Gator Invasion

Ole Miss hosts Florida starting today at 6:30 p.m., the SEC's headline series of the second league weekend of 2010.

Ole Miss is No. 17 in the country, while Florida is No. 2. It's still early, but this series could obviously have major implications as to who wins the Southeastern Conference in May.

Both teams are in the hunt and should be through the course of the spring. The Rebels are defending SEC champions, along with LSU.

"We've watched them on film, and we've looked at their lineup and their numbers," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "They do everything well. They pitch well. We know they have a lot of depth. It's a veteran club that returns a lot of players from last year. But they also play some freshmen which gives them a good mix. I don't see any weaknesses on their team."

The Gators enter the weekend 17-3 overall, 3-0 in the SEC after a sweep of Mississippi State in Gainesville last weekend. They're coming off a dramatic 13-8 mid-week win over Florida Gulf Coast University. Florida trailed 8-0 in the second inning and rallied in a big way with 13 unanswered runs.

As a team, the Gators are batting .319 and have hit 24 home runs with 146 RBI on the season. They are paced at the plate by first baseman Preston Tucker who is hitting .382 and has four home runs with 20 RBI. Austin Maddox leads the team with six home runs and 27 RBI.

On the mound, Florida has a 3.77 ERA as a team. As a pitching staff, the Gators have struck out 158 and walked only 44 in 179.0 innings of work.

In a meeting of left-handers, Alex Panteliodis, a sophomore will face Rebel junior Drew Pomeranz (3-0, 1.23) tonight. Entering the week, Panteliodis was tied for the SEC lead with five victories, rated fourth in the conference with a 1.52 earned run average and was fourth in opposing batting average (.177). In five appearances covering 23.2 innings, the southpaw is 5-0 and has registered 20 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. He worked a career-high 7.1 innings, scattering four hits and allowing two runs, in the SEC opener last Friday against the Bulldogs.

Freshman left-hander Brian Johnson (1-1, 4.29) will start for the Gators, and Ole Miss senior right-hander Aaron Barrett (5-0, 1.69) will go for the home team on Saturday at 6 p.m. In his SEC debut, Johnson yielded five hits and one run over a career-high 6.1 innings versus Mississippi State but was not involved in the decision. He has 16 strikeouts in 21.0 innings this season and has issued three walks.

Florida freshman right-hander Hudson Randall (2-0, 3.80) will start the finale, set for 1 p.m. Sunday. Bianco has yet to announce a Sunday starter for the Rebs. Randall limited MSU to one run on four hits over 5.1 innings last Sunday and matched his career high of four strikeouts. Randall has totaled 16 strikeouts and permitted six walks in 23.2 innings.

Ole Miss is 17-5 on the season and is coming off a 14-5 pasting of Saint Louis Wednesday. The Rebels had defeated Southern Miss 11-6 the night before.

Ole Miss took two of three at Kentucky last weekend to kick off the SEC slate.

Bianco gave updates on a couple of key injured players. Matt Smith pulled a hamstring in practice nine days ago and has missed the last five games. Matt Snyder dislocated his shoulder for the second time this season against USM Tuesday night.

"We feel pretty good Matt Smith will be able to play," Bianco said. "I don't think he'll be able to play the outfield. He'll probably play first base or DH. He's not 100 percent just yet. But it will be nice to get him back.

"As for Matt Snyder (playing this weekend), we don't know," Bianco continued. "He was still in same pain (Thursday). In layman's terms, after (a dislocated shoulder) happens the first time, they want to strengthen it and make sure it gets a chance to tighten back up. Now they're not as concerned with that, because when it happens that close together, it's going to continue to stretch out. He can (play) as soon as he can (play). We'll have to wait until the pain subsides and he can swing again. That could be this weekend or next weekend or a couple of weeks. We just don't know."

Bianco said Matt Snyder will more than likely need surgery after the season.

"It's one of those optional surgeries but one where the doctors would recommend it in a case like his," he said.

Some notes on the Gators:

* Freshman Austin Maddox (.369) leads Florida in an assortment of offensive categories: RBI (27), multiple-RBI games (eight), doubles (seven), home runs (six) and slugging percentage (.667).

* Freshman Nolan Fontana (.343, 18 runs) has started all 20 games at shortstop and has yet to commit an error in 87 chances. Gator shortstops combined to make 21 errors in 2009.

* Senior Matt den Dekker is 8-for-9 on stolen base attempts this season and is 50-for-54 in his career. He needs three thefts to pass Mark Kiger (2000-02) for 10th on the school's all-time list.

* Junior Kevin Chapman is 1-0 with a 1.20 earned run average and has collected four saves in 15.0 innings covering nine appearances. The left-hander saw action in 11 games totaling 11.1 innings last season.

* UF is 14-for-38 (.368) with 41 RBI and one grand slam with the bases full this year.

* Sixty-four of the squad's 146 RBI have come with two outs, good for a .438 rate.

* Florida's eight saves this year are from four different relievers: senior Jeff Barfield (two), junior Kevin Chapman (four), sophomore Greg Larson and sophomore Nick Maronde, who rates first on the squad with 22 strikeouts in 14.2 frames.

*The Gators are holding foes to a .225 (50-for-222) average with two outs.

* Florida has outscored its opponents 151-81 this season.

* The Gators are 11-0 this season when scoring first and are 12-1 when out-hitting their opponent.

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