UF baseball fired up to face FSU in Tampa tonight


Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 4:25 p.m.

Moments after watching his team’s series-sweeping win over Boston College on Sunday afternoon, the focus around Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his team shifted to a bitter rival — Florida State.

Facts

At a glance

Who: No. 1 Florida (7-0) vs. No. 11 Florida State (7-0)
Where: George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa
When: Tonight, 7
Gainesville TV: WLUF, Channel 6 on Cox
Gainesville radio: AM-850

All the excitement the top-ranked Gators (7-0) generated from their impressive start, supported by superb pitching and tremendous defense, became a mere afterthought when talking about No. 11 FSU (7-0).

The two face each other tonight as part of the “The Florida Four” at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. South Florida-Miami will precede Florida’s bout with FSU.

Just thinking about last year’s shortcomings against the Seminoles generates a little more fire in O’Sullivan’s speech.

“They got the best of us last year,” O’Sullivan said. “They beat us four out of five, and our players know that. Surely, we’ll use that as motivation.”

Playing a home-and-home and at two neutral locations against FSU in 2010, the Gators’ only victory came in an 8-5 win in Gainesville. Florida’s worst defeat came in a 10-5 decision in Tampa, a game in which pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Hudson Randall combined to give up seven runs in the first inning.

However, the most bitter loss to the ‘Noles came months later at the College World Series. In only their second game in Omaha, Neb., the Gators left 10 on base, falling 8-5. The loss ended Florida’s season much earlier than the Gators intended.

Having to endure the fact that their neighbors to the northwest sent them packing after only two games on college baseball’s biggest stage has been eating away at the Gators for months.

“It’s pretty bitter after losing four out of five to them, and I know we’re looking forward to it and we’re excited to play them,” sophomore catcher Mike Zunino said.

O’Sullivan will send junior right-hander Tommy Toledo (0-0, 0.00 ERA), a Tampa native, to the mound to start against FSU righty Scott Sitz (1-0, 0.00). Sitz was held out during FSU’s weekend series with Hofstra.

This will be Toledo’s first start of the season after three relief appearances, earning his first career save, giving up just two hits and striking out four in his four innings of work. Batters are hitting .143 against him.

Toledo will face a FSU lineup hitting .363 with eight home runs on the young season.

Sitz has struck out six and given up four hits in six innings.

O’Sullivan said he will have junior lefty Alex Panteliodis (0-0, 9.00), also of Tampa, and DeSclafani (1-0, 0.00 ERA) ready in relief.

While the Gators cranked out 20 runs over the weekend, O’Sullivan said he would still like to see more run production with men on base. Through seven games, the Gators have left nearly eight men on per game and have hit into seven double plays. However, as a team, Florida is hitting .352.

Even with only one day to prepare his team for the Seminoles, O’Sullivan said one look at last year’s struggles against their arch-rival should almost be enough to crank up the Gators’ competitive senses.

The intensity from Tuesday isn’t expected to die out either, as the Gators will host southern rival, Miami, for a weekend series starting Friday.

O’Sullivan doesn’t want his team to get too amped up now and lose its focus, but hedoes want to see some eagerness out of his players for what O’Sullivan calls a “great week for Florida baseball.”

“If you can’t get excited for Florida-Florida State or Florida-Miami, then you’re probably in the wrong program,” he said.

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