Big Weekend for Gator Baseball

The Florida baseball team will face its toughest pre-conference test this weekend when they to South Florida for a three game series with the Miami Hurricanes. The teams will play 7:00 games on Friday and Saturday nights before wrapping up the series at 3:00 Sunday afternoon. That is a change from published schedules to accommodate live television coverage of the series finale.

The Gators head to Coral Gables with a 5-1 record and are coming off a disappointing loss to Florida State. The game in Tampa saw FSU score seven runs in the first inning and the game never really got interesting until the ninth inning when the Gators used six hits and a talk to score four runs and bring the tying run to the on-deck circle before the game ended.

There are some key areas where the Gators need to do well this weekend regardless of wins and losses. Obviously taking the series could be a real feather in this team's cap when it comes time for post-season assignments.

Stabilizing pitching ---- The Gators had some concerns heading into the FSU game because top relievers Nick Maronde and Greg Larson had consecutive poor outings. The good news is those two guys looked sharp out of the bullpen in Tampa. The bad news is starter Anthony DeSclafani couldn't get an out and gave up five runs. "Disco" won't be starting during the weekend, but he might be called upon out of the bullpen.

Get Tucker going ---- Last year Florida first baseman Preston Tucker was the national freshman hitter of the year. So far this season he's just 7-for-24 (.292) with only one RBI and no extra base hits. There's no question he will start producing as he did last season, and there's no time like the present.

Improve plate discipline ---- In the last two games Gator hitters struck out 16 times and drew just three walks. Ideally you'd like to be closer to even on those stats, but more than five-to-one is unacceptable. Additionally, the Gators got the lead off runner on in four straight innings against the ‘Noles without one of them coming around to score. Also, Florida twice had a runner on third with less than two outs without scoring against FSU.

Start running ---- Florida stole three bases in its win over Siena, but only two in the other five games combined. Matt den Dekker has two of those steals, but he's been on base 14 times in the lead off spot. With a career stolen base efficiency of .936 (44-for-47) he should be running more. Josh Adams (16 career SB).

Sophomore Alex Panteliodis (2-0, 2.45) is slated to get the start in Friday's series opener. He is likely to be followed by freshman Brian Johnson (1-0, 2.84) and sophomore Tommy Toledo (1-0, 2.08). Sunday's game will be televised on Fox Sports Florida at 3:00. I'll have the call of the game with Nick Belmonte.

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