No. 5 UF's Sproat shuts out No. 24 Bama in SEC opener
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - No. 5 Florida used a complete-game, one-hit shutout from starter Brandon Sproat to win its SEC opener against No. 24 Alabama by a score of 3-0 at Condron Family Ballpark on Thursday night.
Throwing his first-career complete game, Sproat allowed a lone single to Ed Johnson in the second inning. The right-hander gave up just two walks and struck out a career-high 11 batters.
The Gators (17-3, 1-0 SEC) and Crimson Tide (16-3, 0-1 SEC) exchanged zeros throughout the early going. Sproat allowed just one hit and one walk in his first turn through the order, striking out three in the process.
The pitchers' duel continued into the middle-third of the matchup, with Sproat firing three more scoreless frames to take a shutout into the seventh. Alabama starter Hagan Banks ceded duties to Hunter Furtado in the fourth, with the latter holding the score until the bottom of the sixth inning.
At that point, Michael Robertson gave UF life with two outs by working a walk. One batter later, freshman Cade Kurland broke the game open with a go-ahead, two-run homer to left field.
With a 2-0 lead in hand, Sproat went back to work in the seventh, churning out a clean frame while tying his career high with nine strikeouts. That allowed the Gators to extend their advantage to 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI groundout by Ty Evans.
Sproat worked another one-two-three frame in the eighth, increasing hit total to a career-high 11 strikeouts. He retired the side in order again in the ninth to polish off Florida's first complete-game shutout since Jack Leftwich accomplished the feat vs. Missouri on May 17, 2019.
Sproat (4-0) improved to 9-0 across his last 11 starts, firing nine shutout innings. He surrendered just one hit and two walks while striking out 11.
Furtado (0-1) received his first loss of the campaign after allowing three earned runs across 4 2/3 innings. He allowed two hits and two walks while striking out four.
- Florida is now 14-5 across its last 19 games against SEC opponents dating back to 2022.
- Sproat fired Florida's first complete-game shutout since Jack Leftwich accomplished the feat vs. Missouri on May 17, 2019. Over his last two SEC starts, Sproat has allowed one run and five hits across 17 1/3 frames while striking out 18 batters. Thursday marked Florida's first shutout win over Alabama since a 6-0 victory on May 26, 2011.
- Dating back to April 29, 2022 when he took over the Friday-night role vs. Kentucky, Sproat has made 11 starts and is 9-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 76 strikeouts and 25 walks across 69 1/3 innings - and Florida is 11-0. That equates to over six innings per start over that period. Sproat has not lost a decision since April 23, 2022 vs. Tennessee.
- Rivera extended his team-leading reached base streak to 20 games. Robertson extended his own on-base streak to 17 games. Caglianone's 18-game on-base streak was snapped on Thursday.
- Florida has struck out 228 batters in 169 innings - translating to 12.1 per nine innings.
- Through 20 games, Florida has a run differential of plus-123. The Gators have scored in 88 of 158 batted innings this season (55.7%).
- The Gators have a nation-leading 231 hits through 20 games (11.6 hits/game).
- The Gators improve to 68-58 against the Crimson Tide including 37-18 at home. Florida is 27-6 in the series under Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
On Sproat's outing...
"That's as good as he's thrown since he's been here. I think bouncing back from last week's start to be able to do what he did tonight speaks volume to where he's at mentally and maturity-wise. He was really, really special tonight against an older lineup. With the possibility of having to play two games tomorrow, two nine inning games, it certainly keeps our bullpen intact."
On the decision to leave Sproat in...
"He was at 98. Obviously, you look at the pitch count and you kind of think, well should we run him back out there in the ninth? In all honesty, his stuff in the eighth didn't look any different than it did in the first. I thought he earned the opportunity to finish it. Between 98 pitches and 105 is not a whole lot of difference. If someone would have got on or something, we probably would have went to the pen. Like I said, his stuff there in the ninth was just as good as it were in the first. It wasn't that hard of a decision. Like I said, sometimes you just watch the stuff and he didn't look like he had to make a whole lot of leverage pitches tonight and it worked out."
On the defense and baserunning...
"Josh [Rivera]'s play on the first base side of second was just outstanding. Then, the last play of the game by Cade [Kurland] was a really, really good play. The other thing is when Josh stole third and we got that third run, that was huge. We put a lot of emphasis on the base running, going first to third with one out and trying to emphasize stealing third base..." FROM RHP BRANDON SPROAT On his gem... "It really all comes down to the mental side. Last week, I was struggling a little bit. This week, I had a ton of clarity and what I was going to do of myself and for the team. I just go out there and throw the ball as hard as I can every time. It works for me."
Florida and Alabama meet again in game two on Saturday on SEC Network+.