Gators Begin SEC Stretch Run

You think Matt LaPorta likes facing Kentucky? The senior slugger has ripped home runs in each of his last six meetings against the Wildcats and looks to extend his 16-game hitting streak tonight at McKethan Stadium against those same Cats.

Florida (21-19, 8-7 SEC) ended their five-game slide by holding off top-ranked Florida State on Wednesday in Tallahassee, and with the bulk of its midweek schedule complete, the Gators can now turn their full attention solely on the SEC.

With Kentucky (26-10-1, 6-8-1 SEC) coming to Gainesville for the weekend, the Gators find themselves in a pivotal series. Tennessee, Kentucky and UF are separated by just 1-1/2 games in the SEC East, and Florida travels to first place Vanderbilt next weekend. A series win against the Wildcats can certainly put the Gators back on track after losing five in a row prior to the win in Tallahassee.

Taking the hill in the series opener for Florida is freshman Tony Davis. Davis makes his first Friday night start, but does have three starts already this season. Sporting a 2-1 record and a 5.62 ERA, Davis needs to improve his control if he wants to be successful against the Wildcats. In 16 innings pitched, the southpaw has walked eight, thrown two wild pitches and hit two batters. But, Davis has held opposing hitters to just a .233 mark, second lowest on the staff behind David Hurst, and along with Hurst, he's the only other Gator pitcher to have allowed fewer base hits than innings pitched.

Davis' best start came three weeks ago against Georgia. Making his first career SEC start, the freshman went 5.1 innings, allowing one run on five hits while striking out three. His other win came during 2.2 innings of relief against Bethune-Cookman. He struggled in his last start at Arkansas, giving up four runs in three innings.

LaPorta hopes to keep the Gator offense rolling after going 2-for-4 against the Seminoles with two runs and an RBI double. During his current 16-game hitting streak, LaPorta is batting .492 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI. Prior to Wednesday's win, the Gator bats struggled to score runs during the losing streak, scoring three or fewer runs in three of those five games.

Brian Leclerc is also coming off a big game against the Seminoles where he had a perfect evening, going 4-for-4 with 3 RBI. And in the final two games against Arkansas, the senior right fielder went 3-for-9 in the losing effort.

After facing South Carolina and Arkansas in their last two weekend series and facing FSU on Wednesday, the Gators have faced eight ranked teams in their last nine games. Although Kentucky comes to Gainesville unranked, the Wildcats do come in as co-defending champions of the SEC, and UF has yet to win an SEC series at home this season.

Florida has taken the series in Kentucky's last three trips to McKethan Stadium.

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