College World Series: Florida Edges Oral Roberts 5-4

Oral Roberts’ Matt Hogan slides home for a two-run, inside-the-park home run against Florida catcher BT Riopelle in the seventh inning of a baseball game at the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Sunday, June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/John Peterson)

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

OMAHA, Neb. – The Florida Gators beat Oral Roberts University 5-4 to improve to 2-0 at the 2023 NCAA Division I College World Series and remain in the winner’s bracket in Omaha. 

Gators starting pitcher Hunter Waldrep kept his composure on the mound Sunday night, throwing six innings and allowing seven hits, one earned run, walking three walks, and striking out 12 batters.

“I think he’s been able to make adjustments in game. You can kind of tell they were swinging early in the count. And he’s had the ability to throw his curveball and his slider and a split early in the count,” said Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “I think maybe through the first half of the year his split was more of a two-strike pitch. Now he’s been able to slow the ball down. And when people are swinging early in the count like they did, he’s got multiple weapons he can go to.” 

In the top of the second inning, the Gators struck the scoreboard first when sophomore right fielder Ty Evans launched a two-run home run over to right center field, scoring left fielder Tyler Shelnut to make it 2-0.

During the bottom of the second inning, the Golden Eagles’ Justin Quinn reached on an infield single to second base and Holden Breeze came in to score to cut the deficit to 2-1.

In the top of the fourth inning, Gators shortstop Josh Rivera launched his 18th home run of the season down the left field line to make it 3-1. A few batters later, designated hitter Luke Heyman lifted a two-run home run over the left center field wall, scoring catcher B.T. Riopelle to give Florida a 5-1 lead.

Golden Eagles starting pitcher Harley Gollert went three innings, allowing four hits, five earned runs, walking one, and striking out six.

“We knew coming in a couple of things. Number one, you’re going to have trouble putting a bunch of base hits together against that guy and scoring a bunch of runs,” said Oral Roberts head coach Ryan Folmer. “We were going to try to make him a little bit uncomfortable whether that be with the bunt game or the run game, try to take certain pitches away from him at times.”

During the bottom of the seventh inning, the Golden Eagles cut the lead in half when right fielder Matt Hogan ripped an inside-the-park home run to the left center field gap, scoring Quinn to make it 5-3. Hogan’s inside-the-park home run was the first at the College World Series in 20 years since Chris Burke of Tennessee accomplished the feat in the 2021 NCAA tournament.  

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Oral Roberts cut the lead to one run when designated hitter Drew Stahl hit into a fielder’s choice, sending Matt Hogan home make it a 5-4 game. Florida reliever Cade Fisher eventually would get the next batter catcher, Jacob Codman, to fly out to center fielder Michael Robertson for the final out of the game.

Gators starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep has been dominant during the NCAA tournament, pitching 21 innings in his three starts and allowing 15 hits, two runs, walking seven batters, and striking out 37 while averaging 15.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Waldrep has struckout 37 batters after his third performance on Sunday night and holds a 3-0 record and 0.86 ERA during the NCAA tournament.

Florida will play on Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT against the winner of Tuesday’s elimination game between Oral Roberts University and TCU at 2 p.m. EDT. All NCAA Division I College World Series games are on the ESPN family networks.

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