Florida baseball: 3 takeaways from UF's 13-3 season-opening win against Charleston Southern

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun
Florida's catcher BT Riopelle (15) with a three run homer in the bottom of the first inning against Charleston Southern's Buccaneers, Friday, February 17, 2023, at Condron Family Baseball Park in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators beat the Buccaneers 13-3. [Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun] 2023

Florida baseball started the 2023 season with a bang, beating Charleston Southern 13-3 in 7 innings Friday night before an announced 5.,924 at Condron Family Ballpark.

Preseason All-SEC catcher B.T. Riopelle finished the game with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 7th for the Gators, per a new SEC rule in which games can be called after seven innings with a 10-run margin.

"I've got to ask the opposing team if they want to do it," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "That's part of the deal. For me personally, baseball is a nine-inning game. It takes away from opportunities, maybe a couple of guys for at bats, maybe a couple of guys to throw the eighth and the ninth. I mean it's the rule we've got to follow but in my opinion, baseball should be played as a nine-inning game."

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Florida's hitters were locked in for the entire night. The Gators scored 13 runs on 14 hits, belting six extra-base hits.

"Every starter except one got a hit," O'Sullivan said. "I thought offensively we were good."

Here are three takeaways from Florida's win:

Florida starter Brandon Sproat throws heat in debut

Sproat threw 5.2 hitless innings before being pulled at 94 pitches (57 strikes). He hit 100 miles per hour in the radar gun in his first pitch and his velocity sat consistently at 95 miles per hour.

Sproat allowed 3 runs (all earned) without giving up a hit because he had command issues at times. He walked three, hit two batters and threw two wild pitches. But when Sproat was in the strike zone, he overpowered Charleston Southern hitters, striking out seven.

"Velocity, it's nice to have but it's not everything," Sproat said. "I didn't have my best stuff tonight, three walks, two hit batters, but got the first outing out of the way, move on from it, learn from it."

Timely two-out hits

Florida drove in four of its first eight runs with two-out hits.

Center fielder Michael Robinson laced an RBI single with two outs to put Florida up 4-1 in the second inning. In the fourth inning, shortstop Josh Rivera added a two-out, two-RBI single to extend Florida's lead to 7-1. In the fifth inning, designated hitter Tyler Shelnut belted a two-out, RBI double, giving Florida an 8-1 lead.

"That's super important, two out RBIs and being able to hit with two outs and two strikes even," Shelnut said. "That's just not giving away pitches and not giving away at bats and that's what it takes to win close games."

Shelnut, a Santa Fe College transfer, had two doubles in his Florida debut.

A big day at the plate for catcher B.T. Riopelle

Riopelle laced a three-run homer run over the right field fence on a first-pitch fastball from Charleston Southern starting pitcher Zac Robinson in the first inning, giving Florida an early 3-1 lead. He added an RBI double in the sixth.

Riopelle finished the game 3 for 5 with 5 RBIs.

"In the first inning, that really lights things up for sure," Shelnut said. "Especially being B.T., he's an exciting guy. He's excited. He plays with emotion, and it forces us to play with emotion."