Photo courtesy of @GatorsBB via Twiiter.

Gators Baseball Takes Game One of Super Regional Over South Carolina

No. 2 Gators baseball took on South Carolina in game one of a best-of-three Super Regional at Condron Family Ballpark on Friday. The Orange & Blue came out victorious with a 5-4 win over the Gamecocks. Florida is now just one win away from the College World Series.

Josh Rivera, Tyler Shelnut and BT Riopelle all homered on the night, leading the Gators to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament game victory.

Battle at the Plate

Friday night’s contest between the Gators and Gamecocks was an offensive battle from the very start. On just the second pitch of the game, South Carolina’s Will McGillis went deep to get the Gamecocks on the board, 1-0. Following, a Gavin Cases RBI single would put South Carolina up 2-0 in the top of the first.

The Gamecocks may have struck first, but the Gators chomped back. In the bottom of the first, Gators shortstop Josh Rivera sent a two-run blast to left for over 450 feet, making it a tied ballgame, 2-2.

Everyone in the ballpark knew it was gone off the bat, including Riopelle. “That ball was smashed, I knew it was gone right off the bat,” he said during the postgame press conference.

The Florida dugout erupted as the Gators were back in the game early. Shelnut added, “Honestly, I don’t remember much of it, we were so excited.”

Play of the Game

South Carolina answered in the second with an RBI single from McGillis, scoring Dylan Brewer. The Gamecocks now led 3-2. A Braylen Wimmer double would put runners on second and third with one out. Sproat would intentionally walk Ethan Petry, loading the bases for South Carolina. Cole Messina stepped up to the plate, tapping the ball back to the mound and Sproat started a 1-2-3 double play to end the second inning.

Clutch Shelnut

In the bottom of the fifth, Shelnut would launch a solo shot to make it once again a tied ballgame, 3-3. The home run he says, is one he’ll never forget.

He would strike again in the eighth, giving the Gators crucial insurance with an RBI single to bring in Rivera. The Gators, now up 5-3, would remain on top after a McGillis solo homer in the top of the ninth.

https://twitter.com/GatorsBB/status/1667365676837928962?s=20

BT in the Postseason

In the sixth inning, Riopelle slammed an 0-1 pitch from South Carolina reliever Will Sanders for a solo shot, giving Florida a 4-3 lead. BT continues to stand for “big time,” as Riopelle has recorded seven hits in nine postseason games with six being home runs. Riopelle ripped four homers in the SEC Tournament, two in the Gainesville Regional and one in Friday’s game one of the Gainesville Super Regional.

“Yeah, I mean, he’s older, he’s mature,” Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of Riopelle. “The coaches love him. The players love him. The fans love him. You can hear when he went to do the postgame interview, like the fans. Our fans were outstanding, too. I can’t express enough how important they are and the fact that they showed up and we had a two-and-a-half-hour rain delay and it was electric. Our players came out and they were not flat. Sometimes you can come out a little flat, regardless, I know this is an important series obviously. But, we’re used to that. Rain delays are a part of this time of year. But, BT can go through stretches where he swings and misses some. But, he does have a knack to come up with big at-bats at the right times. Certainly, he did that tonight and he did it last Monday too.”

Riopelle is certainly a leader for this team and his success in the postseason may be enough to hold off his plans for a career in finance.

Last Home Start for Sproat

Florida starter Brandon Sproat took the mound at Condron Family Ballpark for the last time on Friday night.

After needing 26 pitches to escape the first and a 2-0 deficit, Sproat made an amazing adjustment.

O’Sullivan took two visits to the mound, where he says he told Sproat to relax and change up his approach and pitch selection. Shelnut also complimented Sproat for his ability to settle in and take control of the game.

Following his double play in the second, he would go on to retire seven-straight batters. He would make a throwing error in the fifth, allowing Brimmer to reach but would get out of the inning unscathed. In six innings pitched, he allowed nine hits, three runs, walked two and struck out seven with a total 105 pitches and 71 strikes. Florida relievers Cade Fisher and Brandon Neely would close out the victory.

Record Crowds Continue

Despite a two-and-a-half hour weather delay, Friday night’s game saw a crowd of 8,439 fans. Not only was it a program record-breaking crowd for the Gators, it also marks the all-time largest on-campus college baseball crowd in the state of Florida.

 

One Win Away

Florida will again battle it out with South Carolina in game 2 of the NCAA Super Regional on Saturday at 3 p.m. If Florida comes out on top, the Gators will advance to the College World Series. If the Gators drop game 2, South Carolina will force a game 3 on Sunday at Condron Family Ballpark.

About Ellie Shreve

Ellie is a third-year sports and media journalism major at the University of Florida.

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