PITCHING EMERGES: I’ve tried to highlight the starting pitching or relief pitching in recent weeks, but the overall staff was just too good this weekend. Florida finally looks like it has a three-man rotation it can trust, with freshman Alex Faedo emerging to fill the final piece. The Gators allowed nine runs over the weekend, and while the Mississippi State offense isn’t good, it was an important weekend for a Florida pitching staff that needed it.
Logan Shore and Dane Dunning had their best outings of the year. Reliever Taylor Lewis did, too. Add in the always consistent Bobby Poyner and Faedo’s changeup showing promise for his future, and the pitching staff looks like one that’s getting better. This weekend also happened with A.J. Puk and Kirby Snead back in Gainesville serving a suspension.
ALONSO’S BIG WEEKEND: The top of the Florida lineup has been getting on base, and Harrison Bader and J.J. Schwarz seem to be driving everyone in. The freshman are handling their load and even nine-hole hitter Ryan Larson is hitting .314. The only thing missing was Pete Alonso.
This weekend, he appeared. After moving down to the sixth spot in the order for the first time this year, Alonso collected seven hits in the final two games of the weekend, including his first two home runs of the year on Sunday. The sophomore returned two weeks ago from a broken foot he suffered the week of the season opener, and even Kevin O’Sullivan thought Alonso was putting too much pressure on himself in the cleanup spot.
He could retake the fourth spot in the order after what he did in Starkville. Alonso takes this lineup to different level, and it showed on Sunday.
SEC STANDINGS: Florida is one of five teams within a half game of first place in the SEC with 12 games remaining in league play. Even better news for The Gators? They have the easiest remaining SEC schedule based on current league winning percentages. The weekend series at Vanderbilt in three weeks could determine who wins the SEC East, and Florida has winnable series against Auburn, Georgia and Kentucky left on the schedule.
When a team sweeps a road series in front of over 30,000+ people while allowing nine runs and batting .296, there are not a lot of negatives to find. Florida, who leads the country in fielding percentage, did make two errors on the weekend. However, one was an errant pickoff throw by Dunning and the other was a bobbled ground ball by Richie Martin. Neither impacted the game.
If there is bad news for the Gators, it’s that their Tuesday opponent, Bethune-Cookman, has an RPI of 271. Every other opponent on the Florida schedule has an RPI in the top 100, and only four of Florida’s last 14 games in the regular season will be against teams with an RPI over 42.