Shelnut homer gives Florida series win over Texas A&M

Florida defeated Texas A&M, 4-2, on Sunday to win a three-game series that opened SEC play.

After two nights of early scoring, Sunday’s affair stayed at a 2-2 tie until the penultimate frame. Left fielder Tyler Shelnut delivered a go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth to cap off a massive weekend and give Florida the win.

Several questionable losses through the first 17 games of the season had experts asking questions about Florida and its bullpen, but beating Texas A&M in a three-game series supports the top-10 ranking UF has held onto since the start of the year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Gators climb in certain polls, even though it was a 2-2 week.

Jac Caglianone struggled in the opening frame, needing 29 pitches to get his first three outs. An error by Cade Kurland — his fourth of the year at second base — scored an unearned run, but Caglianone got out of the bases-loaded jam without further issue. Kurland made up for his mistake with an RBI single up the middle in the second, scoring Tyler Shelnut.

Both teams struggled to move runners around the bases over the next few innings. Shelnut doubled to lead off the fourth, but it was Texas A&M that broke the tie in the fifth with a Braden Montgomery home run, his second in the past 24 hours.

Florida responded quickly, though. Luke Heyman hit a solo shot to tie it back up. Heyman entered the at-bat 1-for-11 over the weekend, but he ended up making a difference in the series. Caglianone provided the only hit for Florida after between Heyman’s home run and his next at-bat, and he was tagged out trying to stretch it into a double.

Heyman singled through the left side top open the bottom of the eighth, but it looked like Florida would strand another batter after two quick outs. Shelnut sent a missile of a line drive to the left field wall. It cleared the left fielder’s glove by inches and was hit hard enough to zoom over the wall too.

The home plate umpire signaled home run immediately, but Shelnut got caught in a rundown between second and third base before realizing the call. Two-run homer. Shelly celly. Florida leads, 4-2. But could the bullpen finish the job?

Caglianone left the mound after 107 pitches and 5 1/3 innings pitched. He gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks while striking out seven. It’s not his best line of the year, but keeping the Aggies’ lineup quiet for five innings is impressive. More importantly, he looked like an ace ready to pitch a big series’s deciding game.

Ryan Slater took over for him to get through the sixth, and then Kevin O’Sullivan turned to his close, Brandon Neely, in the seventh for the second time this weekend. Neely wouldn’t finish off the game, but he left in line for the win.

Freshman Luke McNeillie earned his first career save in dramatic fashion. He gave up a leadoff single after not getting a strike three call, but McNeillie struck out Jace LaViolette and got Montgomery to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Montgomery’s ball nearly ended up being a game-ending double play, but a review confirmed that he beat the throw to first in time. McNeillie locked back in to induce another ground ball to end the game for real.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire