2022 NCAA Tournament Gainesville Regional Preview

Image credit: Brandon Sproat (Carla Kakouris)

Friday’s schedule

No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 Central Michigan (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Liberty (1 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

No. 1 Florida (39-22)

All-Conference honorees: OF Wyatt Langford (second), C BT Riopelle (first)

Season in a sentence: Florida was just 6-12 in SEC play in late April and had lost Preseason All-American lefthander Hunter Barco due to injury but rallied over the last month of the season to get back to .500 in conference play and then make a run to the title game of the SEC Tournament, earning it a home regional.

Best pitcher: Brandon Sproat, RHP. When Barco went down, Sproat moved to the front of the rotation, and he’s handled his new assignment well. He’s 8-4, 3.59 with 76 strikeouts in 82.2 innings. His fastball works in the mid 90s and he mixes in a good changeup, making him very difficult on opposing hitters.

Best hitter: Wyatt Langford, OF. Langford is enjoying a breakout sophomore season. He’s hitting .363/.457/.722 with 23 home runs. After coming to school as a catcher, he’s made the transition to the outfield and has been a part of a stellar defensive unit for the Gators. Langford projects as a first-round pick next year.

Outlook: Florida built up a lot of momentum over the last month and is 16-5 since it was swept by Tennessee in late April. The Gators were a top-10 team coming into the season, and they look to be making good on that promise now. They got a difficult draw, however, and will need to be playing at the top of their game to advance to super regionals for the first time since 2018. They have plenty of depth to deploy on the mound and their powerful lineup (five players have hit at least nine home runs) will make things tough on opposing pitchers.


No. 2 Oklahoma (37-20)

All-Conference honorees: SP Jake Bennett (first), SS Peyton Graham (first), RP Trevin Michael (second), 1B Blake Robertson (second), OF Tanner Tredaway (second)

Season in a sentence: After an up-and-down first half of the season, Oklahoma turned it on in the second half, going 19-8 and sweeping through the Big 12 Tournament to win its first championship since 2013.

Best pitcher: Jake Bennett, LHP. Bennett has led the Sooners rotation all season and been consistently strong on Friday nights. He’s 7-3, 3.60 with 103 strikeouts and 18 walks in 90 innings. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he mixes in a good slider.

Best hitter: Peyton Graham, SS. Graham began his career at Oklahoma at third base and played there the last two years before moving to shortstop this spring. He’s looked good while moving up the middle and he’s putting together his best season yet at the plate. He’s hitting .339/.422/.648 with 16 home runs and 30 stolen bases. His combination of speed and power makes him one of the most dynamic players in the nation.

Outlook: Oklahoma can feel hard done that it isn’t hosting a regional. Instead, it gets a difficult draw in Gainesville. Oklahoma doesn’t have the most powerful offense and instead likes to take advantage of its speed on the bases. That’s a different look for opponents, but this will probably come down to how it pitches. The Sooners have locked into a rotation of Bennett, David Sandlin (7-3, 5.31) and Cade Horton (3-2, 6.75) in recent weeks and closer Trevin Michael (4-1, 3.46, 9 SV) is a weapon out of the bullpen. The Sooners pitching was lights-out last week at the Big 12 Tournament. If they can deliver something similar this weekend, Oklahoma has a real chance at advancing to super regionals for the first time since 2013.

No. 3 Liberty (37-21)

All-Conference honorees: SP Joe Adametz III (first), C Gary Betts (second), RP Mason Fluharty (second) DH Brady Gulakowski (first), SP Garrett Horn (second)

Season in a sentence: Liberty made noise with an Opening Weekend series win at Florida and then backed it up by winning the ASUN regular-season title for the second consecutive year.

Best pitcher: Joe Adametz III, LHP. Adametz missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but the fourth-year lefthander has come back strong this season. He’s 6-3, 2.47 with 77 strikeouts in 80 innings. His quality changeup makes him a difficult matchup.

Best hitter: Aaron Anderson, OF. Anderson leads the Flames in hitting as he comes into the weekend batting .318/.429/.494 with eight home runs. He does a good job of getting on base, as he’s drawn 35 walks and been hit by 12 pitches, but he also packs a punch. His 17 doubles also lead the team.

Outlook: Liberty won’t be overwhelmed by the situation, not after advancing to the Knoxville Regional final last year and this year winning a series at Florida. The Flames are strong on the mound, starting with Adametz, but they’re not lacking in other weapons. Horn (6-1, 1.93) and Fluharty (6-3, 3.15) have big stuff and can pile up strikeouts. Liberty has a well-balanced offense with table-setters like Anderson and Three Hillier (.308/.417/.480) and it has some power bats in Gulakowski (.265/.336/.548, 16 HR) and Derek Orndorff (.265/.417/.520, 15 HR, 17 SB). It’s a tough draw, but if Adametz can outduel Bennett in game 1, Liberty has what it takes to keep things rolling the rest of the weekend.


No. 4 Central Michigan (42-17)

All-Conference honorees: 2B Mario Camilletti (first), OF Drew Lechnir (second), OF Jakob Marsee (first), SP Jordan Patty (second), SS Justin Simpson (first), SP Andrew Taylor (first)

Season in a sentence: Ball State took the regular-season title from Central Michigan on the final weekend of the regular season, but the Chippewas got payback in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, winning the title to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.

Best pitcher: Andrew Taylor, RHP. Taylor has been excellent this season and projects to be one of the highest drafted pitchers in program history. He’s 8-3, 3.19 with 117 strikeouts in 79 innings this season and makes for a very difficult matchup. His fastball sits in the low 90s and there’s some deception to his delivery that makes the pitch play up.

Best hitter: Mario Camilletti, 2B. Camilletti is in his fifth season of college baseball and he’s making it one to remember. He’s hitting .384/.505/.583 and leads the team in all three categories. He’s walked twice as often as he’s struck out (52 walks, 26 strikeouts) and those on-base skills make him a valuable hitter at the top of the lineup.

Outlook: Central Michigan upset Miami in its first game of regionals in 2019 and last year advanced to the South Bend Regional final. So, the Chippewas and coach Jordan Bischel know what they’re doing on this stage. Taylor is one of the toughest pitchers any No. 4 seed will throw this weekend and he will absolutely give them a chance against Florida. If CMU is going to get back to a regional final (or more), it will need veteran righthander Jordan Patty (6-5, 5.21) to be at his best. Central Michigan is a team that’s not going to beat itself. The Chippewas play good defense, they have a sound approach at the plate, and they throw a lot of strikes. Winning games won’t be easy this weekend, given the draw, but they’ll at least be pesky as long as their tournament run lasts.


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