Gators Begin Crucial Series at Kentucky

Soon after the Florida's series loss to Arkansas on Sunday, Gators head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was convinced of what he has said throughout his team's slump—they will figure it out at the plate. As the regular season schedule dwindles to just three conference series remaining, there aren't many more chances for the No. 5 Gators to prove it.

This weekend at No. 6 Kentucky will provide an opportunity for Florida to correct the issues at the plate.

"I do believe that we'll get out of this thing and be a better team because of it," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said after Sunday's 3-1 loss in ten innings. "It's just very hard right now. It's our job to get these guys back and going the way they're capable. It has been a tough stretch for us."

The Gators (33-12/12-9) didn't play a midweek game because of exams, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the team. After scoring one run in the final two games of the Arkansas series, the Florida offense was searching for answers.

The issue hasn't been getting runners on base. Florida's .284 batting average is fifth in the SEC. The Gators have drawn the seventh most walks in the SEC with 172.

The offense has struggled in recent weeks to drive runners in and get on the scoreboard.

"Offensively, we're going through the roughest stretch we've been through," senior outfielder Daniel Pigott said. "But the positive thing about tough times is eventually you come out of it and that's what we're working toward. Like I said, it'll get better."

That needs to happen sooner than later for Florida.

The Gators go into the weekend two games behind a trio of teams—Kentucky, LSU and South Carolina—tied at the top of the conference with a 14-7 record. Florida is heading into the weekend alone in fourth place with a 12-9 record.

"It's tough knowing we're on the road (after) losing a series at home, but I think we've put the same mindsets into our games on the road," Pigott said. "To be honest with you, I think we'll be alright. It's definitely tough, but I don't think it's going to be tougher on the road."

The Florida pitching will need to be sharp this weekend as they head on the road to take on Kentucky (36-9/14-7 SEC). The Wildcats are tied for second in the SEC with a .308 batting average. The Gators lead the SEC, and the country, in home runs with 56, but Kentucky is second in the league with 48. It's a balanced offense that will test the Florida pitching staff.

The Gators will send junior right-hander Hudson Randall (4-1, 3.46) to the mound to open the series on Thursday and face Kentucky junior left-hander Taylor Rogers (5-2, 4.84). The series opener will be televised on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m.

On Friday, Florida will send sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson (3-0, 3.86) to the mound to face Kentucky left-hander Jerad Grundy (4-1, 4.29). First pitch Friday is set for 7 p.m.

Saturday's series finale will start at 2 p.m. and see Florida send left-hander Brian Johnson (5-3, 4.50) to the mound to counter Kentucky left-hander Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.44).

Florida catcher Mike Zunino leads the SEC with 12 home runs, but Kentucky's Luke Maile is tied for second with 11.

Fightin Gators Top Stories