Jac Caglianone hits walk-off to lead Gators past Mississippi State

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In a clutch performance, Florida Gators junior Jac Caglianone launched a walk-off home run to right field to win the game – and the series – for the Gators against Mississippi State on Sunday.

The home run by Caglianone in the bottom of the ninth put the No. 6 Gators (16-11, 6-3 SEC) ahead of the No. 21 Bulldogs (19-10, 4-5 SEC), 4-3, at Condron Family Ballpark. The Gators also beat the Bulldogs in the series opener on Friday but lost to the Bulldogs on Saturday night.

On Sunday, the first two innings were quiet for both teams, but that quickly changed in the bottom of the third when the Gators struck first.

Bulldogs junior starting pitcher Karson Ligon, a transfer from the University of Miami, hit Colby Shelton and Caglianone on back-to-back pitches. This put two runners on for the Gators and ultimately led to Shelton running home on a wild pitch, giving the Gators a 1-0 lead.

Caglianone no-hit the Bulldogs until the fifth inning when senior Connor Hujsak doubled. Hujsak advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Downs, and he scored off of a single from junior outfielder Bryce Chance to tie the game at 1-1.

The Bulldogs continued their scoring in the sixth inning with Caglianone walking Johnny Long. Sophomore David Mershon singled to center field, allowing Long to score from second base to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 advantage.

After Caglianone walked two straight hitters to load the bases and allowed the Bulldogs to tack on an additional run, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan pulled Caglianone in favor of freshman righty Luke McNeillie. McNeilie stranded the bases loaded to get out of the jam and keep the game within reach.

The Gators slowly fought their way back, with Heyman scoring one run at the bottom of the sixth from a single by Hayden Yost.

The Bulldogs remained ahead by one run until the bottom of the ninth inning. Junior Ty Evans started the rally after Evan Siary hit him with a pitch to put the tying run on first base.

Caglianone came up to bat with no outs. Caglianone hit the ball to right field on a two-strike pitch, sending it out of the ballpark.

“I was hoping that it had enough to get out,” Caglianone said. “I saw (Dakota Jordan) stop running, and yeah, it kinda sunk in.”

Caglianone, a top MLB draft prospect, started on the mound for the Gators, allowing three runs on four walks and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. At the plate, Caglianone had the walk-off two-run home run and drew three walks.

McNeillie shut down the Bulldogs’ offense in relief. He threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out three batters to earn his third win of the season.

“This is four or five outings in a row he pitched good,” O’Sullivan said about McNeillie. “We made our mind up that if we had gotten in trouble in the sixth… that we would go to Luke right away.”

“I think my biggest thing is trying to stay (within) myself,” McNeillie.

The Gators will return to Condron Family Ballpark against the Florida A&M Rattlers (12-16) at 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Rhiannon Thomas
Rhiannon Thomas
Rhiannon Thomas is a sophomore at the University of Florida, majoring in Sports Journalism. Her favorite sports include baseball, college football and Premier League soccer. Follow her on X (Twitter) @RhiannonTThomas.

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