Tonight in Omaha Nebraska in the winner’s bracket of the College World Series it’s the Gator’s who won in dramatic fashion over Virginia taking on a surprising Oral Roberts team 7 pm on ESPN. Drama seems to be the name of the game this year for Florida and the Friday night thriller did not disappoint.
WHAT HAPPENED: The Gators won their first game of the College World Series in dramatic fashion, beating Virginia 6-5 on a walk-off RBI sacrifice fly by designated hitter Luke Heyman in the bottom of the ninth. Trailing 5-3 when the inning started, Ty Evans hit a solo home run to make it 5-4, and two batters later, Wyatt Langford crushed a pitch out of Charles Schwab Field to tie the game. The Gators didn’t stop there, as they loaded the bases with one out, setting up Heyman’s game-winning fly ball to center field. Evans went 2-for-2 after coming into the game for Richie Schiekofer in the bottom of the seventh, finishing with a double and homer.
PLAY OF THE GAME: They will be talking about Langford’s home run over the left-field concourse in Omaha for the rest of the CWS. Langford crushed a 1-0 pitch from Cavaliers reliever Jake Berry for a mammoth 456-foot bomb, tying the game and creating a buzz that lasted the rest of the inning inside the ballpark. Langford stepped to the plate in a 2-for-23 slump that sailed out of the ballpark with his home run. In addition, Berry had allowed only three home runs in 48 2/3 innings. He served up three homers in 1 2/3 innings Friday.
STAGGERING STAT: Virginia was 46-0 when leading after eight innings when the bottom of the ninth inning started. The Cavs are now 46-1 after Florida rallied for three runs and three hits in the final frame.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Brandon Sproat continued a string of strong outings for Gators starters. Sproat went 6 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and three runs. He walked three and struck out seven in his first CWS outing. Sproat threw 109 pitches, 73 for strikes, and never faced serious trouble until the seventh.
KEY MOMENT: Sproat had thrown 88 pitches, retired seven of the last eight batters and struck out five of six when the seventh inning started. After his first 1-2-3 inning of the game in the sixth, Sproat walked Virginia leadoff hitter Ethan Anderson to start the seventh. That spelled doom for the big right-hander. By the end of the inning, Sproat was in the dugout, two UF relievers had pitched in the inning, and the Cavs led 4-1.
HE SAID IT: “There’s a lot of things that went into this one. I thought Brandon Sproat pitched great. The at-bats there in the ninth were just really tough at-bats. I thought we hit the ball fairly hard. The wind changed in the seventh. We hit a couple balls out in the ninth. If you’re going to win out here, you have to have special performances from people you might not expect. I can’t be happier for Ty. A game like this, he’ll never forget. He was a big part of our win.” — Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan on the comeback victory
BY THE NUMBERS: 24,801 — Announced attendance for the Florida-Virginia game; 12 — Fly-ball outs for Virginia starter Nick Parker in six innings; 21 — Comeback wins for the Gators this season.
- Florida delivered its first-ever walk-off win in the College World Series.
- The win marked UF’s fourth walk-off win of the campaign.
- The Gators are now 22-24 all-time at the CWS and 126-84 in the NCAA Tournament.
- Florida is playing in its 13th College World Series and eighth in the Kevin O’Sullivan era: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2023.
- Riopelle smacked his 17th home run including his team-high seventh of the 2023 Postseason.
- Evans hit his fifth home run of the season to bring Florida within one run in the ninth.
- It marked Evans’ first homer since April 11 vs. Florida State.
- Langford hit his 19th home run of the season to tied the game at 5-5 with one out in the ninth.
- Sproat has gone five-plus innings in 26 of his last 28 starts dating back to last season, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 21 of those outings.
- The right-hander has fired four-straight quality starts.
- Florida has now swatted 132 home runs this season, which is tied for the single-season program record alongside the 1998 squad (132).
- Since facing elimination in NCAA Regionals, Florida has gone 6-0 while outscoring opponents, 36-12.
- Florida has hammered 11 home runs while allowing just two.
- Colby Halter put Florida on the board with an RBI single in the second inning, marking his fourth RBI across UF’s last two contests.
- Neely picked up his first win of the 2023 campaign.
- Florida has struck out 662 batters in 559 innings – translating to 10.7 per nine innings, which would mark a new program record.
- The Gators have 637 hits through 66 games (9.7 hits/game).
- The Gators have scored in 44.0% of batted innings (237 of 539).
- Florida is 6-3 all-time against Virginia featuring a 3-3 mark in the NCAA Tournament.
- The Gators are 2-2 vs. the Cavaliers under O’Sullivan, all of which have taken place in Omaha.
UP NEXT: The comeback victory kept the Gators in the winners’ bracket, where they will face Oral Roberts at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. Oral Roberts won the first game of the CWS on Friday, 6-5, over TCU with a ninth-inning comeback.
— Sullivan Bortner contributed to this report.