3 takeaways from No. 10 Gator baseball team's win over North Florida at Florida Ballpark

Graham Hall
Gator Sports
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The Florida baseball team improved to 2-0 in midweek contests on the season, defeating the University of North Florida, 3-1, Wednesday night at the Florida Ballpark. 

The No. 10-ranked Gators built an early three-run lead behind Colby Halter’s two-run home run over the center-field fence in the third inning, but UNF rallied, adding a run in the fifth inning.

Meanwhile, the Gators went cold at the plate, registering just a pair of hits the rest of the way. The Ospreys, who would finish with eight hits to UF’s six, had the tying run at the plate in the seventh inning, but former Gators outfielder Brock Edge flied out for UNF to end the inning. 

"We're trying different things offensively," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "But credit to North Florida's pitchers, they threw strikes, they played good defense. And when other teams throw the ball across the plate and they don't walk people, and they play good defense, it ends up being a closer game, so you've got to hit."

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Here are 3 takeaways from Wednesday’s contest. 

Sproat makes first start in 2022

Third-year pitcher Brandon Sproat earned the start for the Gators and allowed four hits across 74 pitches. Sproat allowed just one run while striking out eight batters before redshirt freshman Blake Purnell replaced him on the mound to begin the sixth inning. 

It marked Sproat’s third start on the mound in his UF career, though the Pace native did throw a pair of innings Feb. 19 against the Liberty Flames, allowing a hit and a run. 

Sproat's showing left a positive impression upon his head coach, who credited him with helping secure Florida's third victory of the season.

"I thought he was the difference in the ballgame to be quite honest with you," O'Sullivan said. "I was really pleased with how he started, and that's another arm that gives us a chance."

Midway through the 2021 campaign, O'Sullivan indicated Sproat could crack the weekend rotation. Less than a year later, he's now singing a familiar tune.

"Whether he stays midweek or not, I don't know, but tonight he did really good," O'Sullivan said of Sproat. "In the first four innings, his command was outstanding, and his stuff's good enough to get anybody out."

Thompson starts at 2nd, continues impressing

Sterlin Thompson’s impressive start to the 2022 season continued Wednesday against the Ospreys. The sophomore from Ocala added a single in the third inning, though it was his defense that drew praise from O'Sullivan — with one exception.

Thompson missed a tag at second base, which O'Sullivan attributed to a fundamental mistake rather than a shortcoming. 

"I thought Sterlin did an outstanding job other than that tag, and that's just a learning thing, a teaching point," he said. "Throw the tag straight down instead of sweeping the tag."

The 6-foot-4 Thompson made the start at second base, allowing Josh Rivera to get the night off. Thompson, who narrowly missed out on hitting for the cycle in Tuesday’s 8-1 win over Stetson University, is batting .400 to start the season. 

Halter, whose two-run shot to center field proved to be the difference against North Florida, made the start at shortstop. Halter scored the Gators’ opening run against Stetson a night earlier. 

"Colby's been getting really good bats," O'Sullivan said. "He's off to a good start."

Tucker Talbott again shows promise 

The redshirt freshman, fresh off of a four-hit performance against the Hatters, made the most of his insertion into Florida’s line-up for the second consecutive night. The Atlantic Beach native added an RBI on a 1-for-3 performance at the plate to help the Gators secure the victory.

"He puts the ball in play, you know, he is a leader on our team," O'Sullivan said of Talbott. "He does work hard. He struck out one time the entire Fall."

Considering Tuesday's performance was anything but guaranteed, Talbott may have solidified a role that wasn't exactly solid heading into Wednesday's follow-up. 

"It was one of those things that you could grab a name out of the hat and say, 'Okay, we're gonna hit him,' " O'Sullivan said. "It was the trust that he was gonna give us good at-bats, no question, but the other part was he was gonna give us some energy. He gave us both of those." 

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