Oklahoma State baseball roughs up Florida, Jac Caglianone in 2024 NCAA tournament

STILLWATER — Although the game had just started, Oklahoma State designated hitter Aidan Meola’s walkup song was inaudible when he strode to the batter’s box in the top of the first inning.

The lively crowd at O’Brate Stadium was still buzzing from back-to-back solo home runs that Nolan Schubart and Zach Erhard launched to take an early lead. Meola, up after Erhard, only elevated the noise level with his first swing of the day.

Facing Florida starter Jac Caglianone, Meola rocketed a line drive to left center. It hit the top of the outfield wall and was initially ruled a home run. Frenzied OSU players surged around and over the dugout rail to celebrate as Meola rounded third. After review, Meola was called back to second base with umpires citing fan interference. In hindsight, the ruling feels trivial.

No. 11 OSU utilized a surge of home runs to beat Florida 7-1 on Saturday, advancing to the regional Finals. The Cowboys (42-17) will face the winner of Nebraska and Florida on Sunday night and, with another win, would advance to a Super Regional for the first time since 2019.

“Great team effort,” OSU coach Josh Holliday said. “We caught the ball clean. I love the grit and toughness of some of our kids. Watching Aidan Meola play on one leg, my gosh.”

The Cowboys finished with four home runs, all coming against Caglianone, who had surrendered just four all year. Meola, playing through a hamstring injury, fittingly hit a no-doubter of his own in the seventh. All but one of OSU’s runs came via the long ball.

More: Oklahoma State baseball's Brian Holiday went from junior-college walk-on to Big 12 starter

Brian Holiday goes the distance, stifles Florida 

Cowboy pitcher Brian Holiday settled in quickly against the Gators and cruised to a two-hitter.

The OSU junior threw eight scoreless innings and got deep in the ball game by keeping his pitch count low. He had 10 strikeouts, one walk and threw 131 pitches. Schubart credited Holiday for pitching well enough to get the OSU offense relaxed.

“(Holiday) has been doing that week in and week out,” Schubart said. “For him to do it against that lineup and the guys that they’ve got, it’s pretty unreal. It’s pretty hard to put into words what he just did for nine innings straight.”

The lone run Holiday surrendered came in the ninth inning on his 116th pitch when Caglianone smoked a 2-1 pitch to centerfield.

Holiday said there was little conversation with pitching coach Rob Walton about if Holiday would pitch the ninth. Walton asked if Holiday was good, Holiday said yes and he got to work. When Holiday did leave the field after getting the final out, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

“Putting up that many runs and seeing our crowd, the atmosphere and everything, going crazy for all our hits and home runs, it gives me a lot of confidence going out there,” Holiday said.

Holiday, who entered with a 3.12 ERA, picked up the win to move to 7-3.

More: Oklahoma State baseball beats Niagara in NCAA Stillwater Regional, will face Florida

Jun 1, 2024; Stillwater, OK, USA; Florida Pitcher Jac Caglianone (14) pitches the ball during a NCAA regional baseball game against Oklahoma State at O'Brate Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Alcala-The Oklahoman
Jun 1, 2024; Stillwater, OK, USA; Florida Pitcher Jac Caglianone (14) pitches the ball during a NCAA regional baseball game against Oklahoma State at O'Brate Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Alcala-The Oklahoman

OSU held Florida star Jac Caglianone in check 

Cowboy outfielder Carson Benge’s positioning revealed the respect OSU afforded Caglianone.

When Caglianone, Florida’s 6-foot-5 two-way star and a projected top-five pick in the upcoming MLB Draft, dug into the lefthanded batter’s box in the bottom of the first inning, Benge moved back to where his heels were on the warning track in right field.

In addition to pitching, Caglianone has provided Florida with power in the lineup this season. He entered the game with 29 home runs; the fourth most in the nation.

Despite the late solo shot, Caglianone was held in check. He batted 1-for-4 with one strikeout. Caglianone is skilled enough to make a huge impact on a game with either his pitching or his batting. He did neither on Saturday.

“I thought up and down the lineup our team took on a great challenge in Jac Caglianone, who is arguably one of the best players in college baseball,” Holliday said.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma State baseball beats Florida to reach NCAA regional final