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Five new Gators to watch in fall doubleheader

The Florida Gators baseball team will play their first two fall ball scrimmage Saturday afternoon. The Gators will host Georgia Southern with the first game of their Saturday doubleheader starting at 2 pm.

Both teams are in the middle of position battles and want to see which players stand out against quality competition. A lot of freshmen could potentially earn playing time if they produce in these scrimmages against other teams.

The Gators return a very talented roster and also brought in the No. 1 2021 recruiting class in the country. Here are five newcomers for the Gators to watch against Georgia Southern.

C Rene Lastres 

Rene Lastres was the highest-ranked prospect that honored his commitment with Florida in their 2021 recruiting class. Lastres was a Perfect Game All-American catcher out of Calvary Christian Academy in South Florida.

The Miami native has impressed the coaches since his arrival on campus. Lastres has a very violent swing and has plenty of raw power that could make a very dangerous hitter in the SEC. He’s also an excellent defensive catcher with a cannon for an arm. If Lastres continues to impress in these fall scrimmages, he could earn himself some playing time in the regular season.

The Gators are having a catcher competition with two veterans, but Lastres might be the most talented catcher on Florida’s roster. It depends on how quickly his game translates to the college level.

LHP Pierce Coppola

Another Perfect Game All-American that should get some playing time this scrimmage is Pierce Coppola. The New Jersey native was one of the top-ranked left-handed pitchers in the country. He was also considered a Top 200 draft prospect but went undrafted in the 2021 MLB Draft.

Coppola is a 6-foot-8, 215-pound left-handed pitcher with a plus fastball and has drawn comparisons to former Gators southpaw A.J. Puk. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s and was also clocked at 98 this past spring. Coppola also features an 11-5 curveball and changeup.

The Florida weekend pitching rotation most likely has two out of three spots in the rotation filled up with the Sunday role available. Coppola could become the Sunday starter if he performs like he’s capable.

C BT Riopelle

The Coastal Carolina transfer BT Riopelle is the only transfer from Florida’s 2021 recruiting class. Riopelle was a two-year starter at Coastal Carolina before entering the Transfer Portal. A big reason why Riopelle chose Florida was their need for an experienced catcher.

Riopelle is the most experienced catcher on Florida’s roster with a solid bat and works well with pitchers. A big thing to watch for with Riopelle is how his game will translate against SEC-level competition.

Besides catching, Riopelle has also practiced at first base, which is another position that is open to competition. The left-handed-hitting catcher could move to first if one of the other catchers also plays well in the fall.

LHP Philip Abner

Another freshman left-handed pitcher that has impressed early in fall camp is Philip Abner. The North Carolina native was a Top 100 prospect coming out of high school and attended the same high school as former Florida right-handed pitcher Jackson Kowar.

Abner has looked really good early on in fall camp and should be one of the favorites for the Sunday role in Florida’s weekend rotation. Even if he isn’t a weekend starter, Abner could get a couple of midweek starts.

On the mound, Abner has a four-pitch mix highlighted by his fastball and changeup. Abner’s fastball sits in the low-90s and tops out at 94 mph with some life. His changeup does a good job of keeping hitters off balance and forcing weak contact. Abner also features a plus slider and a solid curveball.

OF Ty Evans

Outfielder Ty Evans was the only Gators signee that was drafted and still decided to enroll at Florida. Evans was selected in the 20th round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves.

Evans is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder out of Lakeland Christian with great speed and good power. The Gators might have a couple of outfield positions open, depending on what the Florida coaching staff decides how to use with Sterlin Thompson.

Evans is competing for the starting left-field role as the Gators lost Jacob Young to the draft. With Young in the MiLB, Evans and a handful of underclassmen are competing for the everyday left fielder role. It’ll be interesting to see how much Evans plays in the doubleheader against Georgia Southern on Saturday.