GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators showed up for its top-10 matchup with the Vanderbilt Commodores on Friday night. Florida pounded out 10 runs while Brandon Sproat and Cade Fisher combined to shut out No. 7 Vanderbilt.
A little about Deric Fabian
Josh Rivera was expected to be drafted after the 2022 season. Florida expected Rivera to begin his professional career as well. Deric Fabian was the next in line to start at shortstop for the Gators. As the draft progressed it became clear that Rivera wasn’t going to be taken at a slot where he would be signable. He was coming back.
Rivera returned, Colby Halter returned, and Cade Kurland enrolled in the fall after graduating high school a full season early. The infield was suddenly crowded.
Fabian was leading the team in batting during fall practices before an injury. Fabian was hit in the face with a pitch during an intrasquad. He missed the rest of spring but returned to the field in January. He was second on the team in hitting in the spring.
Prior to Friday, Fabian had just one SEC at bat for Florida in 2023.
“It’s tough not playing every day,” Fabian said. “It’s tough to stay locked in mentally but it’s just something you have to do if you’re in the role I am. If I can help the team in any way, that’s all I really care about. If that’s cheering for the guys who are playing, I’m going to do that.”
Despite not playing, Fabian remained a good teammate. He was often the first over the rail to celebrate his teammates’ accomplishments. He spent countless hours alone in the batting cage, staying ready for an opportunity that looked less likely to come with each passing day. The work wasn’t done in vain.
Fabian earned a start on Friday night in place of an injured Josh Rivera. The first pitch he hit cleared the wall in left center. He knew it was out, his emotions poured out and he shared a moment with former catcher Mike Rivera, shouting as he rounded first.
“I can’t really say that here,” Fabian said with a smile when asked what he was yelling at Rivera, who turned and smiled as Fabian made his way toward Second.
You never know when your number will get called. Fabian was ready on Friday night when his was.
How important is it to host a Regional and a Super Regional? Well, the Gators own a 28-6 record at Condron Ballpark and a 9-6 record away from it. Taking a look at Brandon Sproat, the importance of pitching in familiar surroundings is even more apparent.
On the season, Sproat is 7-2 with a 4.44 ERA.
Below is a breakdown of him at home vs. on the road in the SEC.
If you take Sproat’s blowup game against Auburn out, he holds a 1.55 ERA at home in conference play.
On the road, not as good.
OpponentIPHRERBBKERAOle Miss5.1 85527Tennessee5.241149South Carolina5.244438Texas A&M 5.175414TOTAL: 2223151410285.75
Opportunity for the Gators
The Gators currently sit one game back of Vanderbilt in the SEC East. Florida is two games back of overall first-place Arkansas and 1.5 games behind Vanderbilt. Winning the SEC East won’t get you a SEC Championship to hang in Condron Ballpark but it will get you the No. 2 seed in Hoover for the SEC Tournament.
With a sweep, Florida can take over first place in the East with one more series against Kentucky to finish the regular season. Vanderbilt has to host first-place Arkansas, in another series with major implications for SEC standings.
The senior shortstop has been an integral member of the Gators this season. Rivera is second on the team with a .367 batting average and home runs (14). His 14-home runs are the most in a single season for a Florida shortstop.
Rivera was injured sliding into second base on Sunday against Texas A&M. In the top of the sixth, Rivera was picked off of first base. When he head first into second his head collided with Aggie Stanley Tucker. It was accidental but it left Rivera injured and unable to play on Friday.
Rivera will undergo testing on Saturday morning to see if he can play on Saturday. He should be able to return this season if not this weekend. Florida will need him down the stretch run but Deric Fabian made sure Rivera’s offensive output wasn’t missed Friday.
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