Florida advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament after a pair of wins over Alabama and Vanderbilt. After a day off, the Gators were defeated by the Commodores in the single-elimination semifinals.
Gator Country offers three takeaways from the Florida SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama.
READY FOR REGIONALS
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the weekend was that Florida did what it needed to do to prepare for the NCAA Regional Tournament this weekend.
Florida wanted to play in at least three games to give each of its weekend starters an outing at Hoover. The Gators did exactly that, mimicking their weekend rotation to the best of their ability with the single tournament format. Brandon Sproat, Hurston Waldrep and Jac Caglianone will have plenty of time to rest before the NCAA Tournament begins on June 2.
Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan protected the bullpen arms at all costs, pitching to nine different relievers in three games. Brandon Neely was the most used arm of the bullpen, going 2.2 innings on 56 pitches in Wednesday night’s game against Alabama.
In Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt, the Gators found a combined five innings of scoreless relief from Tyler Nesbitt, Blake Purnell, Chris Arroyo and Fisher Jameson. Kevin O’Sullivan could have thrown any of his upper arms, but he decided to give appearances to guys who haven’t seen action in weeks. This could give these pitchers some confidence for Regionals, where they may need to contribute on the field.
GREAT TIME RIOPELLE
Veteran receiver BT Riopelle was the hero in Florida’s run to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.
The Marietta, Georgia native hit a three-run homer in the 11th inning against Alabama, leading the Gators into the winner’s bracket with the 434-foot bomb.
Just 24 hours later, Riopelle was met with two more long balls, including a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning over Vanderbilt. Riopelle’s pair of home runs against the Dores traveled a combined distance of 859 feet.
Riopelle continued his dominant weekend at the plate on Saturday, adding another hit and two RBIs to his SEC Tournament resume.
10 of Florida’s 19 runs came off the bat of Riopelle, who combined for four hits, three home runs and 10 RBIs at Hoover.
Riopelle’s success earned him a spot on the SEC All-Tournament squad, which also included Gators teammate Wyatt Langford.
LEANING ON THE LONG BALL
The Gators have been one of the best power-hitting teams in all of college baseball and that trend continued into the postseason. 15 of Florida’s 19 runs in the SEC Tournament came directly from a home run.
Florida’s offense ranks eighth in the SEC in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, and 10th in hits against conference pitching. However, the Gators are second in the league in home runs and slugging percentage, leading Florida to have the fourth most runs scored in the SEC, the most important offensive stat.
The Gators have six players with double-digit home runs in 2023 (Kurland, Langford, Caglianone, Rivera, Riopelle, Heyman), including four with 15+. Florida ranks third in the country with 119 home runs.
Kevin O’Sullivan’s baseball club can score runs fast. It’s hard to keep this Gators team down for long; when they flip that switch, they’re as good offensively as any team in the country.