Florida baseball: 3 takeaways from Gators' 10-3 win at Kentucky
Fourth-ranked Florida clinched the SEC East baseball crown with a 10-3 win Thursday night at No. 19 Kentucky
The Gators (41-12, 19-9 SEC) won their fourth straight, but remain a game behind Arkansas (39-13, 20-8) for the overall SEC crown. Arkansas beat Vanderbilt 8-2 on Thursday night.
With the score tied at 2, the Gators batted around in a five-run sixth inning, going ahead for good 3-2 on an RBI double by Wyatt Langford. Shortstop Josh Rivera followed with an RBI single to put Florida up 4-2 and catcher BT Riopelle laced a two-RBI double off the left field wall to extend the lead to 6-2. Designated hitter Luke Heyman capped the scoring in the inning with an RBI single, giving the Gators a 7-2 lead.
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Second baseman Cade Kurland had a big day at the top of the lineup for the Gators, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs scored.
"Offensively, we turned the lineup over twice," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Cade led off the sixth and we scored the five runs that inning. I think he led off the seventh as well and we scored three. We swung the bats well offensively. We got off to a good start."
Starter Hurston Waldrep (7-3) picked up the win, allowing three runs (two earned), six hits, two walks and two hit batters in six innings. Ryan Slater finished the game off with three scoreless innings for his third save of the season.
Florida picked up its 13th win of the season against a ranked opponent, tied with Vanderbilt for the most wins against ranked teams in the SEC.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
Wyatt Langford, BT Riopelle peaking at the right time
Langford went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs, picking up where he left off in the Vanderbilt series. An RBI double in his first at-bat gave Florida a quick 1-0 lead. Langford also had another terrific play in left field, making a diving catch on a low line drive from designated hitter Chase Stanke and doubling off a runner at second to end the inning.
Riopelle went 2-for-4 with 4 RBIs, including a two-RBI single that put the Gators up 10-3 in the eighth inning.
A solid outing for Hurston Waldrep
Waldrep picked up his first win since April 7 at Tennessee. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, striking out catcher Devin Burkes to end the inning and avoid further damage. In the fourth, he left runners on first and second by striking out left fielder Ryan Waldschmidt to end another potential big inning.
Of Waldrep's 97 pitches, 56 were strikes as he lowered his ERA to 4.83 on the season.
"Hurston pitched really good," O'Sullivan said. "If he can get three runs or less with six innings, you'll take it. He only gave up two earned runs."
A mix bag on defense
Florida was up and down defensively throughout the game. Besides Langford's terrific play, the Gators also thwarted a Kentucky scoring opportunity when shortstop Josh Rivera made a strong relay throw home to nab Kentucky third baseman Jase Felker at home to end the second inning. Felker was trying to score from first on a double by right fielder James McCoy.
A Waldrep fielding error when he dropped the ball trying to cover first base on a grounder to first baseman Jac Caglianone led to an unearned run for Kentucky in the third inning. Later in the inning, Waldrep failed to cover first base on a grounder to Caglianone, and the infield single cut Florida's lead to 2-1.
Florida will play the second game of the series at Kentucky on Friday night (6:30, SEC Network Plus). Right-hander Brandon Sproat (7-4, 4.44 ERA) will take the mound for the Gators against Kentucky righty Zack Lee (4-2, 3.42 ERA),