'Just one of those games': Florida Gators baseball falls to Auburn 10-1 in series opener

Ainslie Lee
The Gainesville Sun

There really wasn't much that could be said Friday night after the No. 3 Florida Gators baseball team fell to the Auburn Tigers 10-1 in the three-game series' opener.

"It was just one of those games that got away from us early," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.

After a turbulent outing from their starting pitcher, the Gators (22-5, 5-2 SEC) found themselves in a deep, eight-run disadvantage to the Tigers (18-7, 3-4) that they were never able to dig themselves out of.

Here's how Florida's collapse happened.

Brandon Sproat gives up eight spot

It was junior pitcher Brandon Sproat who got the nod from O'Sullivan as the Gators hoped for an arm to duel it out against Auburn sophomore Will Cannon, who entered the night with a 2.29 ERA − a mark better than any of the arms in the Gators' bullpen.

But instead, it was a pitching disaster as Sproat coughed up eight earned runs in his brief outing.

"I think it's just internal for him," Florida catcher BT Riopelle said of Sproat. "Something he's gotta figure out. Whether it's something that has popped up or whatnot. It's not really anything I can do to help him. He just needs to do some soul searching and get back on track to where he needs to be and where we think he can be."

The first run Sproat gave up came courtesy of Auburn freshman Ike Irish, who struck a 2-0 offering from Sproat and sent it over the left field wall, giving the Tigers an early 2-0 lead with one out.

But it was the second inning that really saw Sproat unravel as he gave up a pair of free bases to lead off the frame.

A base hit off the bat of Nate LaRue would load the bases with one out. And instead of working himself out of the jam, Sproat worked himself deeper into the hole, tossing a pair of bases-loaded walks, which allowed Auburn to stretch its lead to 4-0.

But the real damage came later in the inning as Irish barreled up a two-RBI double, which led to O'Sullivan pulling the plug on Sproat's night after 1.1 inning.

"Our starting pitcher just needs to be a little bit more consistent," O'Sullivan said. "That's the bottom line."

Relief arms and web gems from Rivera, Evans highlight rough night

Though it's hard to look at Friday's result and find a way to compliment the Gators bullpen, once Sproat was relieved in the second inning, Florida's pitchers held up well against Auburn's lineup.

Florida sophomore Tyler Nesbitt came in and worked through 3.2 innings without giving up a run and striking out three.

"To have to go to your bullpen in the second inning, it's not an easy thing to do," O'Sullivan said. "Things could've got away from us, but we continued to play hard. We competed, no one gave up, the morale in the dugout was still good."

Blake Purnell and Fisher Jameson also spent time on the mound, posting similar lines. Purnell and Jameson each pitched 2.0 innings, giving up two hits and one run through eight at-bats.

"It should hopefully pay dividends the next few games," O'Sullivan said of stretching his bullpen.

Meanwhile, those playing behind Florida's arms posted a decent night all the way around.

In the top of the third inning, the Tigers led off with a beaming line drive that popped off the bat of Auburn centerfielder Kason Howell and into the outstretched glove of Florida shortstop Josh Rivera.

Florida's outfielder Ty Evans (2) runs into the wall but comes up with the catch in the top of the eighth inning against the Auburn Tigers, Friday, March 31, 2023, 2023, at Condron Family Baseball Park in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators fell to the Tigers 10-1 for the first game of the weekend series. [Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun] 2023

Later in the night, sophomore right fielder Ty Evans made quite the hustle play and came away with a foul-out catch that required him to collide with the wall that runs along the first-base line.

"We played really good defense," O'Sullivan said. "I thought Josh played good defensively at short and Ty makes a great play down the right-field line. So there are some things to pull away from the game."

Florida's bats battle, but never have their breakthrough

All things considered, O'Sullivan wasn't disappointed with his team's approach at the plate.

Auburn's bullpen, led by Cannon (4.0 IP, 5 hits, ER, 2 K), pitched well. The Tigers showed three arms in the win, striking out seven while and giving up six hits.

"I thought we had competitive at-bats for most of the night," O'Sullivan said. "We hit some balls hard to the middle of the field."

Leading Florida's offensive efforts was sophomore Jac Caglianone and freshman Michael Robertson, who each tallied a pair of hits.

Meanwhile, junior Wyatt Langford, who recently returned to the lineup after missing the start of the season, drew three walks in the loss, but was stranded each time he reached base. As a team, the Gators stranded 12 runners.

"We put ourselves in position to get back into the ball game, but their guy made some really good pitches," O'Sullivan said.