaching staff,” Shelton said. They stood by us and all we did was keep fighting, keep fighting. We've had our backs against the wall all year and I think that shows what a strong and resilient team we are.

Caglianone took to the mound in the fourth and fifth innings, posting back-to-back scoreless frames to keep Clemson's offense in check.

Shelton had another opportunity to do some damage at the plate in the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded with one out. The sophomore stepped to the plate and delivered another timely hit to drive in his third inning of the game, putting Florida up 5-3.

The Tigers saw their chance to advance to the MCWS slowly slip away and desperately needed to build some offensive momentum. Clemson senior catcher Jimmy Obertop was up for the challenge, blasting a much-needed solo home run to left field to cut Florida's lead to 5-4 in the top of the sixth.

A big part of being able to succeed in the postseason is getting timely contributions in key moments of games. That narrative held true for UF sophomore catcher Brody Donay, who has struggled at the plate as of late, bringing a .253 batting average into Sunday's game.

In the biggest game of the season, the Virginia Tech transfer blasted a two-run homer to right-center field, setting up two crucial insurance runs for the Gators before the final three frames.

Gators freshman right-handed pitcher Jake Clemente left the bullpen midway through the sixth and had a strong performance, striking out the side in the top of the seventh inning.

O'Sullivan got Clemente out for the bottom half of the eighth, but the freshman fought his way back by allowing a centering RBI single off the bat of sophomore center fielder Cam Cannarella.

Despite four scoreless innings to close out the first game of the super regional, right-handed pitcher Brandon Neelys' name was called to leave the bullpen six outs short of a spot in the MCWS.

“Honestly, the last month of the year we played just about every baseball game in the postseason,” O’Sullivan said. I think going through those struggles and having every game count over the last two or three weeks of the year has probably helped us toughen up a little bit.

Neely faced adversity in the top of the eighth after allowing two RBI singles while the Tigers trailed by one with one out. But Neely kept his composure to retire the next two Clemson batters on pop-outs.

[Neelys] “I'm going to fight tooth and nail and you're going to have to take the ball out of his hands,” O'Sullivan said. We certainly wouldn't be here without him.

The Gators were desperate for insurance points in the bottom half of the frame to give themselves some breathing room on the scoreboard heading into the ninth. In just his 11th start of the season, sophomore Ashton Wilson crushed a two-run homer to left-center field to extend UF's lead to 9-6.

Clemson was down to its final three outs of the season and was potentially on the verge of seeing a trip to Omaha slip away. But even then, the Tigers showed no signs of giving up in the top of the ninth.

With runners on first and second, Cannarella hit a game-tying three-run homer to right field to keep the Tigers' season alive, forcing the game into extra innings.

Between last weekend and what he did yesterday and today I know he [Neely] was disappointed in itself tonight, but Clemson deserved it, O'Sullivan said. He's just starting to find his footing and, in all honesty, he started the season as a closer and then we struggled a little bit.

Florida was fortunate to finish in the bottom of the tenth with runners on first and second with Wilson coming to the plate.

The Charleston Southern transfer hit a deep wall in center field, but Cannarella made a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch to keep his Omaha team's hopes alive while sending the game into the eleventh frame.

Clemson took a 10-9 lead on a solo home run by Alden Mathes in the top of the twelfth inning, but it wasn't enough to overcome the heroic bottom half of the frame that Florida had in store for them.

I'm proud of my players, said O'Sullivan. The atmosphere this weekend was incredible. We had the chance to move on.

Next, Florida will be in action at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. The date and time must be announced.

Contact Max Tucker at [email protected]. Follow him on X @Max_Tuckr1.

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Max Tucker

Max Tucker is a junior transfer student at UF. After earning his AA in journalism from Santa Fe College in 2023, he chose to continue his studies at Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. Max is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a specialization in Sports and Media. He enjoys playing golf and going to the beach with his friends in his free time.




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