Gators preparing for familiar style

Florida will see a familiar type of baseball this weekend at McKethan Stadium. It's the same one they've been using for most of the season. Tennessee doesn't have much power or experience in its lineup, and the Volunteers are using a similar style to the Gators, utilizing bunts, hit and runs while being aggressive on the bases.

It won't take Florida by surprise. Not only are the Gators practicing and preparing to slow the style of offense Tennessee uses, but they've also been practicing against it since the start of fall practice. Both teams use similar styles to jumpstart their offenses.

Tennessee is even more aggressive that the Gators. Second-year head coach Dave Serrano previously coached at Cal State Fullerton. The Titans always used the small ball approach. It's usually more prevalent with college teams from California, but Serrano brought it with him to Knoxville.

The Gators are using it because of need after losing multiple power bats last season, and it will be two similar offenses on the field Friday.

"It's a lot similar to what we've been trying to do this year, so at least we have some preparation for it because we practice against it all the time," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "That doesn't ensure success, but it's what we've tried to do in terms of creating offense."

There's an added emphasis on awareness for the Florida defense. When the Gators are on the field, the infielders have to be on their toes and anticipate bunts or stolen bases on every pitcher. There isn't much power in the Tennessee lineup, but outfielders have to be aware of aggressive base running from the Volunteers.

It all starts behind the plate. Catcher Taylor Gushue has become the leader in the field for the Gators, and he'll have to make sure the defense is correctly lined up and aware before every pitch.

"The threat of the bunt and knowing to be able to coach our team," Gushue said. "I have to make sure everybody's in the right position. They're really good at hit and runs, bunts and they break out the small ball game. We have to prepare for that and defend that."

"It's different. Coach Serrano has a west coast offensive approach to baseball. It's different from what we've seen."

The only decision made about the Florida pitching staff is that Jonathon Crawford will start on Friday night. The Gators haven't had a pitcher emerge as the second starter, so the coaching staff will go into the weekend with flexibility and make decisions after the first game about what to do with the rest of the pitching staff.

The strength of the pitching staff has been the bullpen, anchored by Daniel Gibson, Ryan Harris and Johnny Magliozzi. With those three dominating and Crawford starting, they are still searching for answers at the beginning of other games.

"We've got options," O'Sullivan said. "Whoever it is, they've got to give us a good start."

The options include Jason Carmichael, Eric Hanhold, Bobby Poyner, Tucker Simpson and Danny Young. They've all proven capable at different times this year, but the coaches need consistency to emerge.

The Gators could get more good news if Richie Martin can return to shortstop on Friday. He has played the last 10 games in center field because it is less painful on his broken finger. Since returning in that span, the Gators are 9-1.

He will test the finger out before Friday's game and make a decision from there.


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