Gator baseball will be busy at start


Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 28, 2008 at 11:50 p.m.

Fans gearing up for Gator baseball season will have to wait a few weeks longer this year.

The NCAA, in an attempt to aid northern schools playing in cold weather, has implemented a Feb. 22 start date to the college baseball season this year. That means the Gators and new head coach Kevin O'Sullivan will toss out their first pitch two weeks later than normal this year.

Previously, there was no uniform start date. Warm weather schools were perceived to hold an advantage over cold weather schools because they could start their season earlier and practice outdoors in better conditions.

The change, which was approved last January, will have a significant impact on this season. The most evident being a more compact schedule. The Gators will frequently play two midweek games instead of one, which means they will face several five-game weeks.

"There's no more of those three-games-a-week where you have the whole week off," O'Sullivan said. "It's going to put our staff to the test early on, which I think is good. You've got to find out about your guys early and throw them right into the fire."

Florida will do just that. The Gators will play 14 games in the season's first 19 days prior to starting SEC play. It is almost like a Major League Baseball slate.

The Gators open by hosting Siena for a three-game weekend series. Florida will get one day off before hosting Eastern Michigan for a two-game set, have one more day off before opening a three-game weekend series at Miami. The Gators then get one day off after the Miami series before hosting Campbell for a two-game set. After another day off, Brown visits for a three-game weekend series.

While such a compact schedule could be viewed as a disadvantage, O'Sullivan said he prefers it.

"When you press your team like that, you find out more about your club as you possibly can," he said. "You use more pitchers, and the schedule the way it is, the eighth, ninth, 10th, pitchers are going to be just as valuable."

O'Sullivan said he feels as if the pitching staff he is inheriting at Florida is deep enough to handle the rigors of such a schedule, he admits that the new uniform start date will force changes to teams' rosters.

"Ultimately, it's going to change the way recruiting goes," he said. "You need to make sure you're covered pitching-wise because this isn't going to change."

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