Hoover, Ala. - Florida earned a trip to the 2022 SEC Tournament semifinals with an 11-6 win over Alabama at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The highlight of the matchup was right-handed reliever Nick Ficarrotta, who fired a career-high 6 1/3 shutout innings of relief to silent an Alabama offense that plated six runs across the first three innings of play. Wyatt Langford (2-for-5) homered twice while chipping in three RBI to lead the Florida offense, while Mac Guscette (3-for-5) chipped in a homer and three RBI of his own.
The Gators (38-21, 15-15 SEC) jumped on the Crimson Tide (31-27, 12-17) with four runs in the top of the first, as Langford got the scoring started with his fourth leadoff home run of the year. Following Langford's SEC-leading 22nd homer, BT Riopelle walked and Jud Fabian was hit by a pitch, with the former coming in to score on an RBI double to right field by Jac Caglianone. From there, Josh Rivera drove in a pair with a two-run single to left.
Alabama quickly answered in the bottom half with four runs of its own, putting leadoff man Caden Rose on with a double to left field. Dominic Tamez then drove in Rose with a single to center field, while Zane Denton connected for a three-run shot to right center to tie the game at 4-4.
Langford continued his historic year the very next inning, leading off the frame with his second homer of the day to put Florida back on top, 5-4. The 411-foot blast represented Langford's 23rd of the season, moving him into a tie for second on the Gators' single-season home run list.
The Gators extended their lead to 6-4 in the top of the third, with Mac Guscette doubling down the right-field line and later scoring on an RBI groundout to first base by Langford. However, the Crimson Tide knotted the game up once again in the following half inning, as Drew Williamson belted a two-run shot to straightaway center field.
The score remained tied at six runs apiece through the fifth, but Florida regained the lead in the top of the sixth. Langford led off with a walk, then advanced to third on a single to right center by Sterlin Thompson. Riopelle proceeded to smack one off the pitcher, but the Tide turned a funky one-six-three double play as Langford crossed home for the go-ahead run.
After entering with two outs in the third inning, Ficarrotta shut down the Alabama offense from the moment he took the mound. Ficarrotta blanked the Tide from the fourth through the eighth, firing 5 1/3 shutout frames.
Ficarrotta's brilliant outing gave the Gators a chance to add some insurance in the top of the ninth. Rivera drove in the first run of the inning, plating J. Fabian with a fielder's choice to shortstop. Guscette then stepped to the plate and unloaded on the first pitch he saw, blasting a three-run homer over the left-field wall to bring the score to its final tally of 11-6.
Ficarrotta worked a scoreless ninth to send Florida to the semifinals. Ficarrotta (4-0) finished with a career-high 6 1/3 shutout innings of relief, allowing five hits and two walks while tying his personal best with six strikeouts.
Crimson Tide reliever Jake Leger dropped to 1-1, allowing two earned runs across four innings with four hits allowed, two walks and two strikeouts.
Florida starter Anthony Ursitti received a no-decision, allowing six earned runs across 2 2/3 frames. The freshman right-hander surrendered five hits and one walk while striking out three.
Alabama starting pitcher Garrett McMillan was also handed a no-decision, lasting just 1 2/3 innings with five earned runs allowed on five hits and two walks.
Langford, Caglianone (3-for-4), Rivera (2-for-5) and Guscette collected multiple hits in the victory.
- This is Florida's second-consecutive trip to the SEC Tournament semifinals.
- Langford's leadoff homer in the first inning marked his fourth leadoff blast of the season and 22nd overall on the year - putting him in sole possession of the SEC lead. His second home run of the game to lead off the second inning marked his 23rd homer of the campaign - tying him for the second-most home runs hit in a single season at Florida. 1. Matt LaPorta (26, 2005) T2. Ryan Shealy (23, 2002), Brad Wilkerson (23, 1997 & 1998), Langford (23, 2022).
- Ficarrota threw a career-high 6 1/3 innings while tying his career high with six strikeouts. Ursitti made his first-career start on Saturday morning.
- Florida is now 67-58 all-time vs. Alabama.
- Florida is 26-6 against Alabama under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. The Gators have won 13 of the last 14 against The Tide and won a series in Tuscaloosa, two games to one, to open SEC play back in March.
- Florida improved to 74-67 all-time at the SEC Tournament.
- Florida has won 13 of its last 16 games and 15 of its last 19.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
On the offense...
"Yeah, we were really good offensively today. Whenever Langford is leading off the game with a home run, it sparks the entire lineup, and obviously it did that today."
On Ficarrotta's performance...
"Yeah, he gutted it out. He was probably running on fumes there at the end, but he moved the ball back and forth, and threw his slider and his split behind in the count. I think there were a couple moments during the game where he threw some fastballs in on those right-handers late in the count that kind of got them off the outer half of the plate a little bit."
Florida advances to face No. 5 Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament semifinals this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.