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Friday, June 02, 2023

Miami evens weekend series behind Blake Cyr’s multi-homer night

Hurricanes pound UF bullpen, spoil Waldrep’s 14-strikeout performance

Florida pitcher Hurston Waldrep throws a pitch in the Gators' 13-3 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats Feb. 25, 2023.
Florida pitcher Hurston Waldrep throws a pitch in the Gators' 13-3 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats Feb. 25, 2023.

Hurricanes freshman designated hitter Blake Cyr stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with a home run under his belt already.

With Miami ahead 11-6 and two more runners waiting in the wings, Cyr swung on a 3-0 fastball from UF left-hander Carsten Finnvold and deposited a three-run home run to left field into the Gainesville night.

Cyr’s second homer of the game put the finishing touches on No. 22 Miami’s (8-3) 14-6 trouncing of the No. 6 Florida Gators (9-3) Saturday at Condron Ballpark. Florida built an early 6-1 lead on two home runs from sophomore two-way Jac Caglianone, who now leads the nation with 10 on the young season. 

UF junior starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep struck out a career-high 14 batters in his six innings before giving way to a Florida bullpen that has been marred by inconsistency this year. 

The bullpen imploded for the second time this week and allowed 11 runs over the final three frames to give Miami the upperhand. 

“I feel bad for Hurston,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to figure out. We need somebody to bridge the gap.”

A two hour and 50 minute rain delay pushed back a 2 p.m. scheduled start, but Waldrep was undeterred by the inclement weather. 

He attacked Miami’s first three batters and struck out the side in the opening frame. His high-nineties fastball paired well with his devastating splitter early in the game. 

Junior left fielder Wyatt Langford walked to become Florida’s first baserunner. Caglianone came up to bat next and continued his scorching hot start to the season. 

He knocked his ninth home run of the season just over the right field wall to gift Florida a 2-0 lead. The blast would be UF’s only hit through the first four innings against Miami starting pitcher Karson Ligon. 

Waldrep and Ligon traded scoreless second innings as both starters settled into the ballgame. 

The Hurricanes broke through in the top of the third. Junior catcher Carlos Perez cranked his fourth long ball of the year on a towering drive to left to lead off the frame. Waldrep retired the next three batters in order to keep the 2-1 lead intact. 

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Ligon continued to roll over the Gators’ lineup. The Sarasota native posted clean third and fourth innings and only allowed UF junior shortstop Josh Rivera to reach on a walk. 

Waldrep worked into and out of trouble in the fourth. He allowed the first two batters to reach on base hits. The Thomasville, Georgia, native rebounded by inducing a flyout to right field from Cyr and striking out the final pair of hitters. 

Florida’s starter found himself in a similar situation in the fifth inning. Miami put runners on first and second with nobody out. Waldrep then struck out the next three batters, including Miami’s most prominent offensive weapon, junior third baseman Yohandy Morales, to end the threat. Waldrep let out a roar of emotion as he returned to the UF dugout. 

Freshman center fielder Michael Robertson recorded UF’s first hit since Caglianone’s first-inning homer on a single up the middle to begin the fifth. Junior third baseman Colby Halter scored Robertson two batters later when he roped a triple down the right-field line. 

Langford drove in Halter shortly after with a sacrifice fly to right field. Caglianone capped off a four-run frame with his second homer of the game off the batter’s eye in center field. 

Miami took a bite out of Florida’s 6-1 lead in the top of the sixth when Cyr sent his first home run of the game over the 400-foot sign in center field for a two-run shot. 

Ligon emerged battle-hardened from his rough fifth inning. He returned to form in the sixth, striking out two and allowing one baserunner on a hit by pitch. 

Waldrep’s early-inning struggles plagued him once again in the seventh inning. The first two Hurricanes reached base, prompting O’Sullivan to replace Waldrep with sophomore right-hander Nick Ficarrotta. 

The righty allowed a run-scoring single from Morales, which just evaded the glove of a diving Rivera at shortstop. Ficarrotta lasted just one more batter before being swapped out for sophomore righty Ryan Slater, who immediately allowed an RBI single off the bat of Cyr over the leap of freshman second baseman Cade Kurland to cut the UF lead to one, 6-5. 

A wild pitch from Slater during the next at-bat allowed Morales to come home from third to knot the score at six. It took the Gators’ third reliever of the inning to get them out of the seventh. 

Sophomore right-hander Fisher Jameson entered and recorded back-to-back fly outs to right field to end the frame. Junior right fielder Ty Evans ran down the final out deep in the right-center field alley. 

Miami put itself in a bases loaded, no out situation after the seventh inning stretch and found a way to waltz out of danger. 

Junior righty Rolando Gallo took over on the bump for Miami and loaded the bases for Caglianone. Miami head coach Gino DiMare brought in freshman left-hander Chris Scinta to face the lefty batter. 

The move paid dividends, as Caglianone grounded into a double play. Miami first baseman CJ Kayfus picked up the ball, touched first and fired home where Halter was tagged out at the plate. 

Scinta intentionally walked Rivera to reload the bases for senior catcher BT Riopelle. He bounced a ball back to the mound, where Scinta completed the play by tossing him out at first base. 

UF’s bullpen allowed Miami to complete its comeback in the eighth inning. Hurricanes left fielder Renzo Gonzalez greeted Jameson with a solo shot to dead center field to break the 6-6 tie. Two consecutive hits against Jameson put runners in scoring position. 

Junior righty Clete Hartzog entered and issued an intentional walk to load the bases for Cyr, who subsequently walked to force home Miami’s eighth run. 

A two-run double down the right field line for Hurricanes shortstop Dominic Pitelli extended the new lead to 10-6. 

O’Sullivan indicated he would have been willing to use closer Brandon Neely in the eighth inning had events unfolded more favorably.

“It’s hard to make decisions when your bullpen is a little bit inconsistent,” O’Sullivan said. “We are not asking them to do something they are not capable of doing.” 

The ninth inning only made matters worse when Finnvold entered and allowed four more runs, including three on Cyr’s second moonshot. 

Junior right-hander Andrew Walters, Miami’s closer, took over in the bottom of the eighth and quieted UF’s bats over the final two innings. He retired six of the seven batters he faced and struck out pinch hitter Rene Lastres to seal the Hurricanes’ win. 

Miami and Florida will decide the series Sunday afternoon. Caglianone will make his third start of the season on the mound and will oppose Hurricanes’ right-hander Alejandro Rosario. First pitch is scheduled for noon and will be televised on SEC Network. 

Contact Ethan Eibe at 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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