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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Waldrep dominates, Gators hit four home runs to win series against Tennessee

Gators have won all four Southeastern Conference series this season

Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone pitches the ball during the Gators' 17-8 victory against the Auburn Tigers Sunday, April 2, 2023.
Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone pitches the ball during the Gators' 17-8 victory against the Auburn Tigers Sunday, April 2, 2023.

Jac Caglianone’s reign of terror over Southeastern Conference pitching continued Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. 

The 6-foot-5-inch superhuman sophomore demolished a baseball 488 feet and over the scoreboard in right field. The fourth-inning blast was Caglianone’s nation-leading 19th of the year and helped put the game out of reach. 

A cold, rainy evening in Knoxville, Tennessee, didn’t deter the No. 3 Florida Gators (27-5, 9-2 SEC) in their 9-3 victory against the No. 11 Tennesee Volunteers (21-10, 4-7 SEC). The win gives UF an unbeaten 8-0 record in away games and its first series win against the Vols since April 2018.

Hurston Waldrep made his eighth start of the season. The junior tossed seven strong innings and yielded three runs while striking out nine.

Florida sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning against Tennessee sophomore starting pitcher Chase Burns, and three of them scored. Burns allowed singles to junior left fielder Wyatt Langford and Caglianone and walked senior catcher BT Riopelle to load the bases. 

Junior third baseman Colby Halter walked on a full count to force Langford home. Sophomore designated hitter Matt Prevesk slashed a ball to left-center for a two-run ground-rule double. 

Waldrep had a 3-0 lead before he even threw a pitch. Waldrep yielded a two-out double from sophomore catcher Jared Dickey but escaped his first frame unscathed.

Florida improved its early lead to 5-0 when junior shortstop Josh Rivera demolished an 0-1 pitch beyond the right-center field wall. The second inning longball scored Caglianone and was Rivera’s second of the series. 

Tennessee earned those two runs back in the bottom of the second. Sophomore first baseman Blake Burke singled to lead off the inning and scored on a line drive homer down the right-field line off the bat of senior third baseman Zane Denton. 

Florida’s offense followed up Waldrep’s shutdown third inning with even more power. Langford and Caglianone demolished back-to-back home runs to knock Burns out of the game. 

Prevesk added to his runs batted in total in the top of the fifth. He slugged his first home run of the season to right field. The blast gave him 4 RBI for the game and extended UF’s lead to 9-2. 

Meanwhile, Waldrep continued to deal. The Georgia native struck out six consecutive batters to account for zeroes across the fourth and fifth innings. The Vols had trouble timing his pitches; four of the punchouts in Waldrep’s streak watched strike three go by. 

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Tennessee’s bullpen found success quelling the Gators’ bats with its bullpen. Junior right-hander Andrew Lindsey took over after Prevesk’s home run and put up a scoreless sixth inning. Junior righty Bryce Jenkins entered the game in the seventh and struck out the side. 

The Vols manufactured a run in the seventh inning against Waldrep, who walked a pair of batters to set up graduate pinch hitter Griffin Merritt. The pinch hitter singled to the left side and scored Denton from second base. Waldrep danced out of trouble when he induced an inning-ending groundball to Halter at third. 

Freshman left-hander Cade Fisher took over for Waldrep in the eighth. He struck out three batters and stranded a runner on third base. 

Sophomore lefty Jake Fitzsimmons struck out the side in the ninth inning for the Vols. Tennessee’s bullpen struck out 13 Gators in its 5.2 innings of relief. 

Fisher tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure the win and series victory. 

Florida will go for the series sweep tomorrow with Caglianone on the mound. First pitch on ESPN2 is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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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