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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Florida bats crush Miami in series-opening win

Junior Wyatt Langford blasts two homers in the victory

Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford hits the ball in the Gators' 10-4 win over the Miami Hurricanes March 3, 2023.
Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford hits the ball in the Gators' 10-4 win over the Miami Hurricanes March 3, 2023.

Senior outfielder Richie Schiekofer came in to pinch-hit for Florida in the sixth inning. He saw a strike blow by and then launched the second pitch into the Miami bullpen for a two-run homer.

Junior Wyatt Langford came to the plate two batters later and launched a bomb of his own — his second of the night — to the Gators’ bullpen to clinch a series-opening win against the Hurricanes.

The No. 6 Florida Gators (9-2) defeated the No. 22 Miami Hurricanes (7-3) 10-4 Friday night at Condron Ballpark in front of 8,081 fans — the second most ever at Condron Ballpark. UF rattled off 14 hits and four homers in the big victory.

“The energy level was awesome,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The crowd was incredible.”

The Hurricanes’ bats lit Sproat up in the first inning. Left fielder Edgardo Villegas and first baseman CJ Kayfus both singled which brought junior third baseman — and the team’s home run leader — Yohandy Morales to the plate.

The junior saw the one pitch go by but lined up Sproat’s second ball. Morales smashed the next pitch 450 feet into left center field for a monstrous three-run homer.

Sproat settled in after giving up the homer and struck out a pair of Miami batters to retire the side. UF’s starter said he used his changeup to get batters out swinging after the early struggles.

“From there on out, I was like let’s just bring out the secondary,” Sproat said. “Start off slow, finish hard.”

Junior left fielder Wyatt Langford responded for Florida. The No. 3 overall prospect in the 2023 Major League Baseball draft ripped a ball deep over the outfield fence for a solo home run to cut into the early Hurricanes’ lead.

The Gators nearly added to Langford’s homer. Junior shortstop Josh Rivera walked and senior catcher BT Riopelle singled to put two men on for sophomore right fielder Ty Evans. Evans made solid contact, but the ball stalled out at the warning track for a fly out to end the inning.

Sproat continued his strong pitching from the bottom of the first. The junior righty struck out two more Miami batters in a quick 1-2-3 inning for the Gators.

Florida’s offense couldn’t reward its pitcher’s performance. The Gators went scoreless in the second inning, even after redshirt freshman outfielder Michael Robertson walked and stole second.

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The Hurricanes couldn’t get on the scoreboard after another strong inning from Sproat. Florida’s bats got in on the action again in the bottom of the third.

Sophomore first baseman Jac Caglianone ripped a ball down the first base line for a double. Riopelle singled to send Caglinaone home, and Evans singled to send home the Florida catcher and tied the game at three. 

Sproat struck out a pair of batters and forced a lineout to third base to end a quick 1-2-3 inning. The Gators rewarded their pitcher by continuing the hot hitting from the third inning.

Freshman second baseman Cade Kurland singled up the middle to get on base. Langford worked a full count, then dropped the ball just inside the foul line for a double to score Kurland and give Florida the lead.

Caglianone singled to send Langford home and double the Gators’ advantage.

Sproat struggled with his control in the fifth. The junior righty walked Miami shortstop Dominic Pitelli on four pitches and threw a pair of balls to left fielder Edgardo Villegas before Riopelle visited him on the mound. 

The visit did little to settle Sproat, however, and he walked Villegas two pitches later. The Gators’ starter forced a pair of fly outs, which brought Morales back to the plate. A wild pitch allowed both runners to advance, and Florida opted to intentionally walk the Miami slugger.

Right fielder Zack Levenson had bases loaded looking to restore the Hurricanes’ lead. Sproat stuck him out swinging to get out of the jam and end another scoreless frame.

Miami starting pitcher Gage Ziehl responded to Sproat’s heroics with a dominant 1-2-3 inning. The right-hander struck out Riopelle and Evans before he forced Florida junior designated hitter Tyler Shelnut into a flyout to end the inning.

The Hurricanes finally broke their four-inning scoreless streak. Pitelli popped a sacrifice fly to center field to score a runner from third. Sproat struck out Villegas to end the inning with just one UM run on the board.

O’Sullivan replaced Sproat after the sixth inning. The Gators’ starter threw 100 pitches in six innings of work. He allowed four runs on four hits and struck out nine batters.

“I have tremendous faith that he’ll be able to make big pitches when he needs to,” O’Sullivan said.

Robertson ripped the ball into deep center field and raced around the track for a comfortable leadoff triple. Miami pulled Ziehl after the hit and brought in right-hander Carlos Lequerica to pitch.

Senior outfielder Richie Schiekofer came in pinch hit, and he announced his presence with authority. He launched a high fly ball deep into left field and into the Miami bullpen for a two-run homer.

“That might’ve been the turning point in the ballgame, quite honestly,” O’Sullivan said. 

Langford came to the box two batters later, and the junior kept the pressure on Lequerica. He blasted his second solo home run of the night to give Florida a four-run lead.

Freshman Cade Fisher replaced Sproat in the seventh inning, and he delivered a strong performance for the Gators. Fisher forced a groundout and fly out, before he struck out Morales to end a 1-2-3 inning.

“When they told me I was in, a few nerves came in,” Fisher said. “Once I stepped on the rubber I was fine, I was excited more than anything.”

Shelnut doubled to left field, but Florida couldn’t drive him in and sent Fisher back out on the mound.

Levenson rifled a line drive right at the pitcher, but the freshman caught the rocket for an out. Fisher forced a ground out to put Miami down to its last out of the inning. 

Designated hitter Ian Farrow hit a grounder up the middle, but Kurland snagged it on the ground and rifled it over to first base in time to end the inning.

Kurland, fresh off his strong defensive play, took to the plate with a runner on first. The freshman crushed the ball into the left field berm for a two-run shot to give the Gators a six-run lead. Florida couldn’t add to that lead and sent Fisher out to close the game.

Fisher closed the game with a final 1-2-3 frame. The freshman allowed no hits, no runs and struck out one batter in 30 pitches of work to help secure the Gators’ win.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” O’Sullivan said about his freshman reliever. “The game just never gets away from him.”

Junior Hurston Waldrep takes the mound Saturday for game two against Miami. First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. He also covered Florida football lacrosse for the paper and loves to follow MLS soccer and professional lacrosse.

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