Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

#1 Gators face #5 Miss. State Bulldogs in weekend series

Florida extended their school-record home winning streak to 28 games with a series sweep of then #1 Texas A&M and a mid-week victory over Jacksonville. The Gators vaulted back to #1 in all of the six polls that cover college baseball. Florida also ranks among the finest teams in the country in several categories. And then there’s this...

Florida hasn’t played their best baseball of the season.   

No, they haven’t. As impressive as the Gators are they haven’t peaked yet. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has said as much and anybody who has followed Florida baseball understands as a team they haven’t played to their talent.   

Last Friday night, Florida had their cleats on the throats of the Aggies, but didn’t stomp them out. Junior Frank Rubio gets an opportunity to come in and save the bullpen while potentially impressing O’Sullivan for future assignments, but gives up three hits, three earned runs, and a walk in 2.1 innings. Scott Moss then walks the only better he faces.

Florida needs Rubio and Moss to develop, but they must take advantage of these opportunities to earn trust. Sully then has to go to closer Shaun Anderson to get the Gators out of a jam in a game that went from 7-1 to 7-4 in the wink of an eye.  

Fast forward to Sunday, when Florida rallied past Texas A&M and defeated the Aggies 10-7. That was an extremely impressive performance. The Gators trailed 4-2 early, battled back and trailed again 7-6 before putting up a four spot in the bottom of the 7th. Obviously, Florida wasn’t satisfied with winning the series. No, the Gators put an exclamation point on the sweep. 

They need to continue to develop a nasty killer instinct and put teams away. It helps when you can count on those second tier guys in the bullpen to eat a few innings here and there.

#5 Mississippi State (21-8-1, 6-3) at #1 Florida (28-3, 7-2)

Friday  5:30pm

Junior RHP Dakota Hudson (4-0, 0.92)

Junior RHP Logan Shore (5-0, 2.59)

Saturday   7pm

Junior RHP Austin Sexton (3-1, 2.98)

Soph. RHP Alex Faedo (6-0, 2.53)

Sunday  4pm


Junior LHP A.J. Puk (1-2, 3.38)


Florida got some much needed production from the 3-5 spots in the order. Junior first baseman Pete Alonso mortified the Texas A&M pitching staff last weekend with an 8 for 12 performance, which included a home run that exited McKethan Stadium as fast as any ball that I’ve ever seen hit there.

JJ Schwarz was 2 for 4 with two RBI’s and two runs scored on Sunday. Schwarz easily scored a wild pitch late in the game.

The bottom of the order was in the series too. Third baseman Jonathan India was 4 for 4 on Friday. He concluded the series 5 for 9 with 5 RBI’s. Left fielder Nelson Maldonado drew four walks in the series. He went 2 for 3 with his 5th home run and three RBI’s against JU on Tuesday night.

One are the Gators have to address is base running. There were far too many mental mistakes on the base paths that cost them scoring opportunities in the Texas A&M series.

Mississippi State has a strong offensive lineup. They really resemble Texas A&M in the way their assertiveness. The Bulldogs lead the Southeastern Conference with a .418 on-base percentage. That will be rather difficult to achieve if the Florida pitching staff is dialed in this weekend.

Right fielder Jack Kruger comes in hitting .357 with four home runs and a team-high 27 RBI’s. Kruger hits in the two-hole and is second on the team with 22 walks. Reid Humphreys brings a .602 slugging percentage to Gainesville. The designated hitter rarely walks.

The Bulldogs run the bases pretty well stealing 28 of 34 attempts.



Batting Avg.


Slugging %


On Base %


Mississippi St.















A.J. Puk was the focus last week after being shifted from Saturday to Sunday in the rotation and then when he suffered back spasms and was lifted from the game. O’Sullivan merely wanted to get him a bullpen session n to work on some things after a rough start in Lexington, but far too much was made of the move back to Sunday. Was it a demotion? No. Puk was pitching in the weekend rotation, so why all of the fainting goats?

Now, had he been pulled from the weekend rotation…

Puk blew a 95 mph fastball by Texas A&M leadoff batter J.B. Moss on the very first pitch and needed just three pitches to strike him out. Puk threw eight strikes and two balls in the first inning before he was pulled.

One of the big successes may be the pitching of Scott Moss against Jacksonville. Moss threw three no-hit, scoreless innings on Tuesday night and needed just 40 pitches. Florida needs another left-hander out of the bullpen to help Kirby Snead.

Moss has a really good arm, but has been inconsistent, often surrendering free passes via the walk and hit batters. If this is step one to bringing Moss along- it’s big. Keep an eye on him. I have to believe that Sully will want to find an opportunity for him to come in this weekend.

The Mississippi State pitching staff has been the real surprise thus far in 2016. Their biggest problem is that they have yet to establish a Sunday starter and the necessary depth in the bullpen- losing opportunities to sweep Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Ole Miss by losing the Sunday games.

Junior Dakota Hudson has been superb. He throws an impressive mid 90’s fastball and a nasty cutter. His development really emerged last summer in the Cape Cod League. Hudson really handcuffed Vanderbilt going nine innings, while allowing just four hits and no earned runs.

Austin Sexton will get the Saturday start. He throws a low 90’s fastball and good breaking ball.

RHP sidearm specialist Ryan Higby (3-1, 1.06) has done a nice job closing games out.





Opp. BA




Mississippi St.















Did You Know?: The last time Florida faced Mississippi State (2012) in a three-game series the Gators pitching staff humiliated the Bulldogs offense. The Gators allowed just four runs in 27 innings. The UF bullpen pitched 12.2 scoreless innings. Mississippi State hit just .167 in the series. 

Defensively, Florida gets the big edge. Cohen’s teams have always been much-like Florida State, more offensive. Shortstop Ryan Gridley and third baseman Gavin Collins have combined for 16 errors on the left side of the infield.




Double Plays

Opp. Sb-Att

Fielding %

Mississippi St.











Mark McLeod has covered Florida baseball (and football) since 1996. 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 He also co-hosts “The Gator Blitz” podcast twice weekly with Brent Beaird. Join Mark, Bob Redman, Derek Tyson, and Zach Albolverdi at the Gainesville House of Beer on Friday, April 15th at 7pm for the 2nd “Florida Football Recruiting Roundtable”. Follow Mark on twitter @McLeodLive


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