Florida junior shortstop Josh Rivera has been an offensive focal point for the Gators all season. The junior is second on the team in runs batted in and batting average with 55 and .367 respectively. Hours before Friday’s matchup against Vanderbilt, it was announced that the shortstop would be unable to play due to an injury sustained in Florida’s previous contest versus Texas A&M.
The injury made way for backup sophomore shortstop Deric Fabian to make the start Friday.
“[Rivera] came up to me and was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to start today. Just be ready and lock it in,’” Fabian said.
The sophomore approached his first at-bat with an aggressive look. Fabian ambushed a fastball down the middle of the plate and drove the ball over the left field wall for a two-run home run.
“If I’m on time for a fastball, I’ll be able to hit any other pitch,” Fabian said.
Fabian entered his second at-bat with a similar approach. He hit a line drive above the outstretched glove of Vanderbilt sophomore shortstop Jonathan Vastine to put two more runs on the board. Fabian entered Friday’s contest with four RBIs to date and doubled his season total through just two at-bats.
The No. 7 Florida Gators (38-12, 16-9 SEC) took game one of the weekend series against the No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores (35-14, 17-8 SEC) 10-0 Friday at Condron Family Ballpark. Florida finished the matchup in seven innings when sophomore two-way star Jac Caglianone drove in two runs in the final inning to secure the victory for UF.
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan spoke highly of Fabian’s performance.
“I’m not gonna say I called it, but I did,” O’Sullivan said. “Obviously he’s been disappointed he probably hasn’t played as much as he’d like to… But the one thing he has not done is he has not put his head down. He’s always been a good teammate.”
The game got out of hand early on for Commodores junior starting pitcher Patrick Reilly. The starter’s pitch count neared thirty pitches after just one inning of work.
Florida junior right fielder Tyler Shelnut led off the second inning and hustled to second base after a drive to the right field gap. Offense pandemonium followed.
Fabian hit a deep drive to left and UF junior outfielder Wyatt Langford batted in a run with a double that tightroped down the left field line that brought in Gators freshman second baseman Cade Kurland home.
UF kept up its offensive terror with five runs scored across the next two innings.
The third inning featured the two-run single from Fabian, and the fourth inning was headlined by a violent two-run blast from Florida senior catcher BT Riopelle who cracked a ball past the left field wall to extend the Gators lead to 8-0.
Sproat continued to serve while being shielded behind the lead. The junior made it through six innings and threw five strikeouts while surrendering zero runs, five hits and three walks.
O’Sullivan made the decision to pull Sproat for UF freshman relief pitcher Cade Fisher. He needed just one inning of work after Caglianone drove in the final two runs to pick up the 10-run lead required for a mercy rule victory.
The inning was characterized by three walks surrendered from Vandy freshman relief pitcher JD Thompson. Caglianone capitalized and belted a line drive down the third base line to secure the victory for the Gators.
Florida earned its largest victory against the Commodores since April 15, 2017, when UF defeated Vanderbilt 20-8. Game two of the series will take place at 6:30 Saturday. The game will stream on SEC Network+.
Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.