Steven Branscombe, USA TODAY Sports

#1 Gators host 1st SEC series against Mizzou

The Southeastern Conference schedule makers haven’t done Missouri any favors. They open the conference slate on the road in Gainesville against the top-ranked team in the country only to return home to host #2 Vanderbilt.  

(BY MARK MCLEOD)

Missouri baseball? Don’t sleep on the Tigers.

The crowd support at McKethan Stadium has been improved and the Gators have a pretty good Missouri squad to tackle in their SEC opener. The most intriguing matchups will be on the mound Friday and Saturday nights.

The Friday night battle incudes a pair of battle tested veterans in Missouri redshirt senior Reggie McClain, who earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors three times in 2015. While I wouldn’t say McClain is among the elite pitchers in college baseball, the right-hander is in that next group of very good pitchers.

The Gators roughed up McClain last year, scorching him for nine hits and five earned runs in 5.1 innings and saddling him with his 3rd loss of the season. Buddy Reed had a pair of hits against McClain, while Pete Alonso had a big double that drove in a pair of runs. J.J. Schwarz also doubled and added an RBI facing McClain.

He’ll be facing Logan Shore, who picking up the win in the battle as these two faced off. Shore went 8.1 innings, surrendering just four hits and one earned run.

 

Sr. RHP Reggie McClain (3-0, 0.85)

Jr. RHP Logan Shore (4-0, 2.00)

Friday 7pm

Soph. RHP Tanner Houck (2-1, 1.61)

Jr. LHP A.J. Puk (0-1, 2.65)

Saturday 7pm

Sr. LHP Austin Tribby (2-1, 3.33)

Soph. RHP Alex Faedo (4-0, 1.42)

Sunday 1pm

 

The Saturday night feature includes a pair of teammates on the 2015 U.S.A. Baseball Collegiate National Team. Tanner Houck is an outstanding young talent. The 6’5 sophomore is the #1 2017 Draft Prospect according to Perfect Game and was the #1 2017 Draft Prospect on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team according to Baseball America.

Puk is struggling to get into a groove in 2016, but had his best outing last weekend in his start against Harvard, which resulted in a 9-2 Florida win. There was no decision for Puk, but he went 5.1 innings, allowing just one hit, one earned run, and four walks, while striking out three.

Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said that he was pleased to see Puk just let it go.

Southpaw Austin Tribby has moved to the starter’s role in 2016. He had been a middle-relief, /set-up guy for the Tigers. Strangely enough, Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson used him out of the bullpen on Wednesday to set-up the closer in the Tigers 13-6 win over Southeast Missouri. We’ll see just how effective he can be in the Sunday finale.

Florida will send Alex Faedo to the mound on Sunday. Faedo humiliated Harvard last Sunday with an 8.1 inning outing, allowing just two hits and one run, unearned. Faedo struck out 13 Crimson batters.

I have to mention Kirby Snead, who has really been terrific for Florida out of the bullpen. The junior left-hander has appeared in 12.1 innings and sports a sparkling 0.73 ERA. 

 

 Look for…

Keep an eye on Missouri junior shortstop Ryan Howard who was also a member of the 2015 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. Howard Hit .310 with four doubles, a homer and three walks with six runs scored and three RBI in 17 games as the starting shortstop on the squad. He possesses a solid glove as Howard committed just seven errors in 243 chances for Missouri in 2015.   

Florida slugger Pete Alonso and Nelson Maldonado are really swinging solid bats for Florida. Alonso has hit .692 over the past four games with seven RBI’s. You could really see him heating up over the past two weeks or so.

It took Maldonado a few swings before he caught fire, but the freshman has taken over in left field with an offensive onslaught that includes a .357 average and a pair of home runs in the past week with solid defensive play.

 

Mark McLeod has covered Florida baseball (and football) since 1996. He is a member of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He is a co-host on “Sports Time!’ heard weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on Florida Sports Talk/NBC Sports- FM 100.1, AM 900, & AM 1230 (Gainesville/Ocala). Listen at FloridaSportsTalk.fm. Follow Mark on twitter @McLeodLive


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