Florida has won 6 of its last 7, including 5 straight, to make it to the College World Series. On the mound, Kevin O’Sullivan is sticking with the rotation that got his team to Omaha.

Ahead of Florida’s CWS matchup with Texas A&M, the Gators revealed their starting rotation. UF is sticking with freshman Liam Peterson for Game 1 and 2-way star Jac Caglianone in Game 2. O’Sullivan would turn to Pierce Coppola if Florida avoids going 0-2 and ‘cue.

By the numbers, Caglianone is Florida’s top 2024 starter. In 15 starts, he owns a 4.71 ERA and 1.50 WHIP with 82 strikeouts over 72.2 IP.

So why has Peterson been the No. 1 man in the rotation for the postseason? As SDS columnist Connor O’Gara identified ahead of the NCAA Tournament, Peterson had the strongest finish to the regular season.

In his final 5 starts of the regular season, Peterson allowed 5 earned runs and struck out 20 in 19.1 innings. Over the final 3 starts of the regular season, Peterson faced No. 1 national seed Tennessee, No. 2 Kentucky and No. 7 Georgia, going 15.1 innings with 4 earned runs and a 16-6 strikeout-t0-walk ratio.

In the NCAA Tournament, Peterson has had varying results.

Peterson helped Florida get off to a 1-0 start by going 5.1 innings, allowing 2 earned runs against Nebraska, the Big Ten Tournament Champions.

His second start, however, didn’t go as planned. Peterson completed only 1 inning against Clemson, allowing 3 earned runs on 3 hits, walking 4 and striking out just 2 before being pulled in the 2nd.

It appeared that Peterson may have experienced some nerves, pitching in a Super Regional at the home park of the No. 6 national seed. That raises concerns about turning to him on an even bigger stage, but it’s not hard to expect where O’Sullivan will turn if Peterson runs into trouble against Texas A&M.

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Neely strong, Cags steady in Gators’ postseason run

Pitching has been an adventure for Sully’s squad in 2024.

Sophomore left-hander Cade Fisher was tabbed as the No. 1 starter after earning Freshman All-America honors for a 2023 season in which he posted a 6-0 record and 3.10 ERA in 27 appearances (2 starts).

Fisher, however, struggled as a weekend starter. O’Sullivan tried moving Fisher to the bullpen and having Brandon Neely, the closer, switch back to starting, which he last did in 2022.

The switch didn’t provide the desired results. For better or worse, Fisher and Neely both perform better coming out of the bullpen.

For the season, Neely has a 5.45 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over 71 innings in 25 appearances (6 starts). In the NCAA Tournament, Neely has gone back to looking like the standout pitcher who earned first-team All-SEC honors as Florida’s 2023 closer.

Though he’s still referred to as Florida’s closer, Neely’s specialty has been multi-inning outings in high-leverage situations.

Neely recorded a 2.1-inning save in the Stillwater Regional opener against Nebraska, securing the 5-2 UF win.

Days later, Neely entered an elimination game with Florida trailing Oklahoma State 2-1. He tossed 5.2 scoreless frames, notching a new career-high of 11 strikeouts while allowing just 1 hit and walking 3. Neely was the game’s winning pitcher as the Gators roared back to win 5-2, forcing a Game 7.

Neely pitched in both games of the Clemson Super Regional, totaling 131 pitches over 2 days. He provided 4 scoreless frames of 1-hit ball in UF’s Game 1 win, striking out 7 while walking just 1. He went 4 more innings in Game 2.

In the tournament, Neely has pitched 16 innings, allowing just 3 earned runs on 10 hits and 5 walks, striking out 23 opposing batters.

Caglianone was on the mound for Florida’s only loss, Game 2 of the Stillwater Regional. He pitched 5 innings against Oklahoma State, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8.

Against Clemson, Caglianone went 5.2 innings. He allowed 4 earned runs on 5 hits, walking 2 while striking out 6 Tigers.

Neely isn’t alone in being the only reliever who has looked better than his numbers as the Gators have gone on their most impressive 5-game stretch of the season. Bullpen arms such as Fisher Jameson, Jake Clemente and Frank Menendez have all come up big as depth gets stretched thin in the postseason.

If Peterson, Neely and Caglianone pitch like they have in recent weeks, Florida’s bats will give the Gators a fighting chance in Omaha.