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Pitching, Timely Hitting Lead Gators to Series Victory Over Miami

It was a rivalry weekend in Coral Gables, as the Gators and Hurricanes clashed for a top-25 matchup on the diamond. This was the first then-ranked opponent the Gators have faced this season.

As usual, Hunter Barco got the start on Friday. This time, however, it was an uncharacteristic start for the left-hander. Barco got tagged for four earned runs on seven hits and had five strikeouts through five innings. There wasn't much run support behind him and the four run deficit at the time seemed like it was going to be tough to overcome as Barco's night came to an end.

This proved to be true, as Miami went on to win the first game 5-2. The Gators rallied late, but ultimately still came up short. Heading into the rest of the weekend, I wasn't entirely sure of what to expect from the Gators.

Getting a win on Friday would've put them in a great position to win, or even sweep the series. The Gators, however, decided that one loss on the weekend was enough thanks to some outstanding pitching performances and timely hitting throughout the rest of the series.

Brandon Sproat got his first weekend start on Saturday, a start that was much deserved after putting together consecutive strong outings against North Florida in separate games. Sproat was fantastic for the Gators, tossing a shutout across a career-high 6.1 IP, allowing only four hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts.

During his outing, Sproat allowed only four runners to reach scoring position throughout his night, with none of them coming around to score. He was pitching with emotion and it seemed like any time Miami felt like they were stringing something together, he immediately shut it down.

Jud Fabian brought momentum back to the Gators side on Saturday with a line-drive, two-run home run to give the Gators an early 3-0 lead in the top half of the third. Fabian only collected two hits on the weekend, but he was a major key in the Gators taking the series from the Hurricanes.

He kept the momentum going on Sunday by lining a double down the left field line to give the Gators a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The double was part of four consecutive hits on Sunday, as the Gators did not cool off between games. Fabian finished the weekend driving in three runs on two hits and walking seven times.

Kendrick Calilao also had a big weekend at the plate, collecting one hit in each game. On Saturday and Sunday he homered, with both coming at times where it felt like he put the game out of reach. This was a theme of Saturday and Sunday for the Gators. Once they started scoring, they used timely hitting and took advantage of their opportunities, putting up eight or more runs in the final two games.

Joining Sproat in giving the Gators a boost was Timmy Manning, who started on Sunday. Manning looked almost unhittable early on, breezing his way through the first few frames. Manning finished his day allowing one run on three hits, two walks, and five strikeouts through 4.1 innings.

What Brandon Sproat has done in the early goings of the 2022 season has been really big for the Gators. Before the season, Kevin O'Sullivan mentioned that there needed to be patience with the rotation and it was going to take some time to figure out who would stick.

Sproat has emerged himself as a candidate to stick around in the rotation moving forward. If he keeps this up, he can help turn what was a question mark, into a solid foundation with himself and Barco. The starting rotation has been surprisingly good thus far, and that's before the team will get Nick Pogue and Tyler Nesbitt back.

We knew the Gators offense would be important to the team's early success. And while the Gators bats have put together some seriously impressive numbers, it's hard not to be equally as impressed with the work the starting rotation and bullpen has done in 2022.

This weekend was a big test for the Gators. They were playing a ranked opponent, on the road with sold out crowds. After dropping the first game, the team rallied together to earn a big series win. Lately, the Gators have been firing on all cylinders and the team has been really fun to watch. This is all coming together at a great time as next week is the last full non-conference week before SEC play begins.

The Gators will be back in action on Tuesday and Wednesday with both games against Jacksonville. On Tuesday, they will host Jacksonville with first pitch scheduled for 6:00 PM. On Wednesday, they will head to Jacksonville with first pitch scheduled for the same time.

Featured Photo Credit: @GatorsBB on Twitter

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