Ridaught: Gators one win from CWS title series

Cade Fisher reacts to escaping a jam
On Sunday night, Florida freshman pitcher Cade Fisher helped close the door and earned his second career save in a 5-4 win against Oral Roberts at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Photo by Maddie Washburn/UAA Communications

He owned it. 

On Sunday night a mental mistake by University of Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan almost cost the UF baseball team an opportunity to advance at the College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. 

However, a freshman saved the day. 

Become A Member

Mainstreet does not have a paywall, but pavement-pounding journalism is not free. Join your neighbors who make this vital work possible.

The Gators led 5-3 and Oral Roberts had the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, but UF had closer Brandon Neely on the hill. 

That was until a violation of visits to the mound forced Florida to make an unwanted change following Sully’s mishap. 

Following an instant replay “safe” call at first base allowed the Golden Eagles to load the bases, Florida catcher BT Riopelle had a conference on the bump with Neely and the infielders, which represented the sixth total visit to the mound. 

Then, Sully began a separate walk to the mound moments later. He was told to return to the dugout and it was explained that it was Florida’s seventh defensive conference, which by rule forced the Gators to remove Neely from the mound. 

Fortunately, the Gators recorded the final out as freshman Cade Fisher induced a fly ball out to left field to end the inning. 

“That totally falls on my shoulders,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m just glad Cade picked up that save. That is a mistake I have never made in my career. It certainly put (Fisher) in a tough spot. He had to make some pitches and he did.” 

Before the out, Sully was visibly nervous in the dugout. 

But it worked out. 

Oral Roberts did score a run in the bottom of the 9th but Florida held on for a 5-4 win and Sully got the monkey off his back. 

“It was an unfortunate situation he (Fisher) was put in, but he did figure a way to get out of the game,” O’Sullivan said. “These games are not easy. You want to win the first game, you want to win the second game. It’s hard for me right now because of the mistake I made. I’m still kicking myself about it.” 

Right hander Hurston Waldrep’s nasty splitters set the tone on the mound for the Gators, but the coaching blunder made Fisher a Florida hero at the Men’s College World Series

Waldrep tossed six innings and allowed just one run on seven hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts. The right-hander’s 12 K’s are tied for the second-most by a Gator in the CWS alongside former Gator Brady Singer. 

He became the fourth UF pitcher to strike out double-digit batters at the CWS, joining Alex Faedo (twice), Jackson Kowar (twice) and Singer (once). 

The mound mistake was overshadowed by three UF home runs, one of which set a new program record. 

A two-out walk by Tyler Shelnut in the top of the second inning was followed by a two-run home run to right field by Ty Evans. Evans is one of 48 Floridians who are participating in this year’s CWS.  

The sophomore, who hit his sixth homer of the year, is now 3-for-3 with two home runs and a double in his first three career at bats in Omaha. 

He became the first Florida player ever to homer in UF’s first two games of a College World Series. 

ORU answered with a run in the bottom of the second inning to cut the deficit in half at 2-1. 

Gators’ shortstop Josh Rivera answered with a solo home run that hugged the left-field line for a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth. It helped spark a three-run inning, which proved to be the difference in the game. 

Riopelle was plunked with the baseball, and then freshman Luke Heyman crushed his 12th home run to left field for a 5-1 lead. 

Florida has now hit 135 home runs this season, which broke the single-season program record of 132 set by the 1998 squad. 

TD Ameritrade Ballpark
Bret Habura/Shutterstock TD Ameritrade Ballpark home of the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Well, obviously a well-played game came down to the last out in the ninth and started on the mound with Hurston,” O’Sullivan said. “He was outstanding, struck out 12 over six. And offensively we hit some home runs early to get to a 5-1 lead. And we knew Oral Roberts was going to be really difficult to deal with. They’ve got an older lineup, but Cade came in shut down things for us. We’re excited about being 2-0 and looking forward to playing on Wednesday.” 

There are lots of adjectives to describe the Gators’ performances in the College World Series. 

UAA Senior Writer Scott Carter used a few in his article, citing Sunday’s win was a stress-filled, nail-biting win

But so was the Gators’ walk-off improbable win over Virginia on Friday night. 

Bottom line, the Gators are sitting in the driver’s seat at 2-0 in Bracket 1, needing just one win against either Oral Roberts or TCU, who will play on Tuesday with the winner needing to beat UF twice to advance to the championship series, which begins on Saturday.

The Gators can advance to the national championship series with a win at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Since facing elimination in the NCAA Regionals, Florida has gone 7-0 while outscoring opponents, 41-16. They’ve also hammered 14 home runs while allowing just two. 

“We’ve got to keep our edge,” O’Sullivan said. “We haven’t done it, yet. So, sure, we’re one game away from the finals, but we’ve still got to play one more game. So, they’ve just got to stay the course and what we’ve done the entire year and don’t take anything for granted and be ready to go on Wednesday.” 

Florida’s two starting pitchers, Brandon Sproat on Friday and Waldrup on Saturday, have been phenomenal. 

In 12.1 innings pitched, the two juniors have combined to allow just two earned runs with six walks and 19 strikeouts. 

“Well, you can’t get to this spot without having Sproat and Waldrep and now Cags (Jac Caglianone) has to follow up on Wednesday and we have a guy to the back end of Neely,” O’Sullivan said. “And I mean, when we’ve been in this position and we’ve won the first two, or we’ve gotten to the finals, the starting pitching has been really good, and both Brandon and Hurston have been just outstanding.” 

In Bracket 2, the winner of tonight’s Wake Forest-LSU game will be in the same situation as Florida, with Stanford and Tennessee going head-to-head at 2 p.m. today (ESPN) in an elimination game. 

If Florida, LSU, or Tennessee make the championship series, it would mark the sixth straight year that a Southeastern Conference team has advanced to the finals and the 14th time in the past 15 years. 

During that run, which began in 2008, the SEC has won the CWS series eight times (Ole Miss – 2022, Mississippi State – 2021, Vanderbilt – 2019, Florida – 2017, Vanderbilt – 2014, South Carolina – 2011 and 2010, and LSU – 2009). The CWS was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. 

In that span, eight SEC teams were national runners-up (Vanderbilt – 2021, Arkansas – 2018, LSU – 2017, Vanderbilt – 2015, Mississippi State – 2013, South Carolina – 2012, Florida – 2011, and Georgia – 2018).

Enjoying our local sports coverage? Get Mike Ridaught's twice weekly sports newsletter in your inbox.
Sports Newsletter Form
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments