BASEBALL: Gators Control Their Own Destiny

The Southeastern Conference baseball schedule has reached the seventh week where the final turn is just about complete and teams traditionally sprint or fade down the homestretch. Florida (13-5, .722) sits atop of the league standings, two games ahead of Western Division leader Alabama. Picked by the coaches to finish third in the Eastern Division, the Gators are the envy of every conference squad as they control their own destiny.

Florida has won five of six conference series, with two of those victories coming against nineteenth-ranked South Carolina and thirteenth-ranked Alabama. This past weekend, the Gators swept Auburn, which was ranked in the Top 25 just two weeks ago.

The sprint for Florida features contests against hated Eastern Division rival and eighteenth-ranked Tennessee (10-7, .588), which travels to Gainesville this weekend. The Gators lead the second place Vols by a margin of two and one-half games. A series victory over the Vols would put Tennessee at least three and half games behind Florida with only nine games remaining.

Florida follows with a series against #23 Arkansas in Fayetteville, Mississippi State (Gainesville), and #25 Vanderbilt in Nashville to close out the regular season schedule. Three ranked teams, and one that probably should be ranked going into the final month of SEC play will not be an easy task for the Gators.

Twenty wins should be enough to take the conference crown in the rough and tumble SEC. That means Florida must take seven of their twelve remaining games. While that sounds relatively easy for a club that sports a .722 conference winning percentage, it certainly won't be. Each of the four teams that remain on the schedule are fighting for both conference and NCAA seeding. Traditionally, the SEC really heats up during the run for the ribbon.

Currently, seven conference teams are ranked among Baseball America's Top 25. By season's end, the Gators will have played eight conference teams who will probably earn a berth in the NCAA Regionals. Half of those teams remain on the Florida schedule. This is truly a stretch run.


Florida suffered its only series loss on the road in Oxford to Ole Miss. The two losses were games the Florida players felt they left on table but they were losses that served as motivation when they returned to Gainesville to play South Carolina. Since then, the Gators have posted a 5-1 record on the road.

Florida has an overall home record of 7-2 (.777), slightly better than the 6-3 (.666) away record. Sweeping Auburn on the road was impressive, though trips to Arkansas and Vanderbilt will be the most difficult road trips the Gators will play this year. The consistency of this team lends one to believe that this could indeed be a special year. But, unlike last season, they have to finish.



Series record

Runs scored/ runs/allowed



Ole Miss





South Carolina




Corsaletti / Falkenbach










McArthur / Locke-Horne










LaPorta / Falkenbach

Among the weekly leaders for the Gators, only Jeff Corsaletti, Connor Falkenbach, and Alan Horne repeat. Florida's most consistent pitcher, Darren O'Day is not listed among them. He would have been the easy choice as the Alabama series selection until the dreaded Sunday loss. Regardless, O'Day has been tremendous.

Corsaletti and Matt LaPorta are among the Southeastern Conference's best players. Corsaletti ranks third in batting (.411) and fourth in on base percentage (.503). His 62 hits are just four behind conference leader Ryan Patterson of LSU.

LaPorta leads the league in RBI's. He is currently tied for the league lead in home runs and ranks fourth in slugging percentage. He ripped Auburn this past weekend, hitting .462 with three home runs while earning SEC Player of the Week honors.

Prior to the Auburn series, Coach Pat McMahon had been the recipient of a recent offensive surge from the bottom half of the order. Brandon McArthur, Justin Tordi, Brian LeClerc, and Brian Jeroloman began to take off against Georgia and continued the trend versus Alabama.

McArthur led the hit parade in Athens hitting 8 of 12 against the Bulldogs. Tordi (6 for 10) and LeClerc (6 for 14) led the Gators against Bama. Collectively the lower half of the order hit .385 against Georgia and .407 against the Tide.

That production hit a wall in the Loveliest Village on the Plains, as the bottom half of the Florida lineup combined to hit a woeful .203 in the series.

Defensively, the Gators are basically average. They rank fourth in the conference with a .966 fielding percentage. The conference average is .965. The brightest spot among the Florida defense is catcher Brian Jeroloman. "The Samurai" has cut down 25 of 46 (54%) base runners this season, which ranks him among the nation's best.

For the most part, pitching has been another Florida strong point. Of all the stats I could throw out there the most impressive is the fact that the Gators have walked just 96 batters this season. That is the best in the conference. Free passes obviously hurt teams that can't locate their pitches. Florida may well have lost five more games without the ability to locate their pitches. Give Jeroloman as assist on that one as well.

Tommy Boss (5-2, .319 OBA), Alan Horne (4-2 .313), Stephen Locke (5-0 .247), and when healthy, Bryan Ball (5-1 .223) give the Gators a terrific opportunity to win. Connor Falkenbach (3-1 .274) and O'Day (5-3 .205) are among the best in the conference in relief. I also believe that Steven Porter (1-0 .167) and Tommy Wynn (0-1 .212) give the Gators an added assist from the pen. Look for Porter to play a bigger role in the next month.

The Florida pitching staff must finish. They gave up nine and eleven runs in games against last place Kentucky. These games were well in hand when the 'Cats began hitting the ball. Ditto when Alabama came to town and put four on the board after trailing 5-0 in the series opener. Bama scored six runs in the ninth inning with the Gators in command 6-3 and looking for the sweep in the Sunday game. It was a devastating loss for the Gators, and a lesson they seemingly learned from in their sweep of Auburn this past weekend.

In my opinion, team chemistry is Florida's biggest asset. They aren't the best of friends who all hang out together every evening. These guys just play together well. It's cliché to say that they hate losing, but they really do. They were genuinely upset after losses to Miami, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Florida State and for the most part, refocused to take it out on their next opponent. I think they'll have a message to send to the good folks in Tallahassee when the Noles visit Gainesville next Tuesday.

The competitive fire and outstanding leadership should help secure this team a conference title, but it isn't going to be easy. Florida has to focus on taking them one game, then one series at a time, without getting caught looking ahead.



SEC record

vs Common Opponents

Record overall/SEC



10-7 (2)

OLE MISS (1-2), @ Kentucky (2-1)

8-4 (5-4) away



8-10 (5)

@South Carolina (2-1)

17-5 (4-5) home

Mississippi State


9-8 (3)

Ole Miss 0-1 (neutral), KENTUCKY (2-1)

5-7 (3-3) away



9-9 (4)

ALABAMA (2-1), @ USC (2-1)

22-6 (6-3) home

Tennessee just lost a three game series to Vanderbilt in Nashville. The Commodores are among the most underrated teams in the country at this time. The Vols other road opponents (Auburn and Kentucky) were not among the strongest teams in the conference. Losing a series to the Gators will tremendously hurt the Vols chances for an Eastern Division title, as the Vols still have back-to-back dates with South Carolina and LSU after visiting Gainesville.

Arkansas was swept this past weekend by a surging LSU team at home. The Hogs had the best home record in the conference before the beating. Things should be a little easier this weekend as the Hogs travel to Kentucky for a three game series.

Mississippi State has perhaps the toughest remaining conference slate. The Bulldogs travel to Oxford for a series against Ole Miss. They return home against Western Division leaders Alabama before flying to Gainesville for a series against the Eastern Division leaders. The Dogs conclude the season against up and coming LSU at Dudy Noble Field.

Vanderbilt has played three of their six series on the road. They'll have the upper hand through the final four series as LSU and Florida. The 'Dores took the first of tough back-to-back home stands against Tennessee and LSU. Should they take the series against the Tigers enthusiasm will hit a fever pitch in Nashville. They hit the road for key Eastern Division contests against Georgia and Kentucky before the season finale home splash against first place Florida.

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