Florida baseball head coach Kevin O' Sullivan takes a mound visit during the team's loss to Florida State on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. Photo courtesy of Te'a Startz.

Florida Baseball Hosts Mississippi State For Three-Game Set

Gators baseball is in an interesting position.

The team’s inability to consistently win midweek games is hurting them in terms of overall record. At just 14-10, the Gators’ record overall this season is second-to-last in the SEC.

Yet at the same time, Florida has proved to be strong in baseball’s toughest conference, going 4-2 in SEC play for second place in the East behind Kentucky (5-1). The Gators are ranked sixth nationally and are the only team in the top 10 with double-digit losses.

They’ll have another opportunity to win an SEC series, hosting No. 21 Mississippi State (18-8, 3-3) for a three-game series beginning Friday.

Gators Changing Staff

Following a run-rule loss to Florida State Tuesday, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan decided to switch up the team’s pitching rotation for this upcoming series.

Brandon Neely (1-0, 4.50 ERA), who has been UF’s closer, will get his first start of the season Friday. In 11 appearances this season, the right-handed junior has struck out 27 batters and allowed a .211 opponent batting average. But his recent form has been excellent. Neely hasn’t surrendered a run in his last eight innings pitched. Even better, he’s struck out 13 batters while allowing just two walks.

He’ll be replacing sophomore Cade Fisher, who has struggled as a starter this season. Fisher has a 2-2 record with an ERA of 8.13. Moving Fisher back to the bullpen, where he began his college career last season, could be a boon for the lefty.

Starting Saturday and Sunday will be freshman Liam Peterson (1-2, 7.66) and junior Jac Caglianone.

Peterson’s ERA isn’t much better than Fisher’s, but Caglianone has shown massive growth on the mound this season. The two-way star is 3-0 in five starts and sports an ERA of 1.65, the best on the team.

His control on the mound has also improved vastly, allowing just 18 walks so far this season. He surrendered 55, last year.

Bulldogs’ Offensive Struggles

Mississippi State’s inconsistencies this season have come on the other side. In two losses against Texas A&M last week, the offense scored just four runs. The Bulldogs have offensive power with sophomore Dakota Jordan and junior Hunter Hines, who have combined for 19 home runs this season.

However, the rest of their lineup leaves something to be desired.

As a team, Mississippi State is just 12th in the SEC in slugging percentage at .460.

If they want to take out the Gators, the Bulldogs are going to need offensive contribution from their whole lineup. MSU will start righty Khal Stephens (3-2, 4.20 ERA) today.

Game Time

First pitch Friday and Saturday is at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday’s game will begin at 1 p.m. All three games will be on the SEC Network+ and ESPN 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF.

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