Baseball: Mission Accomplished

The Gator baseball team really had just one meaningful goal for the SEC Tournament this week. Win a game. That's it, and they got that done Thursday with a 5-4 decision over Arkansas. Florida will face another elimination game tonight (7:30 ET) when they take on Vanderbilt, but they have already done what they needed to do.

By all indications the Gators have clinched a top eight national seed, which means they will host a Regional next week and a Super Regional should they advance. Still, they needed one win in Hoover, Alabama for two key reasons.

No losing streak ---- Florida really didn't want to enter the NCAA Tournament on a three-game losing streak. It's highly unlikely that would have cost the Gators a top eight slot, but you never know for sure. Plus there's just a bad feeling that goes with any sort of losing streak and that's a feeling best avoided.

All starters get work ---- This is the big factor. Florida did not want to head into the NCAA Tournament without all three of its regular starting pitchers being on a fairly regular routine. By winning Thursday, Hudson Randall (6-3, 2.99) will start tonight's game and be primed for his start in the Regional instead of having done 12 days or so between starts.

Now that the Gators have taken care of those factors, it's still in the team's interest to win the game with Vandy. Assuming Randall pitches one of his typical outings, Florida's bullpen will be very well rested and could use some work. Additionally, there's a good chance you could need a fourth starter in a Regional and Florida can't be certain who that would be.

Should the Gators win tonight I would look for Tommy Toledo to get a start and see how far he can go. Nick Maronde, who has struggled in the bullpen might be another option for a start should the Gators keep winning. Greg Larson has shown he can go four plus innings out of the bullpen as well as has Steven "Paco" Rodriguez.

So another couple of games in Hoover wouldn't be a bad thing. But I'm not sure it's in the Gators' interest to play any more than that.

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Knocking Arkansas out of the SEC Tournament probably felt extra good for the Gators who were beaten in this event by the Razorbacks twice last season. Arkansas won five in a row against the Gators in 2009, but Florida has answered with three wins in four meetings this season.

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Alex Panteliodis earned his ninth win of the season in the win over Arkansas. Last season he and Anthony DeSclafani tied for the team lead with six. Kevin Chapman picked up his 11th save, tying Billy Bullock's total of a year ago. He's just two saves shy of tying the school record currently shared by Josh Fogg and Danny Wheeler.

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Austin Maddox needs one HR and four RBI to move into the top ten single season totals in school history. He already has the freshman HR record (17).

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NCAA Regional sites will be announced on Sunday with the entire field being named Monday afternoon. Miami and FSU are both considered on the bubble for hosting, but both should be too highly seeded to be sent to Gainesville. I'm betting Miami gets to host, FSU is sent to Auburn or another SEC site (South Carolina?) and the bracket will call for Miami to travel to Gainesville for the Super Regional is both advance.


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