BASEBALL: Gators open season tonight vs. CSU

Last season Coach Pat McMahon led the Florida Gators to a 43-22 record despite playing the nation's sixth toughest schedule. Florida lacked consistency on the mound, which hurt them down the rigorous final stretch that is synonymous with Southeastern Conference baseball.

McMahon begins his fifth season Friday night at the Florida helm with a stable of competitive arms who will get an early opportunity to impress the staff and lock down playing time before the conference slate begins. Seniors Tommy Boss and Connor Falkenbach will work with junior Darren O'Day to firm up a pitching staff that includes 11 newcomers in hopes of securing an SEC Eastern Division title and trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Gators' season opening opponent is Charleston Southern, already off to a 1-3 start after losing to FSU, 2-1, 9-2, and 11-4, last weekend. CSU's lone victory is a 2-1 win over Claflin. CSU will be the weekend opponent for the Gators with Saturday and Sunday afternoon games at McKethan Stadium.

The Bucs are expected to pitch southpaw Brad Bissell (0-1) against Florida. He enters the contest allowing opponents to hit a lowly .182 against him. He sports a 2.00 ERA. He has a good command of the strike zone as well, allowing only three walks this season while facing 33 batters. Last season, he pitched seven shutout innings against South Carolina in the Gamecocks season opener. He struck out eight Carolina batters along the way.

Bissell (6-2, 188) threw six respectable innings against the Seminoles, giving up just two earned runs while striking out four. The senior pitched three scoreless innings against Claflin before being replaced by Ryan Sowers, usually CSU's first option out of the bullpen.

Boss will get the start for the Gators. If the first three hitters are indicative of the CSU lineup, the Gator senior should have a solid outing. The Bucs' three leading hitters all sport a .214 average. Boss finished the 2004 campaign with several strong performances and was named to the All-Regional Team in Oklahoma City.

The Gators lineup figures to be long on firepower. Center fielder Jeff Corsaletti (.323), second baseman Adam Davis (.320), ), left fielder Brian LeClerc (.312), shortstop Justin Tordi (.302), and catchers/designated hitters Matt LaPorta (.285) and Brian Jeroloman (.318) helped lead Florida to the NCAA Super Regionals, two wins away from Omaha, site of the College World Series.

The first pitch by Florida Head Football Coach Urban Meyer is expected at 6:30 p.m. Bundle up and come out to support the 2005 Gators.

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