Baseball Team Post-Season Bound

After a sluggish start, the Gator baseball team is looking more and more like a team that not only will take part in post-season play but might make some noise when it gets there. Florida's 10-2 win over Florida State in Tallahassee leave the Gators at 24-12 on the year with a 9-6 record in SEC play.

Florida certainly didn't have the look of an SEC and NCAA contender a month ago. The Gators opened the season 9-7 having lost their SEC opening three game series at Arkansas. However, since that inauspicious beginning the Gators have posted a 15-5 record with a 9-3 league mark. As a result the Gators are nationally ranked and in the thick of the SEC race just two games behind league-leading Georgia.

Freshmen Are Leading the Way

One of the keys to the Gators' resurgence has been the excellent work they've been getting from their rookie pitchers. Five first year hurlers have combined for 12 of the Gators' wins. Anthony DeSclafani, Nick Maronde and Alex Panteliodis have started almost half the games for Coach Kevin O'Sullivan while Greg Larson and Justin Poovey have combined for 22 appearances (3 starts) and a 5-1 record.

The freshmen are supported by a trio of juniors. Billy Bullock (6 saves) and Tony Davis (4-0, 3.26) have been outstanding out of the bullpen while Jeff Barfield (2-0, 2.78) has been effective as both a starter and reliever.

Florida's staff ERA of 3.74 is a significant improvement over last year (4.39) and has given the Gators hope for this year and beyond.

Offensively the start of late has been another freshman, Preston Tucker. The slugging first baseman from Tampa Plant leads the Gators with seven HR and 46 RBI. Josh Adams (.354 5, 27), Avery Barnes (.348 6, 33) and Matt den Dekker (.347 5, 20) provide plenty of additional offense.

Keys Looking Ahead

If O'Sullivan could have one wish for the rest of the season it would probably be to get senior Patrick Keating back on track. Keating was a key to the Gators pitching staff last year with an 8-1 record and 4.16 ERA but this year has been quite a struggle (2-3, 6.75). If the Keating of '08 returns for the final two months of the season the Florida pitching staff will be that much stronger.

The next thing on the wish list would be for the Gators to tighten up defensively. Florida has committed 54 errors, an average of 1.5 per game and that's led to more than one unearned run a game.

Five weekends remain in the SEC schedule and the Gators have complete control of their destiny. Florida will host Ole Miss (9-6) and South Carolina (7-8) for the next two weekends before consecutive road trips to Georgia (11-4) and LSU (10-5) before ending the season at home against Kentucky (4-11). O'Sullivan's squad will likely need at least ten of those games to have a shot at the SEC Title, and the Gators play over the past month makes that seem quite doable.

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