Photo by Brian Fox | ChompTalk

In the third weekend of play, the Florida Gators faced what was likely their greatest challenge to date in 2023: The Miami Hurricanes. The Canes were the Gators’ first ranked opponent of the season and were expected to test the strengths of head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s roster.

If Friday’s contest was the test, the Gators passed with flying colors.

No. 7 Florida (9-2) defeated No. 22 Miami (7-3) 10-4 at home Friday. The Gators bats launched four homers for 10 runs and starting pitcher Brandon Sproat (3-0) secured the win with 10 strikeouts.

Miami came out right away with some firepower. After a pair of singles put runners on the corners in the top ofd the first, Canes home run leader Yohandy Morales sent a three-run shot past the wall for an early lead. Sproat was able to escape the inning with a pair of Ks and the Gators down 3-0.

“They’re a talented team,” Sproat said. “When they’re jumping on your fastballs early, you’ve got to switch things up, and that’s what I did.”

Florida star Wyatt Langford responded right away in the bottom of the first with a solo-shot homer of his own. A walk from junior infielder Josh Rivera followed by a single from senior BT Riopelle brought sophomore outfielder Ty Evans to the plate with runners on the corners. He sent a ball out the warning track, but it didn’t have enough to get over. The Gators closed the first inning down 3-1.

Sproat had a much better second frame, tossing two more Ks on the way to a 1-2-3 inning.

In the third inning, Jac Caglianone garnered some momentum with a stand-up double. He was followed by a pair of RBI singles from Riopelle and Evans to make it a tie ball game, 3-3, at the conclusion of the opening third.

After another three up, three down inning from Sproat, the Gators took over on offense and on the scoreboard. Freshman Cade Kurland singled and was later plated on a double down the foul line from Langford. He was then scored on an RBI single from Caglianone to make it a 5-3 Gators lead.

In the fifth Sproat saw some trouble after walking the bases loaded with two outs. He was able to snag the saving strikeout and head off to the dugout with no damage to the lead. The Canes came out swinging again in the sixth, adding a sacrifice fly run to make it 5-4. Sproat was able to close the frame and pass the baton to his middle relievers with a one-run cushion.

The Gators would continue to protect and extend their lead in the bottom of the sixth. Rutgers transfer Richie Schiekofer launched his first home run as a Gator to score two runs and make it a 7-4 ballgame. Langford homered once more to make it 8-4 for Florida.

Headed into the closing third, Florida faced possibly its biggest challenge of the night: its own middle relief. True freshman Cade Fisher came in relief of Sproat. O’Sullivan also chose to slot defensive anchor Colby Halter in the aid the save.

Fisher was able to snag three 1-2-3 frames plus a strikeout to finish things up.

Thanks to a two-run shot from Cade Kurland and a clean closing third from Fisher, the Gators left Condron Family Ballpark with a not-so-challenging close win.

“Tomorrow’s a different ballgame,” O’Sullivan said.

Florida can earn a series victory with a win tomorrow over the Canes. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. and the game will stream on SEC Network+.

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