The seventh ranked Gator baseball team will host the Tennessee Volunteers for a weekend series starting Friday night. Florida will look to move past Tuesday night, when they were getting dominated 10-1 at home by Stetson before inclement weather caused the cancellation of the game.
Florida comes into the series with a 20-9 record overall, and a 15-3 record at home. The Gators have won six of their past seven games, with all of those against ranked opponents. However, Florida is only 5-4 through their first nine SEC games, putting them in fourth place in the SEC East. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said that teams will sometimes have those kinds of stretches though, and that this is “just like any other SEC weekend.”
Lucky for him and the team, the weekend means the trio of Alex Faedo, Brady Singer, and Jackson Kowar take the mound. Between the three, they are 13-2 with a 2.02 ERA. That earned run average is led by the sophomore Singer (4-1), who boasts a 1.47 ERA and has 39 strikeouts 49 innings. Faedo, the Gators’ Friday starter, leads the team in strikeouts (49), batting average against (.186) wins (5), as he’s performed well in his role atop the rotation. Meanwhile, Kowar has an unblemished 4-0 record in his role as the Sunday starter. It’s safe to say Florida’s weekend starters have been a big key for a team that has struggled with the bats early in the season.
Those same bats have been turning it around in recent weeks though.
The middle of the lineup, JJ Schwarz- Nelson Maldonado- Mike Rivera- Christian Hicks, hit .368 over the past week, combining for three home runs and nine RBI. That’s good news for Florida as Schwarz and Rivera really struggled to start the season. Schwarz fell to the Mendoza line (.200) during the Auburn series and Rivera had a .185 average after the Seton Hall series. Now, Schwarz is back up to a .248 average and has a team-leading 20 RBI on the season, while Rivera is 13-for-38 (.342) in his past 11 games. O’Sullivan said he thinks the guys “that are supposed to hit have been starting to come back around.”
Compared to Florida, the Volunteers have been trending in the opposite direction. They sit at 15-11, but are 1-8 in the SEC. That includes sweeps in two of their three SEC series so far, against South Carolina and Mississippi State. They also dropped a mid-week game to Middle Tennessee earlier in the week, falling 7-4.
They’ll look to rely on their pitching staff to bounce back this weekend. The rotation is led by senior Hunter Martin (4-2, 3.10 ERA) and freshman Garrett Stallings (2-0, 3.03 ERA). As a whole, Tennessee has allowed the fewest walks in the SEC (76) and is tied for fifth in the conference for fewest hits allowed. They also boast some fire in the bullpen, as Kyle Serrano has been a strong presence in his seven relief appearances this season.
— Tennessee Stats (@Vol_Stats) April 4, 2017
At the plate, the big bats reside in the hands of second baseman Jeff Moberg and third baseman Jordan Rodgers. Moberg bats at a .348 clip, good for second in the SEC, and has six home runs on the season, tied for sixth in the conference. That goes along with 42 RBI and 101 hits on the season in 318 at-bats. Rodgers meanwhile is batting .376, ranking fourth in the SEC.
Under O’Sullivan, the Gators are 19-8 against Tennessee. When the teams met last year, Florida took two out of the three games, outscoring the Vols 18-7 over that weekend.
- Friday: RHP Alex Faedo (4-1, 2.39 ERA) vs. RHP Hunter Martin (4-2, 3.10 ERA)
- Saturday: RHP Brady Singer (3-1, 1.58 ERA) vs. RHP Garrett Stallings (2-0, 3.03 ERA)
- Sunday: RHP Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.48 ERA) vs. TBA