The 13th ranked Florida Gator baseball team takes the field tonight against Duke University to open its 2013 season.
Gator coach Kevin O'Sullivan begins his sixth season at Florida and looks to take his team to the College World Series in Omaha for a fourth straight season.
With the loss of senior outfielder Tyler Thompson, due to personal reasons, the outfield is not solidified. The outfield competition is a battle between talented freshmen and a few veterans such as senior Cody Dent, sophomore Justin Shafer, and senior Vickash Ramjit.
However, freshman Harrison Bader is expected to start in the outfield tonight and Dent should get a start as well with Shafer in the designated hitter role. Redshirt freshman Cory Reid should also start. O'Sullivan talks about some of the lineup changes.
The tenative starting lineup is as follows:
Starting on the mound for the Gators is junior Jonathon Crawford. In 19 appearances last season, including 14 starts, the right-hander was 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA. He finished tied for second on the team with 73 strikeouts in 77.2 innings.
One pitcher not throwing for Florida will be junior Karsten Whitson who, according to multiple sources, will be lost for the season with shoulder trouble. He was slated to be the number two starter this season after battling injuries last year.
Duke head coach Chris Pollard, who left Appalachian State to replace Sean McNally in June, makes his debut as a Blue Devil tonight. In his tenure at Appalachian State, he led the team to six consevutive 30 win seasons and won the 2012 Southern Conference Coach of the Year. Pollard was also named one of Baseball America's Top 10 coach under 40.
Duke is a rising young team with only three seniors and 12 juniors. Pollard says they're hoping to get productivity from the junior class.
The Blue Devils went 21-34 last season, even though they had Marcus Stroman in their pitching rotation. Stroman was drafted in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jonathon Crawford will throw the first pitch tonight in McKethan Stadium at 7pm. Tune into ESPN Radio 850/900 for live coverage.
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