Pro Hockey News

Sunday, May 21, 2023

No. 4 Florida Tops No. 19 Wildcats for 2023 SEC Regular Season Crown

LEXINGTON, Ky.  ( - No. 4 Florida used a dominant pitching performance from starter Jac Caglianone to take the series over No. 19 Kentucky and an eventual 2023 SEC Regular Season Championship with a 5-2 victory at Kentucky Proud Park on Saturday afternoon. At the time of game's end, the Gators trailed SEC West-leader Arkansas by a half game in the overall standings. Florida anxiously awaited the outcome of Arkansas-Vanderbilt, needing a Commodores win to secure an SEC Regular Season Co-Championship. With the Razorbacks ultimately falling, 7-6, the championship celebration was on for the Orange & Blue in addition to securing the No. 1 overall seed at the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament. Caglianone was masterful in game three, firing seven shutout innings on just four hits and striking out eight. The seven innings marked a new career high for Caglianone. On the offensive end, Dale Thomas provided a clutch, two-run homer in the seventh inning for his first-ever blast as a Gator. The Gators (42-13, 20-10 SEC) and Wildcats (36-17, 16-14 SEC) traded zeros through the first four innings, as Caglianone and UK starter Austin Strickland held the offenses in check. Caglianone registered six strikeouts through four, allowing just one hit and two walks. Caglianone remained locked in during the middle innings, stranding two Wildcats in the fifth and retiring the side in order while notching his eighth strikeout to close out the sixth. Florida broke through in the seventh, beginning with a leadoff walk and stolen base of second by Caglianone. After a sacrifice bunt from Josh Rivera moved him to third, Caglianone scored on a deep sacrifice fly to left field by BT RiopelleLuke Heyman then singled home Tyler Shelnut with two outs while Thomas blasted a two-out, two-run homer to right-center to create a 4-0 Gator lead. Caglianone returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh and worked a quick zero to hold the score. That marked the end of his day, as he ceded duties to left-hander Philip Abner in the eighth. Kentucky and Florida exchanged solo homers in the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth. Grant Smith left the yard for the Wildcats to eliminate the shutout while Luke Heyman mashed his ninth homer of the season to bring the score to 5-1. Kentucky plated a late run in the ninth to bring the score to its final tally of 5-2, as Ryan Church drove in Devin Burkes with a sacrifice fly to right field. Caglianone (6-2) recorded his second victory in as many weeks with a career-high seven shutout frames. The southpaw gave up four hits and three walks while striking out eight. Strickland (3-1) was saddled with his first loss of the season after allowing three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander allowed three hits and one walk while fanning seven.