Next up: SEC semifinals! Florida Gators put up big offense in 11-6 victory over Alabama
Florida baseball's impressive run in the SEC Tournament continued Saturday with an 11-6 defeat of No. 11-seed Alabama at Hoover Met Stadium, setting the Gators up with a rematch at approximately 5:30 p.m. with No. 2 seed Texas A&M in the semifinal round.
Florida’s return to the diamond will occur approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of No. 12 Kentucky vs. LSU on Saturday afternoon.
The Gators jumped out to a four-run lead in the first inning, with Wyatt Langford’s solo home run to left center field opening the scoring. Freshman Jac Caglianone’s double with two outs added another run, and Josh Rivera’s two-RBI single to left gave the Gators a 4-0 advantage before the Crimson Tide had stepped to the plate.
Live score updates:Follow along as Florida baseball faces Texas A&M in SEC Tournament
Nick Ficarrotta impressive for Gators
But UF couldn’t get comfortable as Alabama managed four runs of its own off three hits against Florida freshman starter Anthony Ursitti, erasing the Gators’ cushion.
With the top of the order back up, Langford added his second home run in as many innings to put Florida back in front, 5-4, and Langford scored Mac Guscette in the third inning on a groundout to push the lead to 6-4. However, Alabama once again erased UF’s two-run lead in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run home run by Drew Williamson, and Ursitti soon made way for Nick Ficarrotta on the mound.
After a pair of scoreless innings by each team, the Gators retook the lead in the sixth inning despite Riopelle grounding into a double play; meanwhile, the Crimson Tide were having less success at the plate against Ficarrotta.
Jud Fabian was walked with one out in the ninth, and a single by Caglianone sent Fabian to third, bringing Rivera to the plate. Rivera added his third RBI of the day on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop, though not before a replay challenge by Alabama, which believed the tag came in time. The Crimson Tide’s challenge was unsuccessful, pushing UF’s lead to 8-6. Guscette stepped to the plate and proceeded to deliver a three-run blast over the left field, putting the Crimson Tide in a five-run hole.
"He told me to put a good swing on the ball, and it just went out," Guscette said in the postgame broadcast. "It happens in baseball."
Ficarrotta remained on the mound in the ninth and secured the win for the Gators, setting up a rematch with the Aggies, who run-ruled UF, 10-0, in Thursday’s second round.
"Fic, that was phenomenal," Guscette said. "Me and Fic have been close throughout the year, and that was phenomenal, I don't even know what to say about it."
Here are takeaways from the game.
Wyatt Langford also inches closer to record
Wyatt Langford added a pair of home runs in Florida’s first contest of the day Saturday, bringing him to 23 home runs on the season.
That puts Langford atop the SEC in home runs, and the Trenton native is now tied for second all-time with Ryan Shealy and Brad Wilkerson in single-season home runs in UF program history.
Matt LaPorta’s record of 26 remains the program record, and Langford’s chances of catching — or exceeding — LaPorta’s record became all the more realistic Saturday.
Mac Guscette gets first hit in 25 days, and then some
Mac Guscette hadn’t had a hit since Florida’s contest against South Florida on May 3, but the sophomore made the most of his insertion back into UF’s lineup.
Guscette started at catcher against the Crimson Tide in place of Riopelle, who moved to first base, and went 3-for-5 at the plate, including the three-run home run to left field that ultimately capped the scoring. He was a triple short of hitting for the cycle.
Jud Fabian takes a few for the team
Fabian was credited for just one at-bat against the Crimson Tide, but that doesn’t nearly tell the entire story. Fabian was hit by a pitch in the first, second and seventh innings, making him the first player in SEC Baseball Tournament history to be hit by a pitch three times or more in a single game.
Jac Caglianone has another strong performance
While the lineup changes made Saturday are surely notable, they may not compare to the decision to insert 6-foot-5 freshman Jac Caglianone, who is expected to be a pitcher at the next level, into the order.
Caglianone joined Guscette in having a three-hit day for the Gators, including a double in the first inning that scored Riopelle for the second run of the day. Caglianone also reached base on a walk, giving him four successful plate appearances against the Crimson Tide.
His day ended after a single in the ninth inning as freshman Corey Robinson came on to pinch run for Caglianone.