It marks the 11th-straight season that head coach Kevin O'Sullivan's club has been ranked during the preseason in the nation's oldest college baseball poll, which began in 1959. Courtesy: Daniel Apple

Florida Baseball Kevin O’Sullivan Talks Projected Preseason Starters

The Florida Gators Baseball team is preparing to make their mark in Omaha this year.

It was an offseason spent in the weight room and a season of summer ball for some players who looked to improve their development. Now, after a semester of fall ball and a couple of weeks of spring scrimmages, the Gators are ready for opening night (Feb. 17).

Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan talked to the media Monday about what he’s seen from his 2023 squad so far.

Pitching Rotation

The strength of Florida this season is its pitching staff. The addition of Hurston Waldrep into a weekend slot to pair with Brandon Sproat is arguably one of the best one-two punches in college baseball.

But the remaining question would be, who slates the Sunday spot?

“You probably have to look at Jac (Caglianone), you have to look at (Brandon) Neely, Neely had a good freshman year,” O’Sullivan said. “(Ryan) Slater, (Philip) Abner’s been throwing the ball better, I mean we got a lot of options but I think the next week or so is important, we’ve got to figure out who’s going to be that Sunday starter.”

Jac Caglianone is returning back to the mound as a true two-way player and according to O’Sullivan, should see significant time on the mound.

“If we’re going to be as good as we want to be, he’s going to have to hit significant innings for us,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s too talented to not run him out there for us.”

If not the Sunday role, Abner, Slater, or Neely could slate as the midweek starter.

Pierce Coppola, a sophomore, is a 6’8 left-handed pitcher who was the opening weekend Sunday guy last year but was injured after that start. He didn’t see time on the mound until fall scrimmages this year.

He says the staff wants to bring him back slowly and have him at full potential for SEC play.

“We’re just bringing Pierce along slowly,” O’Sullivan said. “Obviously he didn’t play this summer, pitched very little bit this fall, so my goal is to get him hopefully 100% by SEC play.”

Infield

The depth of Florida is there, it’s just a matter of where is everyone going to play.

There are three catchers who have a huge upside. BT Riopelle was the Gators starter last year, Rene Lastres was a big recruit out of high school who’s coming back from Tommy John and Luke Heyman is a powerhouse freshman.

The left side of the infield is predominant with Colby Halter at third and Josh Rivera at shortstop. First base could see a catcher that isn’t behind the dish, Tyler Shelnut or Caglianone.

O’Sullivan mentions Deric Fabian is a player who can play all four infield positions and is leading the team in batting average this spring [in scrimmages] (.429) so far. He made 43 starts in the Gator infield last season.

Then you also have Cade Kurland, a kid who’s supposed to be a senior in high school but enrolled at UF early. He could see time at second base as well as Dale Thomas, a Coastal Carolina transfer.

O’Sullivan mentioned it’s hard because once you start listing potential starting names, you don’t want to leave anyone out. Everyone has the ability to start.

Outfield

The potential 1:1 pick in the 2023 MLB draft, Wyatt Langford, should take left field. Although he could also slide over in center field if need be.

Michael Robertson, a sophomore who was out last year due to a hamstring injury is a candidate for center field. He’s seen the most time in center during fall games and spring scrimmages.

“If you ask me right now, Michael Robinson [is the] guy we would hope that we evolve into that everyday center fielder and hopefully lead off for us,” O’Sullivan said.

Ty Evans looks to be another solid outfield candidate for right field. Evans came back from the offseason and added great power to his swing.

“I think Ty Evans has a chance to be really good,” O’Sullivan said. “Matty [Matt] Prevesk had a really good fall.”

Prevesk, Tucker Talbott and Richie Schiekofer (Rutgers transfer) are all key guys who can impact the lineup as well.

“We got a lot of questions, but they’re good questions to be answered,” O’Sullivan said.

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