Florida hit three home runs to overcome a two-run deficit in the first inning for a 5-4 victory over South Carolina in Game 1 of the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional on Friday night before a raucous record crowd of 8,477 at Condron Ballpark in Gainesville.
Josh Rivera, Tyler Shelnut and BT Riopelle went deep for the Gators as they won their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament game since dropping into the losers' bracket of the Gainesville Regional with a loss to Texas Tech last Saturday. \
The game was delayed by 2 hours, 37 minutes due to weather. Shelnut added an RBI single for insurance in the eighth, putting the Gators up 5-3, which proved crucial when Will McGillis hit a solo homer for South Carolina in the top of the ninth. McGillis went 3-for-5 with two home runs and three RBI.
Seven of the first 11 South Carolina batters to face Florida starter Brandon Sproat got a hit, including leadoff hitter McGillis, who hit a towering home run to left field for the game's first run. McGillis added an RBI single in the second inning to put the Gamecocks up 3-2.
After Braylen Wimmer's double put runners on second and third with one out, the Gators opted to intentionally walk Ethan Petry to load the bases. That brought up Gamecocks cleanup hitter Cole Messina, who hit a come-backer to the mound that Sproat threw home to start a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
The red-hot Riopelle now has seven hits in nine postseason games: four in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, two in the Gainesville Regional, and one in Friday night's NCAA Super Regional Game 1 against South Carolina. Six of Riopelle's hits are home runs, including two in Monday's regional-clinching win over Texas Tech.
In the final home start of his career, Sproat needed 26 pitches to escape the first inning down 2-0. He gave up another run in the third, but the inning-ending double play turned around Sproat's night. He retired seven consecutive batters until his throwing error in the fifth allowed Brimmer to reach.
Still, Sproat got out of the inning unharmed to go six innings. He allowed nine hits, three runs, walked two and struck out seven in his 106-pitch outing, highlighted by a 100-mph fastball to strike out Gavin Casas in the third inning.
Relievers Cade Fisher (two scoreless innings) and Brandon Neely (one run in ninth) finished off the Gamecocks.
Riopelle nearly tied the game in the fourth inning when he flew deep to center field for the second out. He smiled as he returned to the dugout, knowing he just missed his third homer in two games. He didn't miss in the sixth, drilling an 0-1 pitch from Gamecocks reliever Will Sanders for a solo homer and 4-3 UF lead.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8,477 - Announced crowd at Condron Ballpark on Friday night, the largest on-campus crowd in state college baseball history; 17 - Home runs for Rivera this season, third on the team behind Jac Caglianone (31) and Wyatt Langford (18).
The Gators host South Carolina in Game 2 of the NCAA Super Regional on Saturday at 3 p.m. If the Gators win, they advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2018. If they lose, a winner-take-all Game 3 will be played Sunday at 3 p.m. at Condron Ballpark.