The Florida Gator baseball team (21-5, 3-3 SEC) will host the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-10, 3-3 SEC) in a three-game set beginning today.
The Gators are looking to build on the momentum they gained on Wednesday when they defeated the Stetson Hatters 9-6. Florida starting pitcher Alex Faedo was solid for the Gators in their win, going five innings while allowing one run.
But Florida’s weekend starters have struggled of late, and Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan has changed his starting rotation for this series. The normal first starter, Logan Shore, will now pitch Friday in the second game of the series with senior Aaron Rhodes starting Thursday. Righty Dane Dunning will pitch Saturday, meaning AJ Puk is for now out of the rotation.
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan talked about the struggles of the pitching staff.
“For us to get to where we want to get to A.J. Puk has got to be a huge part of this rotation,” O’Sullivan said. “We need him. We need Logan. We need Dane. These are really talented arms.”
Florida isn’t the only team in this series with pitching struggles. Alabama has had consistency issues of its own, and head coach Mitch Gaspard talked about the struggles, highlighting the up-and-down nature of control as one of the biggest issues with the staff.
The Alabama pitching staff has had a few bright spots though, being led by Geoffrey Bramblett (4-1, 3.37 ERA, 21 Ks) and Taylor Guilbeau (2-2, 2.61 ERA, 42 Ks). Guilbeau will pitch Thursday, Bramblett Saturday and junior lefty Will Carter pitches Friday.
Alabama, like their pitching staff, has been up and down offensively this season, as indicated by its record, and Gaspard talked about the team thus far.
“It’s been a little disappointing through 23 games,” Gaspard said. “We’ve got a group that’s been with us now for three years and have had a reasonable amount of success, and we just haven’t played up to standards we would like.”
But the Crimson Tide haven’t been all bad.
They are led at the plate by junior Mikey White, who leads the team in average (.410) and is second in RBIs (21), and sophomore Casey Hughston, who leads the team in home runs (4) and RBIs (26).
“They hit in the three and four hole, and they’re both really good players, and guys that have had a high amount of success with us. Both are having really good years and have been very consistent day in and day out,” Gaspard said.
Gaspard will have to lean heavily on these two, as the rest of the team has struggled around them, and he knows the series will be a struggle.
“They’re (Florida) a very well-coached team. They’re just looking for you to crack, and when you crack, they kind of pounce on it and take advantage of it.”
First pitch from Gainesville is set for 7:00.
For sound from the coaches, click below.