BASEBALL PREVIEW: Florida vs. Arkansas

Despite dropping their second series in conference play to Tennessee last weekend, sixth-ranked Florida still controls its own destiny in the Southeastern Conference … but barely. The Gators have lost five of their last ten games, and are in need of a spark.

I'm not saying this team is in collapse or that it's time to push the panic button --- no, not at all. The fact of the matter is that it is a long baseball season. You have to remember, these guys were practicing in late January for the first pitch on February 11th. There will be a time when players have to catch that second breath, so to speak. It happens in the pros as well, and they don't have classes, study hall, and graduation.

It's usually around this time of the season where some of the others step up and assume the roles in pushing the team to victory. Nobody has swung a hotter bat over the past five games than designated hitter Stephen Barton. The Miami Killian graduate has hit 9 of 14 (.643), scored four runs scored and ripped three RBI's. The junior has also looked the ball over well, as he has drawn four walks.

Furthermore, victories are just hard to come by this time of the year, period. Good teams like Ole Miss and Tennessee are jockeying for conference and NCAA seeding. Bad teams like Kentucky are seeing their young guys get a better grasp on things overall and preparing for something positive from which to build in '06. The great teams are usually the ones who take a hit. I offer as evidence that seven of the Top 10 teams last week's in Baseball America poll were members of a major conference. Those seven combined to post a 14-11 (.560) record.

So, who will step up this weekend? Matt LaPorta had a terrific game against Florida State going three for three. Bryan Ball can set the tone with another solid pitching performance. The Samurai, Brian Jeroloman, could cut down a solid group of Arkansas base runners. Maybe Corso and Davis can light a fire under everybody? Florida's first SEC title since '98 is at stake.

Series Records

Overall: Florida leads 14-8 (.649)

Gators in Fayetteville: Florida leads 6-4

Under Pat McMahon: Florida leads 2-1

Arkansas 2005

The Razorbacks almost lost a tusk when last place Kentucky took two of three, dropping the Hogs into the Western Division cellar. You can bet the Gators will be watching plenty of Kentucky Coach John Cohen's film to see just how the Wildcats did it.

Arkansas started off with a bang in the non-conference slate and began conference play taking two out of three against South Carolina. The Hogs then dropped two of three at home to Mississippi State the following weekend. The team took a huge hit the third weekend of the conference season when center fielder Casey Rowlett and second baseman Scott Bridges were suspended indefinitely from the team.

To their credit, the Hogs picked themselves up and dusted off Auburn before sweeping Vanderbilt. However, since then, Arkansas has dropped from contention to the bottom of the barrel with a 2-7 conference mark.


The 'Cats scored 23 runs on the Razorbacks pitching staff this past weekend, prompting Coach Dave Van Horn to make some adjustments. Those adjustments include moving Shaun Siebert into the Saturday starting slot and calling Josh Smith from the pen to the Sunday starter role. Former Saturday starter Daryl Maday and Sunday starter Lee Land were rocked by the Wildcats.

Reliever Charley Boyce was the only Arkansas pitcher to throw against the Gators last season. He picked up the Hogs lone victory against Florida with a strong Saturday performance.


LHP Nick Schmidt (6-1): 6-4, 215, Fr., 2.66 ERA, .216 OBA

The freshman picked up the only win last weekend against Kentucky but it wasn't easy. Schmidt gave up just two runs in six innings while striking out seven Wildcats. He allowed three walks. The 'Cats were able to punch in a couple of runs in the first inning.

He pitched very well in Knoxville against Tennessee ace Luke Hochevar a couple of weeks ago. Schmidt is the only conference pitcher to record a victory over the Vols when Hochevar is on the mound. Schmidt threw 5.2 shutout innings in which he gave up just three hits.

RHP Shaun Siebert (5-1): 6-1, 185, Fr., 2.84 ERA, .222 OBA

Seibert was the reliever in last Sunday's game against Kentucky. He pitched 3.2 innings giving up four hit sand one earned run. He started the week prior against Tennessee and pitched just 1.2 innings. Seibert allowed three walks and a single while facing just eight batters.

RHP Josh Smith (1-1): 6-2, 225, So., 3.23 ERA, .234 OBA

Smith was shelled by the Vols in a brief appearance two weeks ago. He gave up three hits and three earned runs facing just six batters. He was much better against the 'Cats last weekend. Smith pitched three shutout innings and gave up just one hit, while striking out four.


RHP Charley Boyce (7-6): 6-0, 200, Jr., 4.12 ERA, .243 OBA, Three saves

Boyce spelled Schmidt in relief last Friday night. He gave up three hits and two earned runs in just three innings as the 'Cats closed the gap with three runs in the ninth.

The righthander pitched very well last season against the Gators in Gainesville. He picked up the Saturday victory, going six innings and allowing just one earned run on seven hits.

LHP James Gilbert (3-1): 6-0, 185, So., 3.67 ERA, .274 OBA

The sophomore started the Saturday game against the Vols a couple of weeks ago. He lasted all of 1.1 innings. Gilbert gave up one hit and two walks to the first three batters he faced.

RHP Daryl Maday (5-1): 6-1, 225, So., 4.29 ERA, .255 OBA

Maday started last Saturday against Kentucky and was lit up like the Vegas strip. Maday lasted all of one inning, giving up six runs on six hits. Maday also pitched poorly in the Saturday game versus Tennessee but that was in relief.

RHP Lee Land (1-2): 6-3, 200, Fr. 2.91 ERA, .261 OBA

Land was the Sunday starter last week against the 'Cats. He didn't fare well at all, giving up six hits and five earned runs in five innings. Land pitched 1.1 innings of relief against Tennessee two weeks ago. He gave up three hits and one earned run.


Florida junior Bryan Ball will reassume his role as the Friday night starter. The right hander has not pitched on Friday night since suffering through a sore elbow. Ball pitched well last weekend against Tennessee.

He pitched 4.1 innings and gave up five hits and two earned runs in the Saturday start. Ball struck out and walked three. He was not saddled with a decision.

Alan Horne will start the Saturday contest. Horne also pitched well against the Vols last weekend.

Senior Tommy Boss will move back as the Sunday starter. Boss pitched outstanding versus the Hogs last year in Florida's Sunday win. He gave up five hits and just one earned run in five innings, while striking out three.

Reliever Connor Falkenbach was slapped around by the Razorback team last year. Falkenbach gave up four earned runs on four hits in just one inning of work on Saturday.




Opp BA
























Arkansas is led by first baseman Danny Hamblin at .362 He is tied for the team lead with 41 RBI's. Center fielder Craig Gentry is second on the squad with a average and leads thee team with 12 stolen bases. Third baseman Clay Goodwin is third on the team with 31 RBI's. Designated hitter Clint Arnold is the only other Razorback starter batting over .300. The

Florida has not scored first in its past five games. Getting off to a fast start and getting deep into the opponents bullpen have been a focal point of the Florida success. The Gators should make the Razorbacks throw strikes. That appears to have been a bit of a problem against their most recent opponents, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Brian LeClerc pigged out on the Hogs last season. The (then) freshman went five for nine with a home run, triple, and five RBI's.

The Gators have cooled a bit offensively. Leading hitter Jeff Corsaletti is now hitting .391. First baseman Matt LaPorta is hitting .337 and is tied for the league lead with 17 home runs. Gavin Dickey is third on the team with a .331 average. Barton has moved up to fourth with a .317 average.




























Florida has improved tremendously over the past three weeks. The overall team fielding percentage is .967, sixth best in the conference. The Gators were among the worst teams in the conference before the Kentucky series.

The Gators only have two players who have committed more than five errors. Adam Davis leads the team with 12 errors in 250 chances (.952). However, Davis has been playing very well of late. The Ft, Myers native is apparently playing back to his all conference form. He was errorless last weekend against the Vols.

Third baseman Brandon McArthur has committed 12 errors in just 68 chances (.838). Unlike Davis, McArthur has not improved. He has committed three errors in his last 15 chances. He has to step up if the Gators figure to contend for anything other than an SEC Eastern Division title.

The Razorbacks fall into the category of being among the worst fielding teams in the conference with a .963 fielding percentage. The Hogs have booted 69 chances for errors. Second baseman, now turned reserve second baseman John-Henry Marquart leads the team with 13 errors in just 113 chances. Scott Hode and Clay Goodwin have 11 and 10 errors respectively. Hode, the shortstop has had 195 chances, while Goodwin (third base) has had 201 chances.



Fielding %


















Base running

The Razorbacks have stolen 93 bases in 113 attempts, tops in the SEC. Fortunately for the Gators, the suspended Casey Rowlett and Scott Bridges were one, two in stolen bases for the Hogs. Arkansas is now led by Craig Gentry (12-13) and Jake Dugger (10-13).

Adam Davis leads the Gators with 20 stolen bases. Jeff Corsaletti (10-11) and Stephen Barton (10-13) are second and third.


Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn took over at Arkansas in 2002 after a successful run at Nebraska, where he compiled a 214-92 (.699) record. Van Horn twice took the Cornhuskers to the College World Series, something that had never been accomplished in school history. Van Horn is 113-59 (.657) since his arrival at Arkansas.


The Razorbacks have a 17-5 record at home. However, much of those inflated numbers are from the non-conference schedule. All of the five home losses were within the conference. They also put the home field advantage into play with large crowds coming out in force to support the team.

Florida fans will be keeping a close eye on games in Starkville and Knoxville. Alabama, who trails the Gators by a single game for the SEC lead plays a three game series on the road at Mississippi State. The hope is that the Bulldogs take that series.

Meanwhile, South Carolina battles Tennessee in the big conference series of the weekend. The hope is that the Gamecocks will take two from the Vols and move into second in the SEC East. The Gators have the edge over Carolina, winning the series home opener back in March. Finishing in a tie with Tennessee would give the Vols the deciding edge.

The other teams closing in on the Gators are LSU, who play Kentucky in Baton Rouge. I said in an earlier column that former Florida assistant coach John Cohen's Wildcats might just help Florida out by scratching out a win in the future. Well, that future is now.

Ole Miss takes to the Plains of Auburn, Alabama where the hope is that the Tigers can take tow out of three. Florida does not want the Rebs to have an opportunity to finish with a tie.

Fightin Gators Top Stories