Wyatt Langford
The Florida Gators Baseball team celebrates with Wyatt Langford (36) during a game against the Georgia State Panthers on Feb. 26, 2022. (Photo by Jordan McKendrick, Floridagators.com)

Florida Stetson Baseball Preview

Florida baseball has just over a month left in its season and it needs a strong finish.

Following a series loss to Vanderbilt, the Gators (22-14) are back out of the Top-25 and in serious risk of not hosting a regional. The road to a strong finish begins Tuesday as the Gators face off against the Stetson Hatters (18-17). The two teams played earlier this year in Dunedin, with Florida winning 8-1.

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The Gators have just 16 games remaining on the schedule, with four series and four midweek games left. It is the business end of the schedule now, and UF can barely afford to lose any more series. If it does, it is at serious risk of not hosting a regional for the third time since 2013.

It certainly cannot afford to lose any of its midweek games and needs to start stringing some wins together. If it can create some momentum going into the back part of the season, it can even make a run at hosting a super regional. With a strong remaining schedule, Florida still has a chance to boost its resume enough to get back in position to host a super.

If the Gators want any chance of postseason success, they are going to have to start getting more consistent pitching.

SEC Struggles

Florida baseball has lost three of its five series in SEC play. It has not been a good baseball team in the conference this year. Florida pitching has a 4.44 ERA in SEC play this season which is just eighth best in the league. It has allowed the fifth-most runs in conference play and has the strike out the third-fewest batters.

The Gators recipe on the mound is not one for success. They allow a bunch of hits and do not strike out a whole lot of batters. If it were not for Hunter Barco — even he has not been great in SEC play — this pitching staff would be a complete disaster.

The offense has not been much better. Florida’s .281 batting average and .367 on-base percentage in conference play are both third-worst in the SEC. It has just three players hitting over .300 and just five players with an OPS over .800. An offense that was once extremely potent has take a sharp turn since conference play began, it is also third-worst in runs scored in the SEC.

The one thing the Gators have done right in SEC play is hit for power. They are always capable of big numbers because they can hit the ball out of the ballpark at a high rate. They are second in the SEC in home runs and fourth in slugging percentage.

The problem has been that even when they do score a good amount of runs, the pitching has let them down. The bullpen blew another late lead Friday, which has been the Achilles heel of this team. If anything has held them back above all, it has been the unreliability of the bullpen.

These are problems to figure out quickly. The simple fact is the team is flawed and has had a rough SEC schedule. If it does not finish strong and end up in Top 16, say goodbye to a Gainesville regional. It would be an overwhelming disappointment if Florida does not host a regional this season.

Talking Stetson

The Hatters enter play in the midst of a rough stretch. They are just 5-10 in their conference and are coming off a series loss to Jacksonville University over the weekend.

Their head coach, Steve Trimper, joined Sports Scene with Steve Russell leading up to Tuesday’s showdown to discuss his team. His squad is hitting just .259 as a team, and he discussed its offensive struggles with Russell.

Jonathan Gonzalez (3-5, 5.24 ERA) will get the start for the Hatters Tuesday, but Trimper expects a number of pitchers to make an appearance. This is a decimated starting rotation that has seen a lot of injuries so several guys have carried the load. Trimper discussed how it has affected the team as it has been missing most of its front-line starters.

Part of the reason Stetson has struggled in conference is because it has faced a very difficult road. It is in the Atlantic Sun, which decided this season to split into divisions. The Hatters were placed in the tougher division, with most of the best teams in the conference. Their head coach explained how this has made their schedule extremely tough and presented a major challenge for the program.

They face one of their toughest tests on their schedule Tuesday as they travel to Gainesville to play the Gators. Freshman Karl Hartman (0-0, 9.26 ERA) gets the start for Florida opposite Gonzalez. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be heard on 98.1 WRUF 850 AM beginning at 5:55 p.m.

About Ethan Budowsky

Ethan Budowsky is a fifth-year telecommunications student at the University of Florida. He covers Major League Baseball for Just Baseball Media and previously covered the Miami Marlins for their SB Nation affiliate, Fish Stripes.

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