For eight innings, it looked like the biggest enemy for Florida baseball at the 2023 Men’s College World Series was going to be the massive ballpark at Charles Schwab Field. The Gators had hits that would have been home runs back home, but alas, were outs in Omaha.
The Gators simply decided to hit balls that not even a created ballpark on MLB The Show could hold as Florida rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk off winners 6-5 against Virginia to move on to the winner’s bracket.
Florida Baseball: Ceiling can’t hold us
Condron Family Ballpark, home of the Gators, is 330 feet down each line with fairly low walls and 400 feet to straightaway center.
And early on, the ballpark in Omaha kept Florida baseball off the scoreboard. Jac Caglianone hit one to centerfield that was 105 MPH off the bat but fell into a Virginia glove on the warning track. Later in the game, Wyatt Langford hit one that was 108 MPH off the bat, but it too died on the warning track.
Florida did get on the scoreboard first when Colby Halter singled home BT Riopelle in the second inning, and through six innings, it was the only run that ultimately crossed the plate.
Brandon Sproat took the mound for Florida and was dealing through six innings. But it was in the seventh inning that Virginia started to catch up to his fastball, and even though Sproat was still throwing 98 MPH he couldn’t put the Cavaliers away.
Virginia scored one run and had runners on the corners before Kevin O’Sullivan opted to go to the bullpen and brought in Cade Fisher. The first batter he faced grounded into a fielder’s choice that resulted in an out at home.
But with two outs, Virginia put together a double, followed by a single, and went into the bottom of the seventh up 4-1.
Florida clawed one run back when Cade Kurland grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Dale Thomas from third, but the Gators still couldn’t find the big hit to break it open.
BT Riopelle doesn’t want to start his day job
In the eighth inning, Riopelle stepped back up, and in case you haven’t heard, he starts a job in finance once the season ends for Florida.
Not wanting to start that job, he figured out how to hit a home run over the Omaha fence, and Florida was only down 4-3.
The problem was Florida gave the run right back in the ninth and was down 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth.
Up step Ty Evans, and he launched one over the left field fence to bring it back to 5-4.
But after Kurland got out, Florida had just two outs to play with.
That’s when Langford said screw the massive fence in Omaha and hit a baseball that landed in the concession stand in left field.
456 feet later, Florida baseball was tied with Caglianone at the plate.
He dropped a single through the shift.
Josh Rivera walked.
Riopelle was then hit by a pitch to load the bases.
And with still just one out, Luke Heyman sent a flyball to centerfield that was caught but allowed Caglianone to waltz home from third for the walk-off victory.
So now what?
As was pointed out multiple times on the broadcast, only four times in the last 41 years has a team lost the opening game on the CWS and still gone on to win the tournament.
So Florida advancing to the winner’s bracket was massive for their national title hopes.
Up next is Oral Roberts on Sunday.
The same Oral Roberts whose basketball team beat Florida as a 15-seed in 2021 and is currently the Cinderella of this year’s baseball tournament.
A win in that game would put Florida just one win away from the championship series. A loss would require the Gators to win three straight games to make it.
The first pitch is at 7 PM.