From one tough challenge to another, and they don't get much tougher than Florida right now. The Gators (15-2) have all the strengths you look for in a great team. Start with the top shelf pitching, featuring 3 starters with stellar ERAs who haven't given up a HR yet this year, 2 strong closers in DeSclafani (1.29 ERA, 7 H, 2 R, 15Ks in 14 IP) and Maronde (1.69 ERA, 11H, 3 R, 16 Ks in 10.2 IP), and a solid, experienced pen. Their offense is one of the best in the nation, with a full 2/3rds of their regulars hitting over .300, slugging over .450, and OBP over .350 with a lot of leftys in the lineup. Their leader, LF Daniel Pigott is batting .483, slugging an amazing .707, with 10 R, 28 H, 18 RBIs and leads the team with 5 bunts. They are a threat on the basepaths, going 20-28 in stolen bases this year. Add to all that an impressive .977 fielding percentage as a team, with most of the regulars perfect on the year and it's easy to see why they carry the #1 ranking in most polls.
For LSU, It's a chance to prove they are really real, for real this time. You know, if you would've told anybody before the Fullerton series that we were going to sweep the Titans, they would've told you to book rooms in Omaha. But now I'm getting anxious again. With the exception of Broussard's excellent night on Wednesday, our middle relief has been a real sore spot. Which version of Ty Ross will show up this weekend? We've been playing some sloppy baseball lately. The Gators will not hesitate to take advantage of an error, so above all else mistake-free ball must be the priority of the weekend.
If you are looking for odd intangibles, UF's site is happy to oblige. UF has alternated winning and losing it's opening SEC series for the last ten years and they are due to lose this one. UF has only won a series at LSU once in the last ten tries. Florida has had 50,270 fans attend games so far this year. We'll likely see more than half that at The Box this weekend alone.
TV is all over the place this weekend. Games on 4 stations, only 2 of which are available normally in LA. Friday is our 1st SEC Net game (beware Zombie Dave Neal) so it's on Cox Sports, Comcast Sports, and ESPN3.com. Saturday is on Fox Sports, but not on the Fox Sports we usually get. Sunday will be a traditional Cox Sports broadcast. GeauxZone customers note that they will only have video Saturday and Sunday. Expect insanity like this for most of the SEC slate as games are picked up hodge-podge for the rest of the season.
Weather is nearly perfect. Slightly cloudy all weekend, but no real chance of rain. A cool 76 for the evening game times.
Tenn @ UK
Miss. St. @ Vandy
ARK @ Auburn
UGA @ S Car
Bama @ Ole Miss
Elsewhere in college baseball this weekend, Big 12 play starts with a big Top 10 matchup between Oklahoma and A&M, while UNO is at a resurgent Tulane.
Program cover after the break, featuring Trey Watkins.
PITCHING MATCHUPS from LSUSports.net
GAME 1-Fri-6pm-SECNet (Cox Sports, Comcast Sports Southeast, ESPN3.com)
LSU - Fr. RHP Kurt McCune (3-0, 1.11 ERA, 24.1 IP, 5 BB, 17 SO)
UF - So. LHP Brian Johnson (4-0, 1.12 ERA, 24.0 IP, 3 BB, 25 SO)
GAME 2-Sat-6:30-FSN (FSN Houston, FSN Florida) UPDATE: Also on Fox College Sports Pacific nationwide
LSU - Fr. RHP Kevin Gausman (2-0, 3.28 ERA, 24.2 IP, 6 BB, 27 SO)
UF - So. RHP Hudson Randall (2-0, 1.08 ERA, 25.0 IP, 1 BB, 19 SO)
GAME 3-Sun-Noon-Cox Sports
LSU - Sr. RHP Ben Alsup (3-1, 2.01 ERA, 22.1 IP, 11 BB, 17 SO)
UF - Fr. RHP Karsten Whitson (3-0, 2.21 ERA, 20.1 IP, 5 BB, 22 SO)