Ridaught: Gators, Raiders in winner-take-all

Freshman Cade Fisher
Freshman Cade Fisher threw seven innings and allowed just one run on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts as Florida stayed alive in in the Gainesville Regional and forced a Game 7 with a 7-1 win against Texas Tech.
Photo by Ashley Ray/UAA Communications

Heading into Sunday the University of Florida baseball team was needing three straight wins to advance to this weekend’s Super Regionals.

How do you attack that? One game at a time.

The Gators got back-to-back strong pitching performances and the offense finally came back to life to put Florida in a win-and-take all region final against Texas Tech today at noon in the Gainesville Regional.

Fourth-year junior Hurston Waldrep struck out 12 batters and allowed just five hits and one run over seven innings as Florida eliminated UConn, 8-2, in the first game of the day on Sunday at Condron Ballpark. He only walked two in his 101-pitch outing.

“We knew that this morning’s game was going to be really difficult,” said Florida head coach Kevin O’ Sullivan. “Just like last year against Central Michigan, when you get in the loser’s bracket, no one wants their season to end. He was outstanding. He wanted to go back out after 100 pitches and I said no that’s it, what do we have three games ahead of us. Somebody else will have to pick up the slack here, certainly (Nick Ficarrotta) did.”

Ficarrotta closed the door, pitching the final two innings and allowing only one earned run with no walks and five strikeouts.

Meanwhile, first baseman Jac Caglianone sparked the offense with two home runs, including a 446-foot three-run shot in the fourth inning and a two-run blast in the eighth to give him a nation-leading 31 home runs.

He became the first Southeastern Conference player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season since LSU’s Brad Cresse hit 30 in 2000. Caglianone joins Cresse and SEC single-season record-holder Brandon Larson (40 in 1997) as the only players in conference history to hit 30 home runs in a season.

Caglianone, who drove in five runs against UConn, added one more last night against Texas Tech to give him 84 RBI on the season, moving into second in a single season at UF behind Preston Tucker (85 in 2009).

While the Gators didn’t go long ball against the Raiders in the nightcap, one big inning proved to be the difference against Texas Tech in a 7-1 victory thanks to the arm of Cade Fisher.

After a 90-minute weather delay, the freshman left-hander took the bump and gave the Gators seven strong innings. He allowed only one run on five hits with six strikeouts and no walks.

“He was outstanding,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a tough night to hit, obviously with anything that was hit in the air. I thought we had some really good at bats and hit some balls hard. It was a bit frustrating those first four innings, but Cade was outstanding. We didn’t walk anyone over the nine innings and we kept pounding the strike zone. We wouldn’t be in the position to have enough pitching for tomorrow if we didn’t get those two starts from Hurston and from Cade. We are in good shape for tomorrow (today).”

Florida scored four runs in the top of the sixth inning as Caglianone lined an RBI single to right to snap a scoreless tie.

It followed a disastrous double play that saw two Gators get thrown out at the plate on a 5-2-6-3-2 put out.

With runners at second and third and nobody out, Wyatt Langford hit a ground ball to third base. Richie Schiekofer was thrown out at home on the play, and then Langford got hung up between first and second, prompting Cade Kurland to try and score from second but he was thrown out at the plate.

“We made a baserunning blunder there,” O’ Sullivan said. “One out, you go on contact and try to get in a rundown, get a bunt and give Wyatt a chance to get to second. Wyatt tried to create something that probably wasn’t there. But Jac’s at bat to get on the board, because it felt like if you get three runs or four, that might be enough tonight with the way the wind was blowing as long as you didn’t walk anybody.”

They didn’t and Florida (47-15) prevailed to force Game 7 today at noon against the Raiders (41-22) with a chance to get to next weekend’s Super Regional against No. 15 seed South Carolina.

The Gamecocks (42-19) advanced to their first Super Regional appearance since 2018 with a 16-7 win on Sunday against Campbell in the Columbia Regional.

They are one of three SEC teams who have already punched their ticket to next weekend’s Super Regionals with a chance to advance to Omaha for the College World Series (June 16-26).

Alabama is heading to its first Super Regional since 2010
 following an 8-0 win against Boston College late Sunday night.

The No. 16 seed Crimson Tide (43-19) will travel to top seed Wake Forest, which dominated the Winston-Salem Regional by outscoring their three opponents 48-7, including a 15-1 win yesterday against George Mason.

Tennessee (41-19) defeated Charlotte, 9-2, to get out of the Clemson Regional. The 49ers upset No. 4 national seed Clemson, 3-2, earlier in the day.

Three of the top 10 national seeds have been eliminated (No. 4 Clemson, No. 6 Vanderbilt and No. 9 Miami).

Plus, No. 11 Oklahoma State failed to win its regional as the No. 4 seed in the Stillwater Regional, Oral Roberts, (49-11), edged Dallas Baptist, 6-5, to advance.

In addition to Florida, four SEC teams remain.

Top seed LSU (45-15) faces No. 2 Oregon State (41-19) at 2 p.m. in the Baton Rouge Regional, followed by No. 1 Arkansas (43-17) and No. 2 TCU (39-22) in the Fayetteville Regional.

Then, at 6 p.m., No. 1 seed Kentucky (39-19) hosts No. 3 Indiana (43-19) in the Lexington Regional, and at 9 p.m., No. 2 seed Texas A&M (38-26) is at top seed Stanford (41-17) in the Stanford Regional.

Yesterday, TCU’s Tre Richardson hit two grand slams in the first two innings and ended the day with 11 RBI, tying him with Shea Langeliers (Baylor 2019) for the most RBI in an NCAA postseason game.

On Saturday, host Auburn was eliminated by No. 2 seed Southern Miss (44-18) which will play No. 4 Penn (34-15) at 3 p.m., and top seed Coastal Carolina (42-20) hosts No. 2 seed Duke (37-22) tonight at 6 p.m. in the Conway Regional (Conway, South Carolina).

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