That didn’t take long to change.
Bader was thrown into the mix as a freshman and got a good idea about the rivalries that come with playing at Florida. The Gators struggled to make the NCAA Tournament that season, but he learned about the intensity of games against Florida State, Miami, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
The Florida State (17-4) rivalry was immediately special for him. Whether the game is being played in Gainesville, Jacksonville or Tallahassee, it always produces big crowds and electric environments. Of the top 11 crowds in McKethan Stadium history, seven of them have come in games against the Seminoles.
“Florida-Florida State is a lot more intense than I imagined,” Harrison Bader said. “They have a really good club, and even though it’s just one game and hopefully one win, you’ve got to stay within yourself and focus on what you can do in your own dugout. As long as we do what we’re capable of doing, we’ll come out of there good.”
The first game of the three-game, midweek series takes place at McKethan Stadium on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
No. 1 Florida (18-3) brings a four-game winning streak over No. 20 Florida State into Tuesday, including seven wins in the last nine meetings. The Gators have swept the series two of the last three seasons. Florida will send right-hander Eric Hanhold (1-0, 0.00) to the mound to start the game against Seminoles left-hander Alec Byrd (3-0, 1.93)
The Gators will likely be without two left-handed relievers -- Bobby Poyner and Danny Young -- because of their high pitch counts on Saturday and Sunday. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan didn’t want to extend them, but he still has three left-handers available out of the bullpen in Logan Browning, Tyler Deel and Kirby Snead. Behind Hanhold, O’Sullivan still has right-handers Shaun Anderson, Alex Faedo, Taylor Lewis, Brett Morales, Aaron Rhodes and Mike Vinson.
Poyner and Young carrying the load out of the bullpen on Saturday and Sunday helped save the rest of the arms for Florida State, even if that wasn’t by design.
The Seminoles bring a .271 batting average to Gainesville, but as usual, their offense is patient and is willing to take walks. They’ve walked 143 times in 21 games this season, meaning Florida will have to throw consistent strikes and hit their way on base. They can hurt teams in multiple ways and have started out 5-1 in conference play.
“Same Florida State every year,” O’Sullivan said. “You look up and the record is always really good. It’s a great rivalry. I’m sure there will be a great crowd. The game means a lot to a lot of people. They’ll want to win, we’ll want to win. It’s a pride game.”