Gators Ready for All-Florida Regional

The Gator Baseball team begins its quest for a trip to the College World Series with a first round game against Bethune Cookman Friday night at 6:30. Miami and Jacksonville will meet at 1:00 that afternoon in the first game of the four-team double elimination event that will send one team into the Super Regional round.

Bethune comes in with a 32-26 record on the year and a rough NCAA history. The Wildcats have lost 18 of 19 games the school has played in the postseason. The only win, however came in Gainesville in 2002 when the Wildcats beat FIU 7-4. In their other two games they were clobbered by the Gators 13-1 and 21-10.

However this BCC team is much better than what we've seen in the past. They won two out of three in Miami against the Hurricanes late in the season; the same Hurricanes who swept the Gators in Gainesville back in February. They played the Gators in April, dropping a 12-7 decision when the Gators broke open a 7-6 game with a five-run seventh inning. Preston Tucker went 4-for-4 with 4 RBI in that one. They are expected to send Hiram Burgos (6-3, 3.73) to the mound. Burgos pitched six scoreless innings in BCC's first win in Carol Gables.

Offensively, the Wildcats are not a dominant team, but they have stolen 92 bases on the season. C.J. Lauriello (.407) is their leading hitter while Ryan Durrence (10) and Alejander Jimenez (8) provide some long ball power

The Gators come in with a 39-20 record and the No. 8 seed in the entire tournament. Florida is led by senior outfielder Avery Barnes (.360, 8, 40) and freshman first baseman Preston Tucker (.338, 12, 77).

Florida Coach Kevin O'Sullivan is pleased to have the regional at McKethan Stadium.

"For our players I think it means we're a little more comfortable at home and we've played a lot better at home," O'Sullivan said.

The Gator coach says he's not at all concerned that an All-Florida Regional will take away from the excitement of being a part of the national tournament.

"I know there's a lot of differing opinions about that," O'Sullivan pointed out. "But the bottom line is you gotta play well to advance. You can play an all Florida field or you can play teams from other states. I really don't put a whole lot of thought into it as far as who's coming."

O'Sullivan also offered up his assessment of Bethune Cookman.

"I think more than anything else they may have more post-season experience on their roster than we do. It seems like every year they're in a regional. Burgos has been in the spotlight quite a few times in his career and we haven't. Offensively they can really run; they're really athletic and they have some power in the middle of their lineup. We're going to have to be on top of our game, there's no question."

*************************************************************

Florida's sixth-year senior Brandon McArthur says returning to postseason play has made his final year as a Gator more than worthwhile.

"It means a lot to be able to come back and help this team in any way that I could and at least get to this point. To be a national seed again and to get to play back here in Gainesville in the post-season (makes it even better). I believe Florida is the most talented of all the states for baseball, so when you get teams from Florida coming to your regional it shows that all the teams are good enough (to win it). To be able to play all the state teams adds a little spice to it."

McArthur said the Gators don't need to know about Bethune Cookman's two wins in Miami to get focused. He said that will be no problem at all.

"It's the next game. No matter what happened in the last game of the SEC Tournament or what happened in the first game of the season it doesn't matter now. It's a whole new season and no matter who we'd be playing we'd be ready to go."

***********************************************************

The losers of Friday's games will play an elimination game Saturday at 1:00 while the winners meet up at 5:30. Games will continue at 1:00 and 6:30 on Sunday with a Monday game, if needed at an undetermined time.

***********************************************************

The Gators have not won an NCAA Tournament game since beat Arizona State in the 2005 College World Series to advance to the NCAA Final where they lost two straight to Texas. The Gators did not earn NCAA bids in 2006 or '07 and last year dropped two straight to Tulane (7-4) and FSU (17-11).

************************************************************

O'Sullivan wouldn't commit to a pitching rotation for the weekend, but based on recent history it seems likely the first two games will be started by Stephen Locke (4-2, 4.55) and Anthony DeSclafani (6-3, 4.60) in some order. The Gators could play as few as two games or as many as five.


Fightin Gators Top Stories