Gators Close to Post-Season Play

A win on Sunday would have just about clinched an SEC Tournament spot for the Gator baseball team. Then again, a win last Sunday over Alabama might have done the trick as well. Or maybe one win the previous weekend at Vanderbilt.

Three straight Sunday losses have kept the Gators from solidifying a spot in the post-season, making this coming weekend one where Florida must do something in order to keep the season going.

The Gators' two wins in Baton Rouge over the weekend showed the moxie that this team has developed. Despite injuries limiting both Matt LaPorta and Brian LeClerc the Gators pounded LSU Friday and Saturday to move to 14-and-12 in the SEC, tied for second in the East with South Carolina. But on Sunday the Gators came up short once again and left themselves with work to do.

The 9-4 loss to LSU on Sunday dropped the Gators to 3-and-6 in Sunday games in the SEC. If they were 5-and-4 in Sunday action they would already be a lock for the SEC Tournament, in much better shape for the NCAA Tournament and still have a chance to tie for the SEC Title. Instead the Gators will enter the final weekend of the season with a chance to finish in the top four of the conference, but also with the potential to end up in the bottom three. It sure makes the final weekend more interesting if nothing else.

Win and You're In

Florida is 14-and-13 in SEC play, tied with Ole Miss for fifth in the conference. The Gators are just a game behind Mississippi State and South Carolina for third in the league behind front-runners Vanderbilt (19-and-8) and Arkansas (17-and-10). The Gators host Tennessee for a three game series that begins Thursday night in Gainesville.

The Gators don't need any help to keep their season going beyond this weekend. Florida clinches a spot in the SEC Tournament if they win the series with Tennessee no matter what anyone else does. One win in the three game set could be enough, but the Gators would be wise not to count on that. Alabama (13-and-14), Kentucky and LSU (both 12-14-and-1) could all sweep their weekend series and pass the Gators, should Florida drop two out of three. It's not likely, but it could happen.

NCAA is Another Matter

The Gators have played one f the nation's toughest schedules. Despite hanging around the .500 mark all season long, Florida has been in the RPI top 30 virtually the entire campaign. A top 30 team should be able to count on post-season play, but there's no guarantee.

In my opinion, Florida needs to win three more games to feel comfortable about getting invited to the NCAA Tournament. That can be two over Tennessee and one at the SEC Tournament in Birmingham or some other combination. To me 30 wins and a spot in the conference tournament is the minimum to warrant consideration. An extra win or two would not be a bad idea, because at 27-and-26, Florida has given the selection committee plenty of reasons to look the other way.

So no matter how you size it up, this week's series against Tennessee has to be viewed as the most important weekend for Gator baseball in the last two years.

See Ya at the ballpark.

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