Florida advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament after a pair of victories over Alabama and Vanderbilt. After a day off, the Gators were bounced by the Commodores in the single elimination semifinals.
Gator Country provides three takeaways from Florida’s SEC Tournament run in Hoover, Alabama.
PREPPED FOR REGIONALS
Perhaps my biggest takeaway of the weekend was that Florida did what they needed to do in order to prepare for the NCAA Regional Tournament this weekend.
Florida wanted to play in at least three games in order to give each of their weekend starters one outing in Hoover. The Gators did exactly that, mimicking their weekend rotation to the best of their ability with the unique tournament format. Brandon Sproat, Hurston Waldrep, and Jac Caglianone will have ample time to rest before the NCAA Tournament begins on June 2nd.
Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan protected his bullpen arms at all costs, tossing nine different relievers across three games. Brandon Neely was the most used arm out of the bullpen, completing 2.2 innings on 56 pitches in Wednesday night’s game against Alabama.
In Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt, the Gators found five combined innings of no run relief from Tyler Nesbitt, Blake Purnell, Chris Arroyo, and Fisher Jameson. Kevin O’Sullivan could have pitched any of his top arms, but decided to give appearances to guys that haven’t seen action in multiple weeks. This could give these pitchers some confidence going into Regionals where they may need to contribute on the field.
BIG TIME RIOPELLE
Veteran catcher BT Riopelle was the hero in Florida’s run to the SEC Tournament semifinals.
The Marietta, Georgia native blasted a three-run walk off home run in 11th inning against Alabama, advancing the Gators into the winner’s bracket with the 434-foot bomb.
Just 24 hours later, Riopelle found himself two more long balls, including a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the 7th 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 RBI 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 RBI in Hoover.
Riopelle’s success earned him a spot on the SEC All-Tournament Team, 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 in the postseason. 15 of Florida’s 19 runs in the SEC Tournament came directly from a home run ball.
Florida’s offense ranks 8th in the SEC in batting average, 9th 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, which leads to Florida having the fourth most runs scored in the SEC, the most important offensive statistic.
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 ballclub can score runs in a hurry. It’s hard to keep this Gators team down for a long time; when they flip that switch, they are as good offensively as any team in the country.