GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Starting pitcher Brandon Sproat fired 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball to lift Florida to a series-evening 7-2 victory over No. 2 Arkansas at Florida Ballpark on Friday night.
Wyatt Langford (2-for-4) and BT Riopelle (2-for-3) led the offensive charge, as both players connected for home runs while combining for three runs and three RBI.
The Gators (20-10, 4-6 SEC) jumped on the Razorbacks (22-6, 7-3 SEC) in the first inning, beginning with a one-out double to center by Jud Fabian. After advancing to third on a passed ball, Sterlin Thompson drove in J. Fabian with a sacrifice fly to left center that just missed being a home run – as Arkansas center fielder Braydon Webb robbed him with the grab. On the next pitch, Wyatt Langford blasted a solo shot to right center to put Florida ahead, 2-0.
Florida added on in the following frame, loading up the bases as Kendrick Calilao drew a leadoff walk followed by a Josh Rivera single and fielding error that allowed Mac Guscette to reach base. Deric Fabian then drew a walk to force home Calilao, while Colby Halter plated Rivera with a deep sacrifice fly to the right-center field warning track.
With a 4-0 lead in hand, the Gator bats stayed hot in the third. With one out, BT Riopelle launched his eighth home run of the campaign to extend the lead to five runs.
Following a scoreless fourth, Arkansas broke into the scoring column in the top of the fifth as Jalen Battles crossed home on a Peyton Stovall single aided by a subsequent Florida fielding error.
After having their advantage chipped down to four, the Gators responded in the following half inning for a pair of runs to make it 7-1. Thompson opened the frame with a single to right center, then advanced to third on a single to left by Langford. Riopelle proceeded to drive in Thompson with a sacrifice fly to left field and Kendrick Calilao produced an RBI double into the left-field corner to bring in Langford.
Arkansas plated a late run in the eighth, as Brady Slavens tripled to center to score Braydon Webb.
Right-handed reliever Blake Purnell put the finishing touches on the victory, pitching the final 3 1/3 innings with just one run allowed to earn his third save of the season. Purnell scattered three hits and did not walk a batter while striking out one.
Sproat (4-3) earned the win, tossing 5 2/3 frames with one earned run allowed on seven hits and two walks. The right-hander struck out five.
Arkansas starting pitcher Hagen Smith (5-2) was saddled with the loss, pitching 4 1/3 innings with seven runs allowed (six earned) on seven hits and two walks. He struck out one.
- Tonight marked Florida’s first win over Arkansas since March 25, 2018 (5-4) and largest victory over the Hogs since March 24, 2018 (17-2).
- Sproat recorded three strikeouts in the first inning for the second-straight start.
- Sproat recorded more outs (17) than Smith (13), marking the first time in SEC play that an opposing starter has recorded more outs than Arkansas’ starting pitcher. The right-hander threw a career-high 109 pitches in the win.
- Thompson and Langford both drove in runs on Friday. The trio of Thompson, Langford and Jud Fabian has recorded an RBI in 28 of 31 games this year while picking up hits in 30 of 31 games.
- The Gators are 33-36 all-time vs. Arkansas including an 19-13 mark at home. Florida is 15-22 against the Razorbacks under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan including a 9-8 mark at home.
- Florida is 40-10 across the program’s last 50 regular season games at Florida Ballpark. The Gators are 25-7 in their last 32 regular season home games.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN
On getting an early lead…
“I think just getting a lead, getting a win to simply put it, is important for us. We lost six league games in a row. I think the most we ever lost in a row was five and that was in ’13. Obviously, just getting the win was important. Getting off to a good start offensively was important. I thought probably one of the turning points in the game was when it was a bang-bang play at first and the call was reversed. Brandon did a really nice job getting his breaking ball early in the count. Pitched to both sides of the plate with his fastball. He was really good. He needed to be because, obviously, they’re really good offensively. Then Blake came in and did his thing and got a bunch of ground balls.”
On Sproat’s performance…
“It was big for everybody. It was big for our team. It was big for him. It was big for our team. I think he’s starting to come into his own. I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but he pitched really good. I thought he pitched really good last week against Georgia, too. I think the biggest step forward for him was his curveball tonight. He landed it early in the count often. I think at some point he threw 14 of 16 first-pitch strikes. When you do that, you got a chance to be successful and he did that tonight.”
On B.T. Riopelle’s impact on the team…
“I think he brings a lot. He’s swinging the bat. He kind of extends our lineup after the top four. He gives us some really good leadership behind the plate. He’s got energy. It’s not easy for someone to come into a program and be a transfer like this and be a leader. But he’s taken that role. He’s one of our most vocal leaders and has done everything we could’ve asked for.”
Florida and No. 2 Arkansas meet in the series finale on Saturday, April 9 at 1 p.m. ET on SEC Network+.