Gator Baseball Hits Crucial Two Weeks

The past two years have been mystifying and frustrating for Gator Baseball fans, and as a result the program is facing two huge weekends to end the regular season. Florida's roller coaster ride continued this weekend with two wins over Alabama, followed by a great rally to tie the third game of the series in the ninth inning only to lose it in the tenth.

Thus, the Gators sit in sixth place in the SEC with a 12-12 conference record. The Gators are just a game behind South Carolina and Ole Miss who are tied for fourth in the league. However, the Gators are also just barely ahead of LSU (11-12-1), Tennessee (10-12) and Alabama (11-13). One of the teams I mentioned are going to join Kentucky (10-13-1), Georgia (8-15) and Auburn (7-17) on the outside looking in when the SEC Tournament gets underway in Birmingham in two weeks.

The Gators missed out on the SEC Tourney a year ago when Florida staggered to a 10-20 record in conference play. A second consecutive year without post-season could have major repercussions for the program. Thus, this weekend's trip to Baton Rouge to face LSU and the following home series against Tennessee are absolutely crucial for Coach Pat McMahon and his squad.

Tough Call for the NCAA

You would like to see the Gator program at a stage where NCAA Tournament action was a foregone conclusion, but Florida isn't there right now. The Gators' overall record of 25-24 would normally fall far short of warranting an invitation to the NCAA field. However, that fails to tell the whole story. Florida has faced perhaps the toughest schedule in the country and has some great high profile wins, including a pair over Florida State. The Gators' RPI stands at 26, which should be enough to get them in.

But don't count on the RPI getting the job done for the Orange and Blue. In 1999, Florida ended the regular season with a 31-25 record, but did not make it into the SEC Tournament. Despite an RPI in the 20's, just like this year, the Gators were left out when the NCAA picked its 64 teams.

The moral to our story: the Gators need to finish strongly by taking at least four of the final six SEC games to claim a spot in the SEC Tournament. Otherwise, Florida could be staring at another early end to the baseball season.

Softball Rolling Along

While the baseball team faces a serious need to post wins, the Gator softball team is cruising along. Tim Walton's squad was 10-10 in conference play just two weeks ago, but they won seven of their final eight to claim fourth place in the SEC as they head to the conference tournament this weekend. Florida's 44-19 overall record could well earn the Gators one of 16 host spots in the NCAA Tournament, but it certainly has Walton's squad in the field. Special mention to sophomore Kim Waleszonia who has broken the school record for hits in a season with 78.

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