On a relatively quiet night for Florida baseball’s stars, an unsung hero made a big impact for the Gators. Junior Tyler Shelnut, a Santa Fe College transfer, had made just eighth apperances in SEC play for UF, including last night against the Missouri Tigers, in which he stood out with two hits and four RBIs.
Shelnut came to the rescue in game two, going 3-4 at the plate with three RBIs, including a clutch 2-run double to put the series win on ice.
No. 4 Florida (34-10, 13-7 SEC) defeated Missouri (24-18, 5-15 SEC) 11-4 Saturday to take the series victory in two games. The two teams were locked up through five innings before the Gators pulled away in the bottom sixth.
“The biggest thing was just controlling the things I can control and being ready when it’s my turn,” Shelnut said. “It feels really good.”
Junior right-handed pitcher and Saturday starter Hurston Waldrep got off to a treacherous first frame. After walking the leadoff man in four pitches, Mizzou’s Trevor Austin took the Southern Mississippi transfer deep past the left field wall to make it a 2-0 early lead for the Tigers.
Waldrep gave up a single to put another runner on base with no outs. He struck out the next batter before picking off the man at first to make it a two-out inning. He then plunked a batter, gave a up a single and threw a wild pitch to put two runners in scoring position. The Gators secured the final out to prevent further damage.
In the top of the second, Waldrep gave up another leadoff walk, but snagged a pop out and a double play to close the frame without allowing additional offense.
Florida went 1-2-3 through each of its first two innings at the plate.
After a quick two outs to open the third Mizzou picked up another two-run burst. A single put a runner on for the Tigers before designated hitter Dalton Bargo crushed a ball into center field to make it a 4-0 lead for Missouri.
The Gators notched their first hit thanks to a single through the left infield from Shelnut. It advanced Colby Halter, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Mizzou chose to call in reliever Rorik Maltrud after the sequence.
He gave up a single to redshirt freshman Michael Robertson, which scored Halter and moved Shelnut into scoring position with no outs. He then walked freshman Cade Kurland to load the bases.
Then the floodgates opened. A pair of RBI singles from juniors Wyatt Langford and Josh Rivera, plus a sacrifice fly from sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone, tied the ballgame at four runs a piece after the opening third.
Waldrep gave up a walk and a single with one out to open the fourth. After a wild pitch advanced both runners, the Gators were able to secure the final two outs and keep the game tied up.
Florida picked up two outs in the fifth before Waldrep walked his fourth batter of the day. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan opted to pull him in favor of right-handed reliever Ryan Slater. He struck out the final batter to close the frame.
O’Sullivan said there was a “discrepancy” with the legality of Waldrep’s delivery the team got notice of this week that caused some adjustment and discomfort today. He did not clarify the source of the notice but said it didn’t come from the SEC.
“We’re 11 weeks in,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s frustrating.”
Franklin struck out the Gators’ side to close the fifth inning still tied 4-4. Mizzou went 1-2-3 to open the sixth.
UF finally broke through in the bottom sixth. The Gators quickly loaded the bases and began driving in runs. A sac fly from Halter and an RBI single from Shelnut gave Florida its first lead at 6-4. UF continued to pour it on as a pair of singles from Robertson and Langford added three RBIs.
After the middle third, the Gators led 9-4 over Missouri.
Mizzou got a handful of runs back in the top of the second thanks to a moonshot from Hank Zeisler. An RBI triple made it 9-7 with an out to go, prompting O’Sullivan to pull Slater for late-game ace Brandon Neely. He snagged the frame-closing K to keep the 2-run cushion.
Shelnut continued his prolific night with a 2-run double to make it 11-7 Gators after seven innings.
The Tigers went 1-2-3 against Neely in the eighth to keep it a 4-run UF lead. He closed the ninth frame to earn the series victory in game two.
“We showed a lot of resilience today,” O’Sullivan said.
Florida will look to sweep the Tigers with a win tomorrow. First pitch is set for noon and the game will broadcast on the SEC Network.