After clinching the College World Series for the 13th time as a program, the Florida Gators will look to crown themselves as National Champions for the second time in Florida baseball history.
Over the last two weeks, Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan and the rest of the team have preached a collaborative effort from everybody within the program.
“I’m just kind of taking it all in right now,” Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after Saturday’s series clinching win. “Honestly, I’m kind of projecting my feelings towards this staff, players, everyone that’s involved. It takes a group effort to get to this point. We’ll take a day or two to regroup. Just happy to have the opportunity to experience this. The thing is that we put ourselves in a position, getting to Omaha is goal number one, but we feel like we have a team that can potentially do some special things in Omaha.”
“There’s a lot of emotions right now,” O’Sullivan said. “Starting behind the plate with BT [Riopelle] and Josh [Rivera] and where Wyatt [Langford] started. Brandon Sproat where he was and Colby Halter coming up with a big at-bat and driving the first two runs in. I hate naming names because you start leaving people out, but everyone is deserving. I’m just happy for everyone to be honest with you. It’s a special group. We’ve been resilient the entire year. We won the regular season with Arkansas, which is not easy to do. Now, we’re in position to go to the World Series. Just a great group effort we’re excited for the opportunity.”
Senior catcher BT Riopelle could have left the University after slashing .304/.377/.537 in his first year with the Gators in 2022, but his eyes were on something greater, a National Championship.
“It feels amazing. It’s pretty emotional for me,” Riopelle said after Florida’s CWS berth. “All my emotions are kind of out of me now and I’m just stoked and ready to have some fun. It’s everything that we could’ve pictured it to be. To host a Regional and get through it in the same exact way that we got eliminated last year. To host a Super and have the ability to have two of the best crowds that Florida has seen in a collegiate atmosphere, it’s a testament to them. To be able to go 2-0 and sweep a very good team in South Carolina, very old team. Very gritty team that I talked about last night. We couldn’t have pictured it and put it together any better. So it was pretty special and we’re excited for the next step.”
After three long years of failing to reach the Super Regional stage, Junior shortstop Josh Rivera is heading to his first College World Series.
“I’m excited. I’m very excited,” Rivera said. “I’ve been here a long time along with a couple guys on this team. Through all of the struggles we’ve been through as a team and stuff like that in the past years. It feels amazing to finally say we’re going to Omaha. Especially at this prestigious university and the track record they have with going to Omaha. So, it’s amazing to be a part of that this year and I’m just excited to experience it.”
“I’d pretty much just say all of us had to be selfless,” Rivera said on what it took to reach Omaha. “We had to just rely on the next guy to play their role off the field as much as we need to play our role on the field. Whether that’s getting on somebody to do their homework, or making sure they’re getting enough extra swing, or coming in here doing their work in the bullpen or the pitching lab. Just us coming together as a brotherhood and as a team. That’s pretty much all we really needed to stay together. If you have one guy that’s not really doing what they’re supposed to do it can be detrimental to the team for sure.”
Rivera takes pride in being one of the leaders on the 2023 Florida baseball team.
“It’s amazing to see what this teams done when we’ve come together, especially with all the younger guys stepping up in big time situations and really doing what they needed to do and bearing down to get us through the tough times,” Rivera said. “It’s just amazing to be one of the leaders on this team and see all of these young guys really show up when it’s needed.”
Florida will open the College World Series at 7:00 PM on Friday night against the Virgina Cavaliers.