Photo courtesy of @GatorsBB via Twitter.

Gators Open College World Series With Win over Virginia

Florida baseball opened the Men’s College World Series in a thrilling fashion on Friday. The Gators rallied to make a dramatic comeback for a 6-5 win over Virginia.

Rally in the Ninth

The Gators entered the bottom of the ninth with a 5-3 deficit. Ty Evans would step up to the plate to send a solo-shot to make it a one-run ballgame. Just two batters later, Wyatt Langford would hit a moonshot out of the ballpark to make it a tied game. The Orange & Blue kept fighting, loading the bases for Luke Heyman’s walk-off RBI sacrifice fly. Heyman’s game-winning fly ball to center marked Florida’s first-ever walk-off win in the College World Series.

In the Spotlight

Florida right-hander Brandon Sproat had a strong outing for the Gators, marking his fourth consecutive quality start. In his first College World Series appearance, Sproat pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and two earned runs, walking three and striking out seven. He totaled 109 pitches with 73 strikes.

Additionally, Florida closer Brandon Neely came in to gain his first win of the 2023 season. Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan offered praise for Florida’s performance on the mound.

Additionally, Florida saw big at-bats from the team’s stars. However, Evans, a player Gator Nation hasn’t seen much recently, played an integral role in the team’s success on Friday night. Evans went 2-for-2 after entering the game in the bottom of the seventh. He finished with a double and home run. His game-tying home run sparked a fire in his teammates.

“He’s always got his head down and is grinding,” Sproat said of Evans. “He’s one of the best teammates in the dugout… I knew we were going to win this game when I saw that homer.”

“Ty has put in the work all year,” Langford added. “He’s just a fantastic guy,” Riopelle chipped in. “He loves the guys, he loves this program. He’s just the guy that got his number called today.”

“If you’re going to win out here, you have to have special performances from people you might not expect,” O’Sullivan said of Evans. “I can’t be happier for Ty. A game like this, he’ll never forget. He was a big part of our win.”

BT in the Postseason

Riopelle continues to show up “Big Time” for the Gators, as he went 2-for-3 with a homer, double and RBI and two runs scored. He cut Virgnia’s lead with a solo-shot in the bottom of the eighth. He also hit a leadoff double in the fourth. One thing Gator Nation will never get tired of is a celebratory home run salute from Riopelle.

Up Next for Gators

The Gators remain in the winners’ bracket after Friday’s victory over Virginia. Florida will next take the diamond against Oral Roberts, who beat TCU earlier Friday afternoon. Both Florida and Oral Roberts won their opening games on ninth inning comebacks with the same final score of 6-5. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. on Sunday.

About Ellie Shreve

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

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