Hoover, Ala. - Playing in the team's second game of the day, Florida shut out No. 5 Texas A&M, 9-0, on the back of starting pitcher Timmy Manning to earn a trip to Sunday's SEC Tournament Championship at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Saturday night.
Making his first pitching appearance since April 5, Manning twirled a career-high five-plus innings of shutout baseball to earn his first collegiate victory. As a result, the Gators advance to take on the winner of tonight's game between No. 1 Tennessee and Kentucky at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday with an SEC Tournament Championship on the line.
After a scoreless first inning by Manning, the Gators (39-21, 15-15 SEC) got an early boost from Jud Fabian. Leading off the top of the second inning, Fabian sent a 1-2 offering over the left-field wall for a solo home run. The blast marked Fabian's 22nd of the year, moving him into sole possession of second in the SEC in homers behind teammate Wyatt Langford.
The Aggies (37-18, 19-11 SEC) went down quietly again in the second. Langford then led off the top of the third with a double to right center and came in to score on a sacrifice fly to right field by BT Riopelle, giving Florida a 2-0 lead.
Manning worked another scoreless frame in the third, which was followed by a leadoff walk by J. Fabian to begin the fourth. Jac Caglianone then reached on a fielding error by second baseman Ryan Targac, while Josh Rivera advanced the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Mac Guscette delivered a two-run single down the left-field line, bringing both Gators home to extend the advantage to 4-0.
Sterlin Thompson led off the fifth with a walk, then advanced to third on a single through the right side by Riopelle. Texas A&M then induced a six-four-three double play off the bat of Ty Evans, but Thompson crossed home for Florida's fifth run of the game.
Manning fired a clean frame in the fifth, striking out one to tie his career high with six strikeouts. The southpaw's five innings also marked a new career high.
In the top of the sixth, Florida plated two more runs to make it a 7-0 ballgame. With two men in scoring position, Langford drove in Guscette and Rivera with a single to right field. The Gators added an eighth run in the seventh, with Caglianone providing a sacrifice fly to left to score Riopelle, who previously reached on a bunt single.
Following Manning's exit from the contest in the sixth, right-hander Fisher Jameson picked up right where his teammate left off. Jameson blanked the Aggies from the sixth through the ninth, finishing with four shutout, one-hit innings to earn his first-career save. Jameson did not walk a better and struck out four.
Manning (1-0) earned his first-career win, pitching a career-high five-plus innings with five hits allowed and one walk. He also tied his personal best with six strikeouts.
Texas A&M starting pitcher Ryan Prager (2-2) was saddled with the loss, allowing three earned runs across 3 2/3 frames. He surrendered three hits and three walks while striking out one.
Langford (2-for-4), Riopelle (3-for-4) and Evans (2-for-5) picked up multiple hits in the semifinal matchup.
- Florida advances to its 15th SEC Tournament Championship game. The Gators have won the SEC Tournament title seven times (1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, 2011, 2015).
- Manning made his first pitching appearance in 53 days, blanking No. 5 Texas A&M across a career-high five innings while earning his first-career win. Manning also tied his career high with six strikeouts.
- Manning and Jameson combined to shutout Texas A&M, marking the first time all season the Aggies have been held scoreless.
- J. Fabian's home run moved him into sole possession of second in the SEC with 22 home runs.
- 2022 SEC Home Run Leaders 1. Langford (23) 2. Fabian (22)
- Florida is now 11-13 all-time vs. Texas A&M.
- The Gators are 10-7 vs. the Aggies under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan.
- Florida has won nine of the last 13 meetings.
- Florida improved to 75-67 all-time at the SEC Tournament.
- The Gators are 7-2 in Hoover across the last two seasons.
- Florida has won 14 of its last 17 games and 16 of its last 20.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
On what contributed to today's win...
"Well, I think the story of the game obviously today was pitching. Timmy gave us a great start, five scoreless, and then Fisher came in and threw four scoreless to help us save a few arms for tomorrow. But offensively we were really good all day, and I think some of the things kind of go unnoticed. Josh Rivera had a really good game today offensively, Ty Evans made three outstanding plays in right field, and we asked Mac Guscette to catch 18 innings today and he just did an incredible job with the pitching staff. Had the big three-run homer in the first game in the ninth and had a key line drive to drive in two. I mean, it was a long day at the field, but it was a lot of fun. I'm really proud of the way we competed, and now we have an opportunity to play one more game."
On the turnaround he's seen from the team...
"Like I said, I was hoping we would figure it out a little bit sooner, but sometimes in this game it doesn't happen at the exact time you want to, in that time frame. But we're starting to play really good, and I said this in the postgame, but our defense has been really good. I think it helps our young pitchers to have trust in their stuff a little bit more, and I thought offensively we've been really good the entire year. We've gone through spurts, where we weren't as good as I had hoped, but for the most part, by and large we've been pretty good offensively."
On the importance of Manning's outing...
"I think it meant a lot to him. The year hasn't gone exactly the way he's wanted it to. But he got an opportunity today, and I think I'll echo what he said, that he was presented with an opportunity and took full advantage of it. He pitched really, really good. Pitched really good for us today."
Florida advances to the SEC Tournament Championship game against the winner of tonight's game between Tennessee and Kentucky. The matchup will air on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. ET.