Florida to host improved Georgia in home finale

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The Gator dugout cheers on their closer pitcher Michael Byrne. [Cyndi Chambers/ Correspondent/Gaines­ville Sun]

Florida lost to Georgia once in football and twice in men’s basketball during the 2017-18 academic year.

So the No. 1 Gators will be looking to exact some revenge on the baseball diamond when they begin a three-game series with the rival Bulldogs tonight at McKethan Stadium.

It won’t be easy. No. 16 Georgia (34-14, 15-9 SEC) has posted the second-best record in the conference behind Florida (39-11, 18-6). The Bulldogs are among the most improved teams in the SEC this season, having already posted four more wins in league play compared to last year.

“They played a lot of young players last year, had to go through some growing pains,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “But they’ve been playing good all year long. It’s going to be a challenge for us, no doubt, but if you are going to end up being a team that wins this league you are going to have to go through really good teams. We’ve done that all year and Georgia, it’s not going to be any different with them.”

Florida is entering its final home SEC series of the season on another roll, having won four of its last five games. The Gators have won all eight SEC series that they’ve played in and would wrap up at least a share of the league title if they take two of three from the Bulldogs. The Gators close SEC regular season play the following weekend at Mississippi State.

“It’s not easy, especially playing the level of talent that we’re playing, but we really just take it one game at a time,” Florida junior shortstop Deacon Liput said. “We don’t overlook anyone. We don’t look past anyone, because everyone in this league is highly talented.”

A key to UF’s success in league play this season has been getting off to a good series start. Florida is 11-1 overall and 7-1 in SEC play in opening games. Junior righty ace Brady Singer (10-1, 2.33) has started all eight SEC openers and will start for the Gators again tonight. Singer has allowed four earned runs over his last 30 innings and is coming off throwing a six-hit shutout last week at Texas A&M.

“The starters, if they throw like they did this past weekend, at A&M, I think we’re in good shape,” O’Sullivan said.

Like Florida, Georgia boasts a deep and experienced pitching staff. The Bulldogs rank fourth in the SEC in team earned run average (3.52) and second behind Florida in opponent batting average (.223). Offensively, Georgia is led by left fielder Keegan McGovern, who ranks fifth in the SEC in home runs (13) and fifth in slugging percentage (.619).

“They have a deep pen, they have different looks, they have a split lineup, righty-lefty up and down the lineup,” O’Sullivan said. “They are much improved.”


Today

Who: No. 16 Georgia (34-14, 15-9 SEC) vs. No. 1 Florida (39-11, 18-6)

When: 6:30 p.m.

Where: McKethan Stadium

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM


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