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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

No. 7 Gators mercy-rule Bearcats to win weekend series

Rivera, Langford, Evans homer in Waldrep’s masterful start

Florida pitcher Hurston Waldrep pitches the ball in the Gators' 13-3 win against the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.
Florida pitcher Hurston Waldrep pitches the ball in the Gators' 13-3 win against the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.

Sophomore outfielder Ty Evans stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the eighth inning without a home run to his name in 2023.

With one swing of the bat, he changed his fortunes. 

Evans blasted a two-run shot beyond the left-field fence to complete No. 7 Florida’s (6-1) 13-3 mercy-rule victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-4) Saturday. Gators starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep electrified the Condron Ballpark crowd with a six-inning, 13-strikeout performance. 

It was the first 13-strikeout effort by a Gator since Jackson Kowar did so against Texas in the 2018 College World Series. 

“He was really good, obviously,” Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It was not an easy lineup to navigate; six left-handers and a switch hitter.”

O’Sullivan praised Waldrep’s ability to get ahead in the count and throw his breaking ball for strikes.

Waldrep noted the Bearcats hitters attacked Friday night starter Brandon Sproat’s fastball early in their at-bats, so he tried to throw them off their rhythm with his splitter, he said.

“The way they were swinging last night, they had a lot of heavy hitters trying to pull the ball so being able to land an early breaking ball kind of resets their mind; kind of changes the way they think about attacking their at-bat,” Waldrep said.

Waldrep made quick work of the Bearcats in the opening frame. The Thomasville, Georgia, native struck out Cincinnati freshman Griffin Hugus and redshirt sophomore Kerrington Cross before inducing a flyout to left from redshirt junior Ryan Nicholson. 

Cincinnati starting pitcher Chase Horst had trouble with his command early in the game. 

He allowed a double to Florida junior left fielder Wyatt Langford and then hit sophomore Jac Caglianone and Evans with pitches. A Horst fastball nailed Caglianone’s batting helmet, which went spinning off his head. Caglianone picked up his helmet and trotted to first. 

Sophomore shortstop Josh Rivera stepped up with the bases juiced and delivered a grand slam down the right-field line; he tucked the ball just inside the foul pole to give UF a four-run start. 

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The Bearcats got a run back in the top of the second when they put together a two-out rally against Waldrep. With two runners on, freshman third baseman Kyle Schupmann mashed a towering ground-rule double to center field that sailed over the head of Langford and one-hopped over the 400-foot sign. 

Waldrep achieved a rare feat in the second frame and struck out four batters. Prior to Schupmann’s double, Cincinnati junior Josh Hegemann struck out swinging but reached first base after the pitch got away from senior catcher BT Riopelle, opening the door for Waldrep to make Gators history.

Horst continued his struggles in the bottom of the second.

After he loaded the bases without recording an out, Cincinnati head coach Scott Googins decided to pull his starter in favor of right-handed senior Dylan Brosky. The reliever secured a double play off the bat of Langford, scoring graduate left fielder Richie Schiekofer from third to extend UF’s lead to 5-1.

Waldrep continued to rack up punch-outs, fanning the Cincinnati side in order in the third inning. He recorded his 10th strikeout when he set down junior designated hitter JP Sponseller for his first out of the fourth inning. 

Brosky appeared to be on his way to a clean fourth inning but allowed a single to Florida freshman second baseman Cade Kurland with two outs. 

Langford stepped up to the plate and crushed his second home run of the season over everything in left-center field, landing on Hull Road. 

Cincinnati added another run in the top of the fifth when Cross singled to right field, which brought Schupmann around from second. Waldrep wrapped up his outing with a strong sixth frame, in which he struck out his 12th and 13th batters and sent the Bearcats down in order. 

Kurland recorded his second knock of the game with two runners in scoring position. He lined an 0-1 fastball from Brosky down the left-field line for a double that scored Schiekofer and sophomore Matt Prevesk for two runs batted in. The RBI double gave the Gators a 9-2 lead. 

Googins went to his bullpen once again after Brosky walked Langford with Caglianone due up next. Right-handed senior Mitch White got Caglianone to line out to center on the first pitch and Evans to fly out to right to end the frame. 

Sophomore righty Nick Ficarrotta made his second appearance of the season out of UF’s bullpen and retired the Bearcats 1-2-3 in the seventh. 

Left-handed sophomore Tommy O’Connor took over for Cincinnati in the bottom of the inning. The Bearcats’ defense let them down and allowed UF to score its 10th run. With Riopelle on first, Rivera singled to the left fielder, Cross, who allowed the ball to skip by him. Riopelle came around for a run and Rivera reached third on the misplay. 

Rivera crossed home plate two batters later when Schiekofer grounded out to first; the sophomore shortstop’s score gave the Gators an 11-2 lead.

Cincinnati freshman right fielder Landyn Vidourek singled to left field to bring home a run in the top of the eighth against Ficarrotta. However, Schiekofer threw him out from left field when he tried to stretch his hit to a double. 

It took three batters in the bottom of the eighth for UF to win its third game of the year via the mercy rule. Langford singled to the left side for his third hit of the game before Evans’ deep drive sent the Florida faithful home happy.

The Gators will go for the sweep of the Bearcats Sunday afternoon at Condron Ballpark. Game time is scheduled for 12 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Contact Ethan Eibe at eeibe@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @EthanEibe.

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Ethan Eibe

Ethan Eibe is a second-year UF sports media major and covers Gators baseball for The Alligator. Outside of his writing, Ethan is a play-by-play broadcaster for UF student radio and has spent two summers announcing professional baseball with the Alpine Cowboys. He is a long-suffering Miami Marlins fan.


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