Gators taking renewed approach to NCAA regional tourney opener


Published: Friday, May 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 9:19 p.m.

Florida is approaching its NCAA tournament opener Friday against Austin Peay in the Bloomington, Ind., region with renewed optimism.

Facts

Friday

Bloomington, Ind. regional, Florida (29-28) vs. Austin Peay (45-13), 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN3 (online stream), AM-850

“It's a new season,” Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “What you've done in the past doesn't matter at this point. It's a brand new season and anyone can get hot at anytime, and I think everybody feels good about their team this time of year. So we'll give it our best shot and see what happens.”

The third-seeded Gators (29-28) haven't played since a 6-3 loss to Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on May 21. The 10-day layoff has given Florida a chance to regroup after losing five of its previous seven games. The stretch put UF's string of NCAA Tournament appearances in jeopardy, but based on facing the nation's second-best schedule, Florida reached regional play for the sixth straight year.

Now, the Gators want to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them. Florida has reached the College World Series for three straight years. Odds are long for a return trip to Omaha, but not impossible.

“Everybody's excited about having a chance to get back to Omaha,” Florida shortstop Cody Dent said. “That's what we're playing for.”

Junior righty Jonathon Crawford (3-6, 4.03 ERA) will start Friday against second-seeded Austin Peay (1 p.m., ESPN3, AM-850), which boasts the nation's longest winning streak at 15 games. The Governors have held 11 of their last 13 opponents to four earned runs or less.

Top-seeded Indiana will face fourth-seeded Valparaiso in the nightcap of Friday's double-elimination tournament. Crawford said he thinks the Gators are capable of getting a streak similar to April, when it won 12 of 16 games.

“We're a young team,” Crawford said. “We kind of feed off a lot from momentum, so if we can get that momentum, people are not going to like us. We swept South Carolina earlier this year. We know we can do it, so it's just a matter of doing it.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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