When Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan came out to the mound to have a word with junior right-handed pitcher Hurston Waldrep Sunday, the day two ace had already logged 11 strikeouts and 83 pitches in under five complete innings. He had just let up his second run and walked his third batter.
Rather than pull his starter, O’Sullivan retreated to the dugout, and was quickly rewarded with another inning of clean work and two more strikeouts for a Gators win thanks to a career game from Waldrep.
No. 7 Florida (6-1) defeated Cincinnati (2-4) 13-3 to secure the series victory. Waldrep carried the Gators through their Saturday, finishing with a career-high tying 13 strikeouts, three walks and two earned runs on six innings pitched.
“It’s a little unfair,” Waldrep said about his pitch mix. “But that’s the best part of it.”
Waldrep got to work early Saturday. He struck out his first two batters, clocking in at 98-99 miles per hour, and forced a fly out to make it a 1-2-3 opening frame.
The Gators came out firing on the offensive end as well. After loading up the bases thanks to a Wyatt Langford double and a pair of HBPs, Josh Rivera cleared the base paths with a deep shot to right field for the first grand slam of the season for UF.
Cincinnati responded quickly thanks to a single to give the Bearcats their opening hit. A wild pitch on a strikeout allowed the next batter to reach base and put runners in scoring position. A ground-rule double plated the opening run for Cincy. Still, Waldrep recorded a punch out to close the inning and escape the jam. After just two frames, the Southern Mississippi transfer had six strikeouts.
Florida was able to set up loaded bases again thanks to an error, walk and HBP. Cincinnati pitcher Chase Horst was pulled in just the second inning for senior right-hander Dylan Brosky. A 6-4-3 double play helped Brosky escape the tough jam with just one unearned run to make it a 5-1 Gators lead after two.
Waldrep continued to cook on the mound for the Gators. He struck out the side in the third to notch seven Ks through Cincinnati’s first nine outs, including seven across the second and third frame.
Langford took to the plate in the bottom of the fourth with freshman Cade Kurland at first. He got wind of a hittable pitch, and quickly took that pitch 392 feet from home plate for a two-run homer. After four innings, the Gators led 7-1.
“Hitting is for sure contagious,” Langford said. “And I feel like this lineup is the best one I’ve seen while I’ve been here.”
After a quiet few middle innings, the Florida bats began to make some noise once more. A pair of doubles from Matt Prevesk and Kurland helped plate two more runs to make it a 9-2 lead after six.
Cincinnati added one more run in response, but the Gators put up four more runs in the seventh and eighth inning, including a Ty Evans homer to walk off a run-rule win and the series-clinching victory.
“It’s early,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve got a long way to go. Nobody’s a finished product this early in the season.”
Florida finishes up the weekend series Sunday at noon. With a win, the Gators can secure their second consecutive weekend series sweep, and can enter a tough week featuring Jacksonville and Miami with a 7-1 record. The series finale will stream on SEC Network+.