Kendrick Calilao drills a walk-off home run for UF's 3-2 win over FSU

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida's Kendrick Calilao drills a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning Tuesday to give the Gators a 3-2 win over Florida State at Florida Ballpark.

Kendrick Calilao’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning snapped No. 18-ranked Florida’s two-game losing streak to No. 24-ranked FSU and gave the Gators the 3-2 victory Tuesday night at Florida Ballpark. 

“Kenny’s a really good teammate, he continues to work hard, and given the opportunity he took advantage of it tonight,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Good things happen to good people, and he’s certainly put himself in position to be successful tonight with all of his work that he’s been doing prior to tonight, and I’m really, really happy for him. He deserved a moment like that.”

The Gators (22-11) built an early 2-0 lead before Robby Martin’s RBI double put the ‘Noles (16-13) on the scoreboard in the fourth inning. Martin come across home plate and tied the score at 2-2 after four innings of play under clear skies in Gainesville.

From there, the rivals each failed to capitalize on opportunities to pull in front for good; between the bottom of the fourth inning and Calilao’s home run, the teams combined for two hits and 19 strikeouts. 

Florida's Sterlin Thompson scores on Jordan Butler's sacrifice fly in the second inning Tuesday against FSU at Florida Ballpark.

Making the start for the Gators, redshirt junior right-hander Garrett Milchin struck out five batters in 6.0 innings, both career-highs for the Windermere native who’s battled back from two Tommy John surgeries to contribute in UF’s bullpen. FSU got 4.2 innings from Carson Montgomery but would need to reach into the bullpen over the remaining 5.0 innings before Calilao’s decisive blast.

“I thought Garrett was extremely efficient,” O’Sullivan said. “It was obvious from the first pitch of the game they were very aggressive to his fastball, and he located to both sides of the plate with his fastball for six innings and threw some breaking balls. He did everything we could have asked from him.”

In a return to form of sorts, Florida pitcher Jack Leftwich (5-2) secured the victory — but as a reliever rather than in his traditional starting role. He didn’t allow a hit while striking out seven in four innings of action in securing the win for UF. 

“Obviously, Jack was outstanding,” O’Sullivan added. “Three days ago he's not feeling very good about himself. Tonight, he's on top of the world. I'm really proud about the way he handled himself."

Florida returns to the home diamond Friday at 6:30 p.m. when the Gators open a weekend series against Missouri, while FSU returns to Dick Howser Stadium to commence a weekend series with Boston College beginning Friday at 6 p.m. 

Three takeaways from a game that evened the season series at 1-all.

Error-filled second inning

Florida’s first runs came in the second inning courtesy of a pair of back-to-back errors by the ‘Noles. 

First, it was Sterlin Thompson reaching on an error by FSU second baseman Vince Smith to lead-off the inning, bringing Jud Fabian to the plate. Fabian proceeded to hit one right at FSU third baseman Logan Lacey, but Lacey’s throw sailed over the head of first-baseman Tyler Martin, allowing Fabian to head to second and sending Thompson to third. 

Kris Armstrong walked to load the bases for Florida before Jordan Butler’s sac-fly scored Thompson, giving the Gators the early lead. Colby Halter extended the lead to 2-0 on a sac-fly to shallow right-field that scored Fabian before FSU could get out of the inning without incurring further damage. 

But they didn’t stop there

It may have been due to the emotions typically surrounding a battle between in-state rivals, but the miscues continued as the night went on. FSU’s game-tying run was set up by a throwing error on Halter that allowed Robby Martin to head from second to third. Later, in the bottom of the fourth inning, Josh Rivera reached base on an uncharacteristic fielding error on Martin, though the Gators couldn’t create any separation on the scoreboard on FSU’s third error. The ‘Noles couldn’t seem to stop the self-inflicted damage either; FSU’s fourth error came in the fifth inning when Tyler Martin dropped the throw to first, allowing Jacob Young to reach base. Strangely enough, FSU’s fifth error would involve all the same characters and be nearly identical to the fourth. Considering the ‘Noles came into the game having committed just 30 errors through 28 games this season, it’s fair to say it was an uncharacteristic night for FSU. 

Gators can’t capitalize with runners on base

After FSU pulled even at 2-2, the rivals were deadlocked until the final pitch, though the hosts certainly had opportunities to pull back in front. Florida went 0-for-15 at the plate with runners on base Tuesday before Calilao’s solo shot. FSU wasn’t much better, though they’d at least get a hit with a runner on. The ‘Noles went 1-for-8 at the plate with runners on base.

“As you go along during the season here and you face better pitching, and they have the ability to slow the ball down, they’re just not going to throw 1-0 fastballs or one over, or 2-1 fastballs,” O’Sullivan said. “So we’ve got to do a better job making adjustments there for sure.” 

Florida State's Robby Martin puts the Seminoles on the scoreboard Tuesday against Florida at Florida Ballpark.