Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida (25-14, 6-9 SEC) hits the road for a key Southeastern Conference matchup in Baton Rouge against No. 14 LSU (24-14, 9-6 SEC) this weekend. All three games will air live on national TV, starting with tonight’s contest at 9 ET on the SEC Network. Inclement weather in the area has forced first pitch for Game 1 to be pushed back.
Friday’s game is scheduled for 8 p.m. (SEC Network) with the series finale set for 3 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).
Tommy Mace (6-3, 4.13 ERA) gets the nod to start on the mound for UF, while Jack Leftwich (4-2, 4.50) returns to the lineup Friday and Christian Scott (3-2, 4.60) is the scheduled starter Saturday.
SERIES HISTORY |Overall: LSU leads, 62-50-1. In Baton Rouge: LSU leads, 29-14-1. Notable: The Gators did not play a regular season series in 2018, but split a pair of games in Hoover. In 2017, Florida went 4-1 against LSU — winning the regular season series in Gainesville and sweeping the Tigers 2-0 in the 2017 College World Series Finals to win the NCAA title.
Second Half Hopes: In 11 seasons under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, the Gators have averaged 9.8 wins in the second half of SEC play and notched 10+ wins six times. Only once has Florida had a losing record in its last 15 league games under O’Sullivan (6-9 in 2013). The Gators are looking to climb the ranks with hopes of extending their program best 11-straight postseason appearances.
Turning the Corner: Florida’s defense struggled to start the season with many new faces in the lineup, including four freshmen. UF totaled 33 errors with a .967 fielding percentage in the first 27 games (1.22 errors per game). As the newcomers gained experience, the defense has improved. In the last 12 games, the Gators have just seven errors (0.58 per game) with a .984 fielding percentage.
Consistent Offense: Over the last 10 games, UF has averaged 10.1 hits per game (.298 average) with 6.5 runs per game. The Gators have 9+ hits eight of the last 10 games and scored 6+ runs six times.
Super Soph: SS Brady McConnell leads the offense this season with a .373 average. On the year, he leads UF with eight home runs and 18 multi-hit games. He ranks fifth in the SEC in batting average (.373) and second in total hits (56) entering the weekend.
Luethje Leading Way: Freshman reliever David Luethje has been the Gators’ most consistent reliever this season, posting a 0.55 ERA (1 earned run) in 16.1 innings out of the bullpen. Overall, he has a 1.61 ERA in 22.1 innings over nine appearances (two starts).
Langworthy Rebounding: Junior Austin Langworthy started the season in a slump but has picked up the pace. In the first 16 games, he went 11-62 (.177) with seven RBI and four extra-base hits. In his last 21 games, he is 23-77 (.299) with 12 RBI and nine extra-base hits. In addition, he has been clutch driving in runs. He has a team-high 12 two-out RBI (19 total RBI).
QUOTING LSU’s PAUL MAINIERI: “We’ve played a lot of very big games against Florida over the years, and this series falls into that category. It’s the start of the second half of SEC play, and we traditionally have played our best baseball at this time of the year. We’re only a game out of first place in the overall league race, so each of these remaining 15 conference games take on a great deal of significance. Florida is an extremely talented team that has won four of its last five games and is playing with a lot of confidence, so we know we’re facing a tremendous challenge starting on Thursday.”
— Dan Apple of UF S.I.D.