The Division I Men’s Baseball Championship is held at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska, each year. (Photo by Chris Gjevre/Blakeway World Panoramas/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
OMAHA, Neb. – Under the lights at Charles Schwab Field, the No. 2 Florida Gators topped the No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning on the first day of the 2023 NCAA Division I College World Series.
Gators designated hitter Luke Hyman hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning after the Gators entered the final frame down two runs.
“I don’t think there’s an adjustment. We’re going to do what we have done all year long, and that’s why Jake Berry was in the game at the end of the game,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said. “So what I think is really important is that you don’t change things much when you get to this point. You’ve got to, as Griff said, ride with the guys that got you to this point.”
In the bottom of the second, the Gators got on the board when Colby Halter ripped an RBI single to left center field, scoring BT Riopelle.
Virginia didn’t score until the top of the seventh when designated hitter Anthony Stephan’s ground ball was bobbled by the Gators’ Halter at third, forcing him to get the sure out at first base while Ethan Anderson came in to score to tie the game.
A few batters later, junior right fielder Griff O’Ferrall laced a two-run double to left field, scoring second baseman Henry Godbout and Harrison Diadawick and the Cavaliers took a 3-1 lead.
Gators starting pitcher Brandon Sproat went 6.1 innings, allowing five hits, three earned runs, walking three, and striking out seven.
The next batter, center fielder Ethan O’Donnell, roped an RBI single to right field and O’Ferrall came in to score to extend the lead to 4-1.
Cavaliers starting pitcher Nick Parker went six innings allowing four hits, one earned run, walking three batters, and striking out one.
During the bottom of the seventh inning, the Gators inched closer when second baseman Cade Kurkland’s ground ball to third base scored Dale Thomas to cut the lead to 4-2.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Riopelle began the rally for the Gators when he launched a home run to left center field to cut the deficit to 4-3.
The Cavaliers got a run back in the top of the ninth inning when Diadwick roped a triple down the right field line, scoring Casey Saucke to extend the lead to 5-3.
With the Gators down by two runs, sophomore Ty Evans launched a solo home run over the left field bullpen to cut the deficit to 5-4. A few batters later, projected 2023 Major League Baseball Draft pick center fielder Wyatt Langford launched a 456-foot moonshot homer onto the left field concourse to tie the game up at 5-5.
“Going up to the plate I was thinking the same thing I always do,” Langford said. “I was going up there to compete and get on base and pass the torch for the next man to eventually lead us to winning the game.”
Riopelle was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and then designated hitter Luke Hetman lifted the game-winning sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Jac Caglianone as the Gators won their first game in the 2023 College World Series 6-5.
“I knew it would probably come down to a one-run game,” Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “That’s just the way that these things work. Virginia is not going to give you anything. And we were just fortunate enough to have some really good at-bats there tonight.”
Florida will play in the winner’s bracket against Oral Roberts University on Sunday at 7 p.m. EDT. The University of Virginia will play in the loser’s bracket against TCU on Sunday at 2 p.m. EDT. All NCAA Division I World Series games are on the ESPN family of networks.