Pressure builds with new tournament format

The Gators will open the SEC Tournament on Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. as the event takes on a new format. The first day will include four single-elimination games, taking away from the previously double-elimination tournament. The hope for SEC coaches is that it will prepare teams for the pressure that comes with the NCAA Tournament.

"It should help your team prepare mentally for what's to come if we're fortunate enough to make the postseason," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said on Monday. "There's little margin for error. It should act as a good tune for all the teams moving on."

The margin for error is especially small for the teams playing on Tuesday. The top two seeds that will play on Tuesday -- Mississippi State and Ole Miss -- seem locked into an NCAA Tournament berth. It would be a surprise if either didn't get into the field at this point in the season.

After that, there are question marks. Alabama comes into the tournament as a seven-seed and opens against ten-seed Auburn in what should be an energetic crowd at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. Both teams have ended the season on a hot streak that is starting to get them talked about as being in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament.

The Gators are still in the hunt, featuring at RPI of 25, higher than Alabama or Auburn. Florida also has the top strength of the schedule in the country that should give them a positive view from the tournament committee. The issue is the close to the season, as the Gators won just two of six games against Auburn and last-place Georgia to end the regular season.

"We have not played as well as we wanted to the last few weeks," O'Sullivan said. "That's been our focus since the game ended on Saturday -- it's a new season with everybody starting 0-0, and everybody gets a clean slate."

To try changing that, the Gators will go to one of their most consistent pitchers on Tuesday against Texas A&M. O'Sullivan will hand the ball to sophomore right-hander Johnny Magliozzi, who has served mostly as the team's closer but has proven capable of handling any role on the pitching staff. He earned the save on Thursday in Athens and will get the start on Tuesday.

"He was very limited this weekend against Georgia, and he has started a few for us," O'Sullivan said. "We want him to get us off on a good foot."

If Florida wins, it will take on SEC champion Vanderbilt on Wednesday. The Gators would start junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford in that game, which is set to start at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

But Florida remains focused on Tuesday against Texas A&M. The game means more for Florida to get in the win column and erase the negative weekend in Athens, and O'Sullivan will manage however needed to get the Gators a win.

"A lot changes," O'Sullivan said of the single elimination format. "There's a lot riding on every game in the tournament, but in a one-game deal like we've got, you win or go home. Your mindset changes a little bit. You better have more urgency. We'll do everything we can to win it."

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