Gator Host Defending NCAA Champs

Fresh off final exams the Gator baseball team returns to McKethan Stadium tonight for the opening game of a three game set with the LSU Tigers. LSU won the College World Series last season and are coming into Gainesville with a 32-10 record, 11-7 in the SEC.

The Tigers are in a bit of a slump, however having just been swept by Ole Miss and having lost their last five SEC road games. The Gators (28-11, 12-6) are coming in on an up tick having taken a series from then SEC leading Arkansas two games to one.

LSU has a strong offensive team led by catcher Micah Gibbs (.415, 5, 40) and RF Mikie Mahtook (.358, 10, 36). The Tigers also get big time production from 1B Blake Dean (.331, 8, 53) and DH Matt Gaudet (.306, 14, 48). Overall the Tigers are hitting .322 and average 8.5 runs a night.

On the mound is where LSU has struggled, posting a team ERA of 5.11. They have only committed to two starters this weekend, Anthony Ranaudo (2-1, 6.35) and Chris Matulis (5-1, 3.86). Ranaudo was a 12 game winner last season and led the SEC with 159 strikeouts. He's making just his seventh start of the season due to elbow problems.

The third starter is expected to be either Austin Ross (3-4, 5.54) or Joey Bourgeois (4-1, 6.41). Those are not the numbers we're used to seeing from LSU pitchers. The bullpen has been much better, led by closer Matty Ott (1-1, 2.43, 11 saves). Jordan Rittner (4-2, 3.60) and Daniel Bradshaw (5-0, 4.50) are two solid pitchers Florida is bound to see this weekend.


The Gators enter this series with a set three-man rotation that features sophomore Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.18) followed by freshmen Hudson Randall (4-3, 3.65) and Brian Johnson (3-2, 2.91). Johnson is coming off a superb outing against Arkansas in which he went seven scoreless innings allowing just three hits while striking out nine against the highest scoring team in the SEC. Randall was also very good against the Razorbacks, going five and two thirds without giving up an earned run.


Offensively, the Gators are led by the big three of Austin Maddox (.349, 12, 45), Preston Tucker (.342, 8, 32) and Matt den Dekker (.333, 6, 25). In SEC play Florida has gotten a boost from Daniel Pigott (.326, 1, 12). Florida is still hoping for a major turnaround from two-time all-SEC performer Josh Adams who is hitting just .143 against SEC pitching.


Tonight's game is set for 8:00 as UF staggers scheduling due to graduation ceremonies at the O'Connell Center. Saturday's game is at 2:00 and Sunday they'll play at 1:00. If you are going to any/all of the games you are advised to avoid big the O'Dome lot. Park on Flavet Field (UF Band Shell), the commuter lot on Lemmerand Drive and ride a shuttle or pay some homeowner just north of University Avenue to park on his lawn.


Florida and LSU are both two games back in their respective division races. The Gators (12-6) trail South Carolina (14-4) in the East, while LSU (11-7) is tied with Ole Miss two games behind Arkansas (13-5) out West.

There are four weeks left in the regular season and teams are battling for the final spots in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama. The top two teams in each division plus next four teams based on overall SEC record advance to event. Right now Alabama (8-10) is the No. 8 team and would get the final spot. Kentucky and Tennessee are 6-12 and play each other this weekend. The loser of that series will be all but out of it. Both teams will be rooting for South Carolina to sweep the Crimson Tide at home.


The SEC has six top 20 teams according to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Arkansas (No. 7) sets the pace followed by Florida (No. 10) and LSU (No. 11). South Carolina is ranked No. 13 and Ole Miss is No. 17 just ahead of Vanderbilt (No. 18).

The SEC got eight NCAA Tournament bids last year with Arkansas, Florida, LSU and Ole Miss reaching the Super Regionals. Arkansas joined LSU at the College World Series and was beaten by the Tigers twice in Omaha.

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