Auburn shortstop Chuck Jeroloman and Florida catcher Brian Jeroloman will face each other on opposing teams for the first time in their lives when the Tigers and Gators square off beginning Friday night. A veteran of SEC battles since he arrived from the sunshine state three years ago, Jeroloman says that this situation is going to be a little different because of his little brother on the opposing side.
"It's awesome," Jeroloman says. "It's pretty much a dream come true, especially for my folks. They'll be able to come watch us both play against each other in a big SEC series. This is big for both of us. They are leading the East right now and we are fighting to stay around in the West.
"It's a big series and it's awesome to be able to play against him," Jeroloman adds. "A bunch of the guys here really can't wait until they get down there and get a chance to run on him. Guys like Sean (Gamble) and Clete (Thomas) have been talking about it all week. We can't wait to get down there and play ball."
Things almost turned out differently for the Jeroloman family. Happy at Auburn and wanting his brother to come aboard, Chuck says that he tried to get him to the Plains, but the situation in Gainesville was too good to pass up for a number of reasons.
"It's a lot closer for my parents to get to," Jeroloman says. "They would have made the trip here if he was able to come here, but the money there with the in-state tuition and the scholarships they are able to give for academics, you just can't beat it really. He basically makes money to go there. They also lost their catcher last year and didn't have another one coming in. That was a great selling point they had to offer to him."
Chuck Jeroloman has committed just six errors this season at shortstop for the Tigers.
Unlike most weekends this season, Chuck and Brian won't share secrets and tips. This weekend it's all put aside, but Chuck says that once it's over things will go back to normal.
"I try to give him a hard time a lot of the time," Jeroloman says of his younger brother. "We talk just about every weekend. I ask him how he's doing and try to help him out a little bit and let him know what to expect each weekend."
Having a brother play for Florida and being from the state, Jeroloman has a good feel for what to expect when the 29-14 Tigers take on the hot Gators. With an overall record of 31-12 and 11-7 in SEC play, Florida has come on strong and much of that can be attributed to balance both at the plate and on the mound.
"They are a great hitting team and they have a stud that throws and pretty much gets an automatic win for them every weekend in Justin Hoyman," Jeroloman says. "He's been really good for them in the SEC and he's been in the lineup since he got there. From top to bottom they are a good staff. Their hitters are the same way they always are down there. They just rake (swing the bats well)."
A perfect 8-0 on the season with an earned run average of just 2.62, Hoyman has performed like an All-SEC pitcher. In 12 starts he has given up just 59 hits in 86 innings while striking out 66 and walking 22.
Starter Bryan Ball has also been solid this season with a 5-1 record and a 3.88 ERA. The remaining start will likely go to Tommy Boss, who is 2-2 with a 6.94 ERA. Out of the bullpen both Darren O'Day (5-1, 5 saves, 1.98 ERA) and Conner Falkenbach (7-3, 3.72 ERA) have been outstanding.
At the plate C.J. Smith leads the Gators with a .371 average, 12 home runs and 50 runs batted in. Right behind him is Ben Harrison at .344 with 10 home runs and 38 runs batted in. Brian Jeroloman is next with a .337 average and one home run. As a team the Gators are hitting .311 and have 49 home runs and 85 doubles.
While the times have been hard at home this season for Auburn, the road has been a kinder place with series wins at Clemson, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Alabama already in 2004. Jeroloman says that this team feels comfortable playing away from home and they're excited about the challenge Florida brings this weekend.
"I have always loved being on the road because you get booed," Jeroloman says. "It's kind of the way it is here sometimes when you're not doing too good. I love being on the road and getting heckled. It makes you step up your game."
Game times for the weekend are 5:30 p.m. CDT on Friday and noon on both Saturday and Sunday. The first two games of the series will be shown live on the Sunshine Network.