5 major takeaways from Florida’s opening-series sweep over Charleston Southern

Florida baseball began its season the right way over the weekend with a sweep of Charleston Southern that saw the Gators outscore the Buccaneers 37-5 over three games.

Things could have been even more one-sided, too. Both programs agreed to a 10-run mercy rule for the series, and Florida ended each of the first two games by the seventh. The Gators threatened a third-straight mercy-rule win on Sunday, but only scored eight runs and played the first nine-inning game of the season.

It’s too early to declare the team Omaha-bound, but Florida looked strong in every phase of the game through the first weekend of the season. That said, there’s an entire season left to play and the players have to endure a tough SEC schedule before getting to the postseason. Things could look very different in just a few weeks.

But right now, Florida looks just as good as advertised and there aren’t many negatives to take away from opening weekend.

The weekend rotation is still settling in but will be incredibly strong

Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun

Perhaps it’s overly critical, but [autotag]Brandon Sproat[/autotag] and [autotag]Hurston Waldrep[/autotag] didn’t have the kind of starts many expected through the first two games of the season.

Sproat held the Buccaneers hitless through 5 2/3 innings but still allowed three earned runs on a combined five walks and hit batters. It’s bizarre to start the season with a WHIP hovering around 0.50 and still have an earned run average above 4.00, but that’s where Sproat is.

Waldrep’s day was average. He went five innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits and two walks. Sure, six strikeouts are nice – Sproat had seven – but Waldrep is still clearly settling. Both men are.

Should Florida fans be concerned? The answer is a definitive no. These guys have the national spotlight on them for a reason and have proven themselves against better competition before. Once the flow of the season gets going, both should find a rhythm and be pitching like [autotag]Jac Caglianone[/autotag] was in his first start.

Cags dominated on Sunday as the team’s starter, striking out nine and giving Kevin O’Sullivan 6 2/3 innings of two-hit ball. He walked his final batter of the night before being removed from the game at the 80-pitch mark, and the fans rightfully gave him a standing ovation for an impressive debut.

If this is what Florida is working with in the Sunday slot, the rest of the SEC should be terrified. Depth on the mound is hard to come by and Florida is only going to get stronger once Pierce Coppola returns for conference play.

The starting rotation might be too deep, but that’s a burden the Gators are delighted to carry.

Kevin O'Sullivan is working with multiple lineups

Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun

Kevin O’Sullivan sent out three different starting lineups over the weekend, and Florida fans should expect him to keep doing so until or through conference play.

Let’s just address the elephant in the room here: [autotag]Deric Fabian[/autotag] does not have a true home in the infield. He started the first game at second base, moved to first for game two and came off the bench to pinch hit in game three and shifted to first. The returns of [autotag]Colby Halter[/autotag] and [autotag]Josh Rivera[/autotag] have made things tricky for Sully, but he’s figuring things out depending on the pitching matchup.

The top of the lineup remains fairly consistent with [autotag]Michael Robertson[/autotag] batting leadoff and playing in center field. [autotag]Wyatt Langford [/autotag]has left field locked down and is batting in the two hole for now. Then, it’s usually Caglianone batting third and playing either first or designated hitter, depending on his pitching schedule. He’ll eventually stay in the designated hitter spot on days he pitches but is just focusing on the mound for now.

Rivera has surprisingly locked down the clean-up spot and has a hold on shortstop, and [autotag]BT Riopelle[/autotag] is usually batting behind him but moved up to Caglianone’s spot when he pitched. [autotag]Ty Evans[/autotag] is typically behind Riopelle in the order.

Freshman [autotag]Cade Kurland[/autotag] might make things interesting at second base. He got the start in Games 2 and 3 of the series and looks like he could be a permanent fixture despite his youth.

Sitting Halter against lefties is a way to keep [autotag]Tyler Shelnut[/autotag] and Fabian in the game on a regular basis, too. Shlenut worked his way up form ninth in the order on Friday to sixth on Sunday.


Game 1 (vs. RHP)

Game 2 (vs. LHP)

Game 3 (vs. RHP)


CF Michael Robertson

CF Michael Robertson

CF Michael Robertson


LF Wyatt Langford

LF Wyatt Langford

LF Wyatt Langford


1B Jac Caglianone

DH Jac Caglianone

1B BT Riopelle


SS Josh Rivera

SS Josh Rivera

SS Josh Rivera


C BT Riopelle

C BT Riopelle

RF Ty Evans


RF Ty Evans

RF Ty Evans

DH Tyler Shelnut


2B Deric Fabian

3B Tyler Shelnut

2B Cade Kurland


3B Colby Halter

1B Deric Fabian

3B Colby Halter


DH Tyler Shelnut

2B Cade Kurland

C Luke Heyman


The freshmen will play

Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun

Four freshmen made their debuts for Florida over the weekend, [autotag]Cade Fisher[/autotag], Luke Heyman, Cade Kurland and [autotag]Yoel Tejeda Jr[/autotag].

Kurland, as discussed above, started two of the three games for Florida at second base and looks to be an impact player despite leaving the high school ranks a year early. He has the best chance of any of the freshmen to get regular playing time this season.

Heyman is another guy O’Sullivan is trying to get in the lineup early. He was the first freshman to get a pinch-hit attempt this season, and that means something even if he did strike out. Heyman got the start behind the plate Sunday, which could become a regular thing.

Fisher and Tejeda each threw 1-2-3 innings to close out the second game of the series. Tejeda got three out with less than 10 pitches and Fisher earned his first-career strikeout. Expect to see them frequently during non-conference play.

The rest should get chances down the road. The 10-run mercy might have taken away a few innings during which Sully planned on throwing young arms.

This team can hit

Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun

It doesn’t really need to be said when a team outscores an opponent by 30 or more runs in a series, but Florida can hit the ball. There were fewer big flies than you might expect – Riopelle homered in Game 1 and Shelnut went yard in Game 2 – but this team is patient in the box and looks for a pitch to hit hard.

Robertson might be the ideal leadoff guy, and Rivera is a surprise on-base machine to start the year. He might not last in the clean-up spot, but Rivera’s bat looks like it’s continued to improve over the offseason. Ty Evans and BT Riopelle lead the team with six hits, and Evans has a slight edge over Riopelle in RBIs.

Langford going hitless in the third game of the series might be a personal disappointment, but he’s still the best hitter on the team and there isn’t much to worry about there. The same can’t be said for Colby Halter. The non-conference schedule is when he was most dominant at the plate a season ago, but he didn’t record a hit all series.

Fabian is also starting off a bit cool – he leads the team with three strikeouts – which won’t help him stay on the field as he plays a utility role for Florida. Caglianone is a bit stiff in the box right now, but he’s too good of a hitter to not settle in at some point.

Thirty-four hits and 36 runs are all the evidence you need to know that this team is going to score a ton over the season.

Defense isn't just good, it's great

[Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun]

One of the biggest differences between Florida and Charleston Southern over the weekend was just how good the Gators were at defense compared to how bad the Bucs were. The Buccaneers made routine plays look difficult and finished the weekend with five errors.

Florida put up a goose egg in the error column and made some slick plays at catcher, third base and the outfield. Robertson looks like a fine (and speedy) replacement for [autotag]Jud Fabian[/autotag] and Halter made a couple of web gem-worthy plays at third over the weekend. Both Riopelle and Heyman are sharp behind the plate, too.

Defense often gets overlooked, but championship teams need good gloves behind their pitchers and Florida has just that. The gap between Florida’s defense and most of the non-conference schedule might be vast, but the Gators should have a leg up on most of the SEC too.

Bonus: This could be the start of a special season

Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun

It might still be too early to buy tickets to Omaha, but Florida fans have every right to be optimistic about this season after getting a taste of what the 2023 baseball team has to offer.

The Gators are dominant, even when their best pieces aren’t playing to their full potential. This team might be scary once it’s hit its stride, and UF needs that after a tough few years in football and basketball.

There’s a different energy around the team this season compared to last, so get ready for what might be an unforgettable campaign.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire