The difference on the mound

Through 45 games this season, the Florida pitching staff has posted a 3.23 ERA, which is 0.45 lower than it was at the same point last season. The added success has translated into the team's record, which is also five games better. Some of the numbers look similar, but the Gators' improvement on the mound this season has come from limiting the free base runners allowed.

The first 45 games this season have been played in 412.2 innings after taking 413 innings last season, so the numbers from both seasons have come from almost exactly the same amount of innings.

The Gators have allowed 392 hits this season while allowing 394 hits through the same amount of games last season. The Florida pitchers have struck out 316 hitters this season compared to the 314 through the first 45 games last season.

The pitchers can't control what happens when the ball is put in play, but the difference this season comes in controlling what they can impact. The walks and hit batters have been cut in a major way.

Florida has walked 116 hitters and hit 40 of them with a pitch, giving up 156 free base runners through the first 45 games this year. At the same point last season, Florida allowed 146 walks and 65 hit batters to combine for 211 free base runners. The Gators have allowed 55 fewer base free base runners in the same amount of games.

That's the difference with this year's Florida pitching staff. Logan Shore has exceeded all expectations by becoming the team's ace as a freshman, outperforming any of the numbers posted by a pitcher on last year's team.

Shore has been dominant this year

Ryan Harris is the only Florida pitcher on the team this year and last year that has pitched more than one inning and has a higher ERA that he did at the same point last season. After being charged with five earned runs over two midweek appearances, Harris' ERA is now 2.70 compared to the 2.60 ERA he sported at this point last season.

Aaron Rhodes lowered his from 4.61 to 2.08. Danny Young lowered his from 3.44 to 2.45. Bobby Poyner lowered his from 4.22 to 3.48. Eric Hanhold lowered his from 5.92 to 4.62. Justin Shafer lowered his from 6.23 to 4.15.

And then there are the freshmen. Kevin O'Sullivan knew he had a talented group of first-year pitchers, but they've provided a boost to an important boost. Shore's impact is obvious, but Shaun Anderson, Dane Dunning, Brett Morales, A.J. Puk and Kirby Snead have all served important roles on the staff and will see those expand going into next season.

The turnaround of the pitching staff has been an important part of the team's turnaround. Last season, the Florida resume through 45 games looked like an NCAA Tournament bubble team. This season, it looks like a team poised to be a national seed and be able to stay in Gainesville before a potential berth in the College World Series.

And it has everything to do with the lack of free base runners allowed by the pitching staff.

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