Gators look to get back on track at Arkansas


April 1, 2004 University of Florida's Fab Five Freshmen, from left, Ryan Kennedy, Brian Jeroloman, Adam Davis, Brian Leclerc, and Matt LaPorta.

Sun file photo
Published: Friday, May 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 6, 2005 at 1:27 a.m.
There is no panic, no desperation in Florida's baseball locker room. But the anxiety level has certainly risen a notch as the sixth-ranked Gators head to Arkansas for a weekend series beginning tonight (8 p.m., Sun Sports).
Florida (31-13, 14-7) has lost three of its last four, including a 9-4 loss to rival Florida State on Tuesday at McKethan Stadium.
The Gators enter this weekend with just a game advantage over Alabama (13-8) for the top spot in the SEC. Florida is also just 1 1/2 games up on Tennessee (12-8) for the top spot in the East.
It's a razor thin margin for a Gators team that has held on to first place for the past three weekends.
"It's not like we're in a huge downfall right now or are in the slums," third baseman Brandon McArthur said. "We've just got to keep working hard."
Florida has certainly cooled off a bit after winning 13 of 16 prior to its recent slide. Some figures:
  • Lead-off hitter Jeff Corsaletti saw his 11-game hitting streak end Sunday and has gone 0-for-9 in his last two games to fall below .400 for the first time this season.
  • Florida has seen its staff ERA rise from 3.44 to 3.83 after posting a 7.75 ERA over the past four games.
  • The Gators have had their share of wasted opportunities as well. The most recent was the eighth inning of the Gators loss to FSU when they scored one run despite five straight singles in the inning. Gavin Dickey was picked off second base in the middle of the rally and the Gators left the bases loaded trailing 6-4.
    "We're not finishing. We're not finishing games as a team," Dickey said. "Little things here and there come back to bite us.
    "These things happen in baseball. But to be champions we can't let them happen."
    Gators coach Pat McMahon hasn't been upset about his team's play despite the losses.
    "I don't know that we need to turn anything around," McMahon said. "We lost a ballgame (Tuesday). Turning things around to me just means working hard and doing everything you've been doing."
    While Florida has won five straight SEC road games, Arkansas (33-13, 9-12) is a formidable challenge. The Razorbacks are fighting for an SEC Tournament spot and have a 17-5 record at home.
    Nevertheless, Florida is focusing on itself and, when looking at the big picture, considers itself lucky.
    The Gators were a preseason pick to finish third in the SEC East by the conference's coaches and have played this season with six underclassmen among their eight position starters. Such facts have often been overlooked during Florida's near month-long ride atop the SEC standings.
    "A lot of people doubted us at the beginning of the year," McArthur said. "But to be where we are now we've got a chance to be successful down the stretch in the SEC."
    You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com.
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