Florida blows out Kentucky 15-4 in CWS elimination game to set up showdown with Texas A&M

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Brody Donay hit a grand slam for the first of his two homers, Jac Caglianone became Florida’s all-time home run leader and the Gators rode a seven-run first inning to a 15-4 win over Kentucky in a College World Series elimination game Wednesday.

The game had been scheduled for Tuesday night but was postponed because of rain. The Gators (36-29) return to the field Wednesday night to face another Southeastern Conference rival, Texas A&M.

The win over Kentucky was extra satisfying for the Gators because they lost a weekend series at home to the Wildcats a month ago.

“We had to get some sort of revenge, I guess,” Caglianone said. “No better opportunity than to do it on this stage. All the guys were pretty pumped up about it.”

Kentucky (46-16) went 1-2 in its first CWS appearance after giving up the most runs since it lost 16-6 to LSU on April 13, 2023.

“This is not how you want to end your season, but this is where you want to end your season,” Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said. “Just so proud of our group of men. They’re unbelievable in every sense of the word. They made history. This hurts. It hurts a lot because this team is fully capable of accomplishing our goal of being national champions. That wasn’t the case this year. That’s not what the Lord planned.”

This will be the second time Florida has had to play two games in a day in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Gators won two games in regionals on June 2. They are 5-0 in elimination games in the tournament.

Florida would need to beat Texas A&M on Wednesday and again Thursday to advance to the best-of-three finals for the second straight year. The Aggies beat Florida 3-2 in their CWS opener Saturday.

The Gators’ bats didn’t require a wakeup call for the 10 a.m. game. They banged out 15 hits and finished with their third-highest run total of the season.

They rocked Kentucky starter Dominic Niman a second straight time while putting up seven runs in the first. Niman faced six batters in his one-third of an inning. He allowed three hits and was charged with five runs. Niman gave up six runs in four innings in a 10-1 loss to the Gators last month.

Niman (8-5) was gone by the time Donay came up with the bases loaded in the first. Dale Thomas greeted reliever Cameron O’Brien with a base hit before Donay hit his first pitch to him out to right, barely clearing the fence with the aid of a light north wind on a 66-degree morning. The wind had not blown out at Charles Schwab Field the first five days of the CWS.

Donay’s second homer was monstrous, a 414-footer that exited his bat at 118 mph and landed in the last row of the left-field bleachers. The homers were the 13th and 14th of the year for the No. 8 batter in the order, and his five RBIs were a career high.

Pierce Coppola (1-4), who came back in April following back and shoulder injuries that caused him to miss the 2023 season, gave the Gators exactly what they needed in his career-long five innings. The left-hander struck out nine, and the Gators had a five-run lead when his day ended.

“I thought this was the best Pierce had thrown all year long,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He was crisp. Him not throwing in (super regionals) probably helped.”

The Gators, who entered the game batting .190 in Omaha, gave their batting order a makeover with four players in new spots.

“Sometimes you make lineup changes and they work out and sometimes they don’t,” O’Sullivan said. “We were at the point we had to do something because the first two games we weren’t very productive.”

Most notably, O’Sullivan had Caglianone bat leadoff for the first time in his career. Caglianone, projected to be among the first players taken in the amateur draft, was intentionally walked six times in the regular-season series with the Wildcats.

Kentucky again had no answer for Caglianone. The .400 hitter singled, hit his 35th homer of the season and 75th of his career to pass Matt LaPorta on the school career chart. Caglianone was walked three times, once intentionally.

“I was all in on it — show off the bat, show off the wheels,” Caglianone said, smiling. “I embraced the role today.”


AP college sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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