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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Sproat shines, Gators bounce back in Saturday night victory in Miami

Sophomore Brandon Sproat threw six scoreless innings, recording eight strikeouts on the way

<p>Brandon Sproat pitching against Miami Feb. 21, 2021. Courtesy of the SEC Media Portal. Sproat will start on the mound for Florida&#x27;s first-round matchup with Central Michigan.</p>

Brandon Sproat pitching against Miami Feb. 21, 2021. Courtesy of the SEC Media Portal. Sproat will start on the mound for Florida's first-round matchup with Central Michigan.

After a Friday night loss to rival No. 22 Miami (8-2), the No. 14 Florida Gators (9-3) were angry.

And the team played like it. 

Six scoreless innings from starting pitcher sophomore Brandon Sproat and an offensive explosion in the top of the ninth highlighted a bounce-back game for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s squad that makes Sunday an afternoon rubber match.

Sophomore Colby Halter rode a 13-game hit streak entering the game, dating back to the 2021 postseason. In the top of the first, the Jacksonville, Florida, native made it 14.

A leadoff double from Halter set up junior Jud Fabian with an RBI opportunity, but Fabian would never get a chance to bring him in. A wild pitch prompted the second baseman to steal third, and an error on the throw to third was enough to get Halter all the way home. 

It took seven innings to earn a run last night, but the Gators struck first in the opening frame tonight.

In the third inning, Florida added some cushion from the same corner of the lineup. Halter advanced to first on a passed ball strikeout, stealing second shortly after with Fabian up to bat. Then, after Halter darted home before he could get a chance to bring him home himself in the first, Fabian cashed in with a two-run homer in the top of the third to bring the lead to 3-0.

In the third inning, the Gators had already eclipsed their run total from Friday night.

After two painless innings, Sproat finally saw some trouble in the bottom of the third. Back-to-back walks put two runners on base, and a ground out advanced both into scoring position. Yohanda Morales, culprit of a home run off of Hunter Barco Friday, was up to bat with two outs. Sproat battled and was able to secure a swinging strikeout. 

The sophomore was in for the longest performance of his career, reaching 102 pitches by the end of his night. Still, Sproat was able to generate 65 strikes in six scoreless innings. Four hits and two walks were all that the Pace, Florida, native allowed Miami’s offense; his eight strikeouts tied a career high.

Sproat’s only other scare came in the home side of the fifth, when two singles brought the tying batter up to bat with just one out. Once again, though, Sproat rose to the occasion and snuffed out the scoring opportunity. Junior Kendrick Calilao closed out the inning with a leaping grab at first base.

After that, it was smooth sailing for the Gators in south Florida. 

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Midway through the Miami side of the seventh, freshman Nick Ficarrotta took over for Sproat. That inning was closed with ease, but the Hurricanes found some life in the bottom of the eighth.

A leadoff single opened Ficarrotta’s first full frame, and a passed ball allowed the runner to advance to second. Morales, a name the Gator dugout has grown to disdain, continued his thorn-in-the-side role with an RBI single. Florida’s lead was cut to two.

Yet another passed ball advanced Morales to second, but Ficarrotta closed the inning with back-to-back strikeouts. 

In the top of the ninth, a leadoff walk for Fabian kicked the Gators’ offense into gear for the first time since the third inning. Thompson followed, reaching first on a fielder's choice, but the ‘Canes fielders were unable to force the out at second. One sacrifice bunt later, both Fabian and Thompson were in scoring position. 

First, a single from junior BT Riopelle brought Fabian from home and advanced Thompson to third. 

Then, a squeeze bunt from sophomore Josh Rivera brought Thompson home.

Finally, Calilao called “game” with a three-run shot to bring everyone home and close out a Saturday night victory.

Ficarrotta closed out the bottom of the ninth in three quick outs, finishing with two hits, one run and five K’s in two innings and some change.

After a Saturday night redemption, focus immediately shifts to a Sunday afternoon affair to determine the winner of the annual rivalry series. First pitch is slated for noon and will broadcast on the ACC Network.

Contact Carson Cashion at ccashion@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @CarsonCashion.

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Carson Cashion

Carson Cashion is a third-year sports journalism major at UF, and the sports editor at The Alligator for the 2022 summer semester. A native of Altamonte Springs, Carson spends his free time walking his dog, Baxter, and listening to good music. He is an avid Tennessee sports fan, and eagerly awaits watching one of his teams win a championship for the first time.


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