Top 25 Breakdown: No. 7 Florida SEASON PREVIEW Kendall Rogers - January 18, 2023 2022 Record: 42-24 (15-15 SEC) Coach (Record at school): Kevin O’Sullivan (627-302 in 15 seasons) Ballpark (Capacity): Condron Family Ballpark (7,000) Postseason History: 37 regionals (active streak: 14), 12 CWS trips (last in 2018). More: Florida Fall Report Schedule, Stats, Team News: Follow the Gators all season long at our Florida Team Page. Spoiler Florida’s Projected Lineup Position Name Class B-T AVG/OBP/SLG 2B HR RBI BB/K SB/ATT C B.T. Riopelle SR L-R .304/.371/.551 9 15 55 21/78 6/7 1B Tyer Shelnut JR R-R TRANSFER–Santa Fe (Fla.) 2B Cade Kurland FR R-R FRESHMAN–Tampa (Berkeley Prep) 3B Colby Halter JR L-R .239/.338/.378 11 8 27 30/66 7/10 SS Josh Rivera JR R-R .254/.351/.429 8 9 32 30/44 6/9 LF Wyatt Langford JR R-R .355/.447/.719 9 26 63 36/44 7/11 CF Michael Robertson RS-FR L-R INJURY–Did not play 2022 RF Ty Evans SO R-R .242/.301/.465 5 5 16 8/34 3/5 DH Jac Caglianone SO R-R .288/.339/.548 6 7 27 5/21 0/0 Position Name Class Position W-L ERA SV IP K-BB OBA SP1 Brandon Sproat JR RHP 9-4 3.41 0 89.2 82-33 .251 SP2 Hurston Waldrep JR (Stats from USM) RHP 6-2 3.20 0 90 140-33 .213 SP3 Pierce Coppola SO LHP 0-0 4.15 0 4.1 7-2 .278 SP4 Brandon Neely SO RHP 3-3 3.76 1 69.1 74-20 .205 Closer Clete Hartzog JR RHP TRANSFER–Wallace Dothan (Ala.) Grading The Gators Just as scouts grade prospects using the 20-80 scouting scale, we use a 20-80 scale to evaluate teams in our top 25. A score of 50 in each category is average, relative to a typical NCAA tournament team; 55 is slightly above-average; 60 is above-average (plus); 70 is well above-average (plus-plus); 80 is top of the scale, historically strong. Accordingly, 45 is fringe-average or slightly below-average; 40 is below-average; 30 is well below-average; and 20 is the extreme in that direction. Hitting: 55 Power: 65 Speed: 45 Defense: 60 Starting Pitching: 65 Bullpen: 55 Experience/Intangibles: 55 Team Breakdown Strengths: I think the biggest strength for this team is the fact the program is in a much better spot mentally than it was a season ago. Anyone with a pulse knows that the clubhouse didn’t seem to great for UF last season, but everything I’ve heard since the middle of the fall is that things are now in good standing. Combine that with a weekend rotation that is loaded with talent and has a premier weekend starter in Hurston Waldrep, and it’s easy to believe in the pitching staff. I also think the offensive lineup will be stout, particularly near the top of the lineup with the return of Riopelle, Langford and Caglianone, along with the addition of speedy Michael Robertson. Robertson just seems like that X-factor guy for me. I like the mold of this club entering the spring. Question Marks: There’s no doubt the Gators have some question marks. For starters, after how last season was such a roller coaster, are we to expect them to be ultra-consistent this season? On top of that, outside of Riopelle, Langford and talented sophomore Jac Caglianone, who will emerge as premier bats in this offensive lineup? The talent is there to, but there are some moving pieces in that regard. And there’s even some question marks on the mound, albeit, nothing too serious. Brandon Sproat needs to be more consistent and we’re fascinated to see how Coppola makes the transition. I’m also intrigued to see how the bullpen develops with the return of Blake Purnell and Philip Abner, along with transfer righthander Clete Hartzog. Hartzog has a high spin rate with feel for multiple pitches. Star Power: Wyatt Langford. Langford is sure proof that a player can transform from a relative unknown to one of the nation’s premier players. The talented outfielder jumped on the scene in a big way last season by having an All-American campaign that included a .355 average, 26 home runs and 63 RBIs. One of the nation’s premier prospects, Langford has a blend of impressive athleticism, consistency and big-time raw power. He’s a five-tool talent with an ability to steal bases as well. Glue Guy: BT Riopelle. If you listen to coach Kevin O’Sullivan talk about his team, he always seems to have very high praise for Riopelle, the former Coastal Carolina transfer. Riopelle has an impressive physical presence, and he made a big statement last year with a solid offensive campaign, hitting .304 with nine doubles, 15 home runs and 55 RBIs. But his importance to this team extends beyond his offensive production. He’s also a decent catcher and can play first base as well. He’s also an excellent leader for this program. Pick to Click: Pierce Coppola. The Gators aren’t going to throw too much pressure on the second-year lefthanded pitcher, but it’s easy to get excited about his potential. Coppola is a 6-foot-8, 240-pound, lefty who is anywhere from 93-97 and up to 98 mph with his fastball, along with a splitter that continues to make progress. Coppola pitches on the first base side of the rubber and is an uncomfortable at bat for any hitter due to his arm slot. It’s one thing to have a guy with Coppola’s talent in the weekend rotation. But having to face him as a potential Sunday guy? Have fun. Top Newcomer: Michael Robertson. Since he didn’t play last season due to a hamstring injury, we’re giving the nod here to the electric outfielder. Robertson, who’s 6-foot-2, had an outstanding fall and solidified himself as the Gators’ leadoff hitter going into the 2023 campaign. Robertson is a plus runner who finished the fall 14 for 15 — yes, 14 for 15 — in stolen bases. In addition to his versatility from an offensive standpoint, he’s expected to be a plus defender with excellent speed and great route running. Outlook: It’s hard to imagine, but there’s no doubt that the Gators have officially entered prove it mode. The Gators have hosted Regionals in each of the last two seasons, but the standard in this program is getting to the College World Series. And that’s something they haven’t done since 2018. The Gators have a balanced offensive lineup with some present star power with a guy like Wyatt Langford in the middle of it. But their success at an elite level will hinge on the weekend rotation. We know what to expect from righthanded transfer Hurston Waldrep. But what about Brandon Sproat and Pierce Coppola? Sproat has a huge arm but needs to be more consistent and Coppola has incredible upside but was hurt last season. If it clicks, this is a national title type of club. From the Fall Report JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan surveyed the field last fall in an exhibition game against Georgia. He saw the opponent had older, more experienced players. Then, he looked back to his dugout. He saw youth. He saw inexperience. “I didn’t really know it until I saw it in that game,” O’Sullivan recalled. “That had like seven of their nine hitters were fifth-year players or grad students. I’m looking at it, and I’m going, the average age of our lineup was 19 and a half, I think, at that point. You know, it makes a huge difference.” Last season, even though his Gator squad was talented, making the jump to this level can require some adjustment. As a result, Florida didn’t get off to the start it wanted in conference play, falling to 6-12. The youngsters grew up to go 9-3 down the SEC stretch and followed that with an SEC tournament run losing in the finals. The strong finish earned a regional host losing in the regional to CWS Finals runner-up Oklahoma. Many of those players return for 2023, giving Florida a better mixture of talent and experience than it has had in recent seasons. The age gap wasn’t a storyline when Florida played the fall exhibition against Georgia a year later. In large part, that’s due to a veteran, balanced lineup and starting pitching rotation that figures to be one of the nation’s best. Leading the way are pitchers Brandon Sproat and Hurston Waldrep. Sproat, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound righthander, led the Gators in wins (9), starts (16), innings (89.2), and strikeouts (82) a year ago. He is joined by Southern Miss transfer Waldrep, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior righthander who went 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA for the Hattiesburg Regional champion Golden Eagles. Waldrep, with high-90s velocity and two quality secondary offerings, struck out 140 batters in his 90-innings pitched. “I think the importance of getting back Sproat and adding Waldrep to the mix totally makes us a totally different club, at least on the mound,” O’Sullivan said.