Hot Gators host Gamecocks
Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 11:46 p.m.
Generating momentum has been a difficult proposition for this young and inconsistent Florida baseball team this season. But the Gators have some now, gaining it the hard way with back-to-back road victories, one against a ranked rival.
Who: No. 11 South Carolina (27-7, 8-4 SEC) vs. Florida (16-18, 5-7)
Where: McKethan Stadium
When: Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Radio: 103.7 FM
Now comes the even harder part: keeping that momentum going against the No. 11 team in the nation, South Carolina.
“It's important. Momentum is the key for any team,” UF catcher Taylor Gushue said. “Keeping momentum, it's completely necessary. It's fun when you have momentum, too.”
The Gators probably haven't had this much fun all season. They're riding a two-game winning streak after putting together impressive back-to-back road performances against Mississippi State on Sunday and No. 7 Florida State on Tuesday night.
The two victories have improved UF to 16-18 on the season. Suddenly, the Gators have a chance to get back to .500 and possibly claw their way back into contention for postseason play. UF is 5-7 in the SEC, with the schedule growing more favorable in the second half of the conference season.
“Those were two big wins,” Gushue said. “We really needed them. At this point in the season, it's important for us to win as many games as we possibly can.
“To do it against ranked opponents, it's huge. To get those wins on the road, it's perfect. I think we're right where we need to be.”
The Gators have a chance to continue their momentum at home in a three-game series against the Gamecocks (27-7 overall and 8-4 in the SEC). UF will throw Jonathon Crawford (1-5, 4:37 ERA) against USC ace Nolan Belcher (5-2, 1.70 ERA, 53 strikeouts against only four walks) in tonight's 7:30 opener.
“It (the two-game winning streak) just builds our confidence and gives us momentum going into the weekend,” Crawford said. “We definitely have improved a lot. We just have to put it all together and play as a team.”
Heading into the season, the consensus prediction about the young Gators is they would improve over the course of the season and could be a tough team to beat down the stretch.
Maybe that is starting to come to fruition. With the consecutive road victories, the Gators have now won five of their last seven games, including winning a home series against Ole Miss, another ranked opponent, two weeks ago.
Gushue was asked if this could be the turning point for the Gators' season.
“I think so,” he said. “It's definitely turned around for us. I can definitely see it in the general attitude. I can feel it inside myself. I'm sure a bunch of the other guys feel it, too.
“Going into the latter half of the SEC season, I think we have a good shot. If we can keep this momentum, we'll be in a good position. It starts with pitching, putting up zeros, and the hitters coming up behind the pitchers and everybody playing solid defense.”
Keeping that formula going against the Gamecocks will be a challenge.
“They never take a pitch off. I think that's what they do best,” Gushue said. “We're just going to have to match their intensity on the field.
“They have a lot of depth. Their dugout is always great. It's loud and they keep the energy up. We've got to do the same thing. We have to keep matching them.”