One hundred-seventy minutes. That’s how long Florida Gators fans waited patiently through routine Gainesville downpour for game two of UF’s matchup versus the Miami Hurricanes. Through multiple time changes, tarpings and untarpings and other side-effects of bad weather and baseball, Florida faithful remained patient. Certainly a painful near-three hour wait.
What could be more painful? Perhaps waiting for a 6-1 Gators lead to be squandered by lackluster relief pitching, resulting in a defeat Saturday and a rubber match on tap for Sunday.
No. 6 Florida (9-3) fell to No. 22 Miami (8-3) 14-6 Saturday night at Condron Family Ballpark. With the loss, the Gators risk facing their first series loss tomorrow.
Junior right-hander Hurston Waldrep got straight to work, striking out the side in his opening frame. He would go on to record a career-high 14 Ks with seven hits, two walks and three earned runs Saturday.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “But, we still lost a five-run lead. It’s very difficult to make decisions when your bullpen has been the way it has been.”
As the Gators dug in for the first time, their offensive onslaught from Friday’s game carried over. Junior outfielder Wyatt Langford was walked, which prompted sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone to go big fly to make it a 2-0 Florida lead after one inning.
Despite a fielding error by junior infielder Colby Halter preventing another perfect frame, Waldrep was able to snag his fifth strikeout through the second and maintain the shutout for UF.
The ‘Canes made their first disruption in the third after a quiet opening two innings. Catcher Carlos Perez took Waldrep’s pitch sailing past the left field wall to make it a 2-1 game. Waldrep was able to hold onto the lead and notch the final two outs of the inning thanks to a pair of strikeouts and a forced out at first.
Langford struck out swinging to top off another 1-2-3 inning in the third. After the opening three innings, the Gators still led, 2-1.
Waldrep and the Gators faced some more danger in the top of the fourth after Miami produced a pair of singles with runners on the corners. The Saturday ace was able to clear the base paths without another score with the help of his eighth and ninth strikeout of the night.
To close the fourth, the Gators recorded their third consecutive hitless inning, but still held a one-run lead.
After letting up a walk and a hit to put runners in scoring position in the fifth, Waldrep struck out two batters to bring up Miami’s leasing hitter, Yohandy Morales, who went yard on Friday. Waldrep was able to sneak one by Morales while for his twelfth strikeout of the night and escaped the jam.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Gators got back into the hitting column with a single from sophomore outfielder Michael Robertson. Florida wouldn’t end up a one hit wonder in the frame as the offensive tsunami resumed. Halter tripled to plate sophomore infielder Michael Robertson, who was walked two at-bats prior. Then a sacrifice fly made it 4-1. Caglianone put a ribbon on the inning with his second two-run shot of the night to make it 6-1 Gators after five at Condron Family Ballpark.
The ‘Canes responded right away with a two-run shot of their own in the top of the sixth. Waldrep recovered once more, locking up a 6-3 lead and a career-high 14 strikeouts.
Florida again went hitless in the bottom of the sixth to bring on the closing third of the ballgame.
After letting two runners on in the seventh, Waldrep was pulled for righty reliever Nick Ficarrotta. The sophomore gave up an RBI single to make it 6-4. He managed a groundout that advanced runners to second and third. O’Sullivan opted to pull Ficarrotta for fellow right-hander Ryan Slater. He picked up another RBI single to make it just a one run, 6-5 Gators lead. Then, Slater threw one straight into the backstop to allow the tying run.
Slater picked up the second out before Fisher Jameson was brought in to search for the third.
Jameson’s second pitch was carried deep into right field but miraculously tracked down by Ty Evans for the final out of the inning.
Florida entered the bottom of the seventh tied at six runs a piece. Colby Halter stepped to the plate with the score tied. Walk. Kurland follows. Single into right field. Langford behind him. Outruns the throw to first. Caglianone steps up with a chance to tie and is thrown out at first. The runner is called out at home. Nothing.
Despite the disappointing sequence for the Gators, there were still runners in scoring position with one out to go. BT Riopelle stepped up to the plate.
Miami headed into the eighth inning with a chance to take the lead. With one swing of the bat, Jameson’s pitch and the Gators’ lead was gone. After letting up an additional two hits, junior Clete Hartzog took the mound. He gave up three more runs in the frame to make it a 10-6 ‘Canes lead.
Miami would add another four runs as the ‘Canes trotted to what ended up being a wide margin of victory.
“We need someone to bridge the gap,” O’Sullivan said. “Cause our starting pitchers are playing good and we’ve got a guy at the end. It’s just three outs.”
The Gators can secure the series victory with a win tomorrow. The game is set to begin at noon and will broadcast on the SEC Network.