HOOVER, Ala. - Florida opened the 2022 SEC Tournament with a 2-1 walk-off victory over South Carolina in a 10-inning affair at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Tuesday night.
Third baseman Colby Halter came through with the heroics, providing the game-winning sacrifice fly to center with one out in the bottom of the 10th to score Ty Evans. The win was powered by a career-high 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball by starter Brandon Sproat, who took a no-hitter into the seventh.
The Gators (36-20, 15-15 SEC) and Gamecocks (27-28, 13-17 SEC) traded zeros through the first three innings, as Sproat and South Carolina starter Will Sanders blanked their opposing offenses. Sproat proceeded to hold South Carolina scoreless again in the fourth, while Florida broke through with one run in the bottom half. After a two-out double by Josh Rivera, Jac Caglianone brought in a run with an infield single, with Rivera scoring on a throwing error by shortstop Michael Braswell.
Sproat went right back to work in the fifth, navigating around a two-out walk to hold the South Carolina offense in check. He continued to mow down the Gamecocks, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning before losing it on a one-out single by Josiah Sightler.
Despite losing the no-hit bid, Sproat kept South Carolina scoreless until the ninth inning. He was lifted after surrendering back-to-back one-out singles, prompting the Gators to call on right-hander Ryan Slater. From there, the Gamecocks pushed a run across to tie the game on an Andrew Eyster RBI fielder's choice to second base that brought home Braylen Wimmer.
Florida went down in order in the ninth, as the matchup was sent into extra innings. Slater held the score at one run apiece in the top half, opening the door for a potential Florida walk-off.
In the bottom of the tenth, Evans doubled down the left-field line with one out in the frame. Kendrick Calilao then singled up the middle, advancing to second on a throwing error while Evans moved over to third. After fouling off three pitches, Halter delivered a walk-off sacrifice fly to center field, bringing home Evans to give the Gators a memorable 2-1 victory.
Slater (5-3) earned the win, tossing 1 2/3 no-hit innings of relief with one strikeout. South Carolina reliever Cade Austin dropped to 5-2, allowing one earned run on two hits with four strikeouts.
Sproat received the no-decision despite firing a career-high 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out seven.
Wyatt Langford (2-for-4) was the lone Gator to collect multiple hits.
- Sproat pitched a career-high 8 1/3 innings, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out seven. Sproat is the first Gator to pitch eight complete innings this season. Sproat has gone 5 1/3-plus innings in nine-straight starts. He has thrown five-plus innings in 12 of 15 starts this year while allowing three earned runs or less in 11 of those outings.
- This is Florida's second walk-off win in the last five games. Sterlin Thompson walked off No. 20 Florida State with a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth on May 17.
- Florida is now 51-51 all-time vs. South Carolina. The Gators are 29-19 vs. the Gamecocks under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan including 17-5 at home. Florida has won 16 of the last 24 meetings.
- The Gators improve to 72-66 all-time at the SEC Tournament.
- Florida has won 11 of its last 13 games and 13 of its last 16.
- Thompson saw his 25-game on-base streak come to an end.
- Langford extended his on-base streak to 18 games with his multi-hit effort.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
On Sproat's performance and tonight's pitchers' duel...
"Well, that was a good old-fashioned pitching duel. It's a shame somebody has got to lose that game because I thought both starters were just outstanding. I thought Brandon, that's the best he's pitched here. I think it's a career high for innings pitched. I talked to Jeff Cardozo, our radio guy, after the game, and to know where Brandon started from his freshman year to where he is now is just awesome. This is why you get into this profession, to hopefully help guys get better and see the progress that they've made. But he was certainly special tonight."
On the team's resiliency...
"I mean, any team that's successful at the end of the year is going to go through stretches where they struggle, and that adversity is certainly going to help any team moving forward. I go back to '17, we opened SEC play against Auburn when we won the national championship, and we got swept on the road to open up SEC play. Those scars, so to speak, they help you at this time of the year, and hopefully we've learned our lesson and we have gotten better. And like I said, we've had a lot of moving parts. We've had to redo our entire weekend rotation, not just one guy, not just two, but we've had to redo our whole weekend rotation. We're very, very young in the bullpen. We've made some major decisions with moving Sterlin in to second and putting Ty out in right field and moving Colby to third."
On what today does for the bullpen moving forward...
"I mean, certainly when you're playing in the play-in game on Tuesday, obviously it's an extra game, and then you're facing probably someone's No. 1 when you start the tournament on Wednesday. But our bullpen is intact. We have extended the rosters to 30 instead of 27 for this tournament, so we've added three more arms to that mix. But yeah, it's big. And Ryan [Slater] was really good tonight."
Florida advances to face Texas A&M tomorrow afternoon at approximately 5:30 p.m. ET. The matchup will air on SEC Network.