Florida junior third baseman Tyler Shelnut stepped up to the plate. The Gators had already scored five runs in the fourth inning, and the Santa Fe College transfer was about to join the party.
Shelnut launched his first career home run deep over the left field fence into the Charleston Southern bullpen for a two-run shot. The homer capped off a dominant frame and lifted Florida to clinch an opening series win.
The Florida Gators (2-0) defeated the Charleston Southern Buccaneers (0-2) 16-2 Saturday at Condron Ballpark. Florida’s seven-run fourth inning paved the way for a second-consecutive mercy rule victory.
Southern Mississippi transfer Hurston Waldrep earned his first win for the Gators’. He struck out six batters and allowed four hits and two earned runs.
“It was awesome, it’s great to be here,” Waldrep said. “Going into it, I felt like I had to really dig deep and control myself and just focus on the task at hand.”
Waldrep got off to a shaky start in his Florida debut. The Thomasville, Georgia, native threw four-straight balls to walk CSU freshman first baseman Ashton Wilson on the first at-bat of the night.
The junior pitcher threw two more balls before senior catcher BT Riopelle visited the righty on the mound. Florida’s pitcher responded with a strikeout.
Wilson tried to get a jump and steal second, but Riopelle answered with a missile to junior shortstop Josh Rivera for the out. A looping fly ball to shallow right field ended the inning for the Buccaneers.
The Gators’ got off to a slow start on offense. Freshman center fielder Michael Robertson and junior left fielder Wyatt Langford hit short ground outs.
Sophomore designated hitter Jac Caglianone hit a high fly ball into foul territory, but Charleston Southern senior left fielder Bryce Brock tracked it down to end the inning.
The Buccaneers had runners on first and third with two outs in the second.
Brock singled into right field to drive in a runner and get the visitors on the board first. Waldrep responded to the run with a strikeout to end the half-inning.
CSU senior pitcher Ryan Gleason walked Rivera, and an errant pickoff attempt allowed Florida’s shortstop to advance to third. Riopelle drilled a single into deep right field to send Rivera home and tie the game. The Buccaneers escaped the second inning with just one run allowed.
Waldrep dominated in the third inning. The lefty struck out the first two batters swinging before he forced a short ground out to retire the side.
A myriad of Charleston Southern mistakes helped Florida build a lead in the third. Langford flied out to left field, but a balk gave the junior another chance.
He hit a weak grounder down the third base line, but freshman Buccaneers third baseman JC Agard flubbed the scoop, which allowed freshman second baseman Cade Kurland to score for the Gators.
Gleason threw a wild pitch, and Robertson made his way home. Caglianone ripped a single to right field, which allowed Langford to score and give Florida a 4-1 lead.
Riopelle took off from first base, and a drop by Buccaneers junior second baseman Jaylin Rae allowed the Gators’ catcher to steal second base. Shelnut struck out looking to end a chaotic third inning.
Waldrep and the Gators’ defense made quick work of CSU in the top of the fourth.
Kurland earned his first career hit with a long double to the left field warning track to begin the bottom of the fourth. Florida loaded the bases after a walk and a Langford single.
Gleason hit Caglianone with a pitch to send a run home. The Buccaneers pulled their starter in favor of senior right-hander Eddie Olsen after the difficult start to the inning. Rivera stepped to the plate and hit a line drive toward the shortstop.
CSU senior shortstop Connor Aldrich scooped up the grounder, but his throw sailed over the second baseman, which allowed a pair of Gators to get home. Sophomore right fielder Ty Evans drove a single up the field to drive two more Florida runners in.
Shelnut continued the dominant fourth inning for the Gators. The junior launched a high fly ball over the left field wall for a home run to give Florida an 11-1 lead. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan praised Shelnut’s physical development that helped him hit his first homer for the Gators.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s turned into a really good player.”
Wilson brought home a runner in the top of the fifth to get the Buccaneers back on the board. Waldrep struck out CSU senior pinch hitter Kaleb Davis to get out of the frame without any further damage.
Florida’s offense took off again in the bottom of the fifth. The Gators scored four runs in the frame, highlighted by a two-RBI double from Evans.
Freshman left-hander Cade Fisher relieved Waldrep in the sixth inning for his first collegiate appearance. The Dalton, Georgia, product quickly retired the side and registered his first career strikeout.
Kurland hit his first career double and batted in his first run to put Florida up 16-2. Freshman righty Yoel Tejada Jr. came in for the seventh inning to make his collegiate debut. The Gators forced three quick outs and ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
Florida finishes its opening series against the Buccaneers Sunday. Opening pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.
Contact Topher Adams at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.
Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. He also covered Florida football lacrosse for the paper and loves to follow MLS soccer and professional lacrosse.