Gators Ready for Bethune Cookman

A year ago the Gator baseball team probably wasn't all that worried about the Bethune Cookman Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. Florida had beaten the Wildcats 12-7 during the regular season and had never lost to the team from Daytona Beach (22-0 at the time).

That changed when the ‘Cats grabbed a 4-0 lead after three innings and still led 7-5 entering the bottom of the ninth. Florida rallied for an 8-7 win on an RBI single from Matt den Dekker and Teddy Foster's two-run game winning hit to right field.

You can bet Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan has reminded his team about that game about 50 times since the NCAA pairings came out and we'll find out Friday night at 7:00 if the message got through.

BCC (35-20) comes into this game after winning the MEAC Tournament, earning the school's 10th NCAA bid. The NCAA Tournament has not been kind to the Wildcats who have one just once in 19 post-season games.

This BCC team is led by several excellent hitters. Catcher Peter O'Brien (.392, 20, 56) and first baseman Ryan Durrence (.368, 18, 70) are two big time power hitters. Durrence homered against the Gators in last year's NCAA game. Outfielder D.J. Leonard (.429, 10, 43) and DH Jeremy Davis (.396, 5, 34) have the top batting averages on the squad. As a team BCC is hitting .342 on the year and averages 8.6 runs a game. BCC has hit a school record 89 HR this year

Florida (42-15) will face the Wildcats' top pitcher in lefty Ali Simpson (6-1, 466). Simpson gives up more hits than innings pitched, but has almost a 2-to-1 strikeout/walk ratio and has allowed just one HR in 65 2/3 innings. If the game is close late BCC is likely to turn to closer Juan Perez who has 10 saves but also carries a hefty 5.17 ERA.

Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan talked about Bethune Cookman.

"Obviously we're very familiar with Bethune. We got rained out against them this year, but they gave us everything we could handle last year. They're very well coached. They have a good club and we'll have to play well."

Centerfielder Matt den Dekker on last year's game:

"That was an amazing game last year. It came down to the last at bat. We know they're a tough team and we're expecting the same type of game this year."

First baseman Preston Tucker on the game:

"Unfortunately we didn't get to play them this year, but last year they gave us a heck of a run. In the middle of the season we played them and they had a real good staff and played really competitive against us. They almost beat us in Regionals last year so we're really looking forward to playing them."

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den Dekker (.355, 12, 44), a senior beginning his final post-season leads the Gator offense into the NCAA tournament. He gets plenty of support from Tucker (.341, 10, 42) and Austin Maddox (.339, 17, 66). Florida has a .298 team batting average, averages 6.8 runs a game and has hit 71 HR. Those numbers pale in comparison to BCC, but it's safe to say the Gators have faced vastly superior pitching throughout the season.

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As of Thursday morning O'Sullivan was not ready to announce his starting pitcher for the game other than to confirm that it would either be sophomore left hander Alex Panteliodis (9-2, 3.38) or freshman right hander Hudson Randall (7-3, 2.90). Whoever doesn't start Friday night will get the ball Saturday against either FAU or Oregon State. If the Gators play a third game in the double elimination event Brian Johnson (5-4, 4.41) will get the start.


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