Something changes when the left-hander gets to Omaha. Waddell has allowed just two runs in 23 innings of work in the last two years at the College World Series, and he padded those numbers on Monday by tossing seven shutout innings and leading the Cavaliers to a 1-0 win over Florida.
“Heck of a ball game,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Both teams played at a very high level, both starting pitchers were outstanding. I’m real proud of the way we played tonight. Waddell was really good tonight. He moved the ball back and forth, kept throwing two different speeds on the fastball. He just didn’t give us a whole lot.”
Waddell was dominant. He sat in the upper 80s put touched the low 90s a few times. His breaking ball and changeup kept the Gators off balance throughout the night, but the big difference was his cutter. The Gators started seven right-handed hitters and two switch hitters, so Waddell saw exclusively right-handed hitters. His cutter got the ball in on Florida hitters’ hands and made it a struggle for them to hit the ball out of the infield.
“He did a really good job mixing his pitches,” Florida second baseman Dalton Guthrie said. “He was throwing changeups and curveballs in weird counts and wasn’t missing. He kept putting pressure on us and did a great job all night.”
Florida had its best chance in the eighth inning. Dalton Guthrie started it with a walk and moved to third base on a single by Ryan Larson. With the top of the lineup coming to the plate, Virginia went to closer Josh Sborz. Harrison Bader lined a pitch up the middle that bounced off Sborz’s glove. Guthrie had to hold at third and Sborz threw to second base for the first out.
“Harrison put a really good swing on the ball and Sborz did a nice job,” O’Sullivan said. “If the ball gets through, it’s a totally different ball game.”
A.J. Puk had a great outing for Florida. In 5.1 innings, he allowed just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out five hitters. He was lifted with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, and Florida reliever Taylor Lewis gave up a sacrifice fly to give the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead before getting out of the inning without any further damage. It was the only run they would need.