UF clutching confidence for road series

Thirty games deep into the season and Florida's finally starting to feel it. The bullpen's loose, the hitters are producing in key situations and the defense is crisp. A three-game winning streak and the confidence stemming from the those contests is not only propelling the Gators into their road series at No.17 Mississippi state this weekend, but into the second half of the 2013 season, as well.

Spirits started to rise within Florida last weekend, when the orange and blue secured their first SEC series win against Ole Miss courtesy of some of the best starts on the mound the Gators have dished out all season.

Junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford and freshman left-hander Danny Young were the first to toe the rubber for UF Saturday and Sunday when the Gators nabbed shutout wins. Crawford secured SEC Pitcher of the Week for his season-high, eight-strikeout performance.

"That started everything: Our starters going deep and just the bullpen being able to relax and just go in and do their thing," fellow pitcher Ryan Harris said.

Harris was credited with Florida's most recent win: Tuesday's 5-3 comeback victory over Central Florida. He said the team's confidence has been mounting in the bullpen as the Gators continue to succeed in putting the pieces together.

"We're ready to make the second half of the season — coming back, start winning some games," Harris said. "The mood has changed in the bullpen a little bit. I think everybody's ready to make a run at it."

This weekend, Florida will start Crawford (1-4, 4.46) on Friday versus Mississippi State senior lefty Luis Pollorena (4-1, 3.34) and Young (1-2, 3.12) Saturday against senior RHP Kendall Graveman (3-2, 2.43). Neither Florida nor Mississippi State has announced a Sunday starter.

While UF's pitching production is at a high, senior Vickash Ramjit attested for the opposite side of the plate. Florida's first baseman pulled a two-run homerun Sunday and an RBI double Tuesday. A standout for UF's at-bats as of late has been the execution of two-out runs. Against the Knights, three of the Gators' five runs were punched in on two-out deficits.

"Big, two-out hits and guys scoring on passed balls, being aggressive — that's how our team should be," Ramjit said. "That's how our team is."

Sophomore Taylor Gushue also commended Florida's two-out production at the plate Tuesday saying it was a "good step in the right direction" for the team. While UF is riding three wins now, Gushue reflected back to a recent, darker time when Florida was riding a different streak.

Beginning Feb. 20 against Georgia Southern, Florida kicked off a six-game losing streak including a sweep by Florida Gulf Coast and three, extra-innings drops.

"That's when a light went on in our heads and we were like, ‘Man, what are we doing?" Gushue recalled. "I'm glad we turned it around — we're turning it around right now."

Florida will take on Mississippi State in Starkville Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

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