UF close to fielding full roster

Florida outfielder Ryan Larson is checked out by staff after being hit by a pitch in the first inning of a game against Mississippi State at the Southeastern Conference tournament May 26 in Hoover, Ala. [AP Photo/Butch Dill]

By Kevin Brockway
Staff writer

Florida was able to overcome an inconsistent weekend at the plate to get through the Gainesville Regional.

The Gators are hopeful the return of their leadoff hitter will provide a spark to their offense heading into their Super Regional series against Wake Forest.

Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he expects to have center fielder Ryan Larson back when Florida begins the best-of-three series Saturday at McKethan Stadium against the Demon Deacons (3 p.m., ESPN).

“I think he’ll be ready to go this weekend,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s been one of our most consistent hitters the entire year. I’m hoping, now knock on wood nothing happens this week in practice, but this is going to be the first time I think we’re gonna be at full strength the entire year.”

Larson has been out since being hit in the head with a fastball in an SEC Tournament game May 26 against Mississippi State. For the season, Larson is hitting .318 with five home runs and 23 RBIs.

“He’s definitely a huge part of our lineup and our success this year,” Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie said. “If we can get him back this weekend, it will be a big boost for us.”

After pounding out 10 runs to win its first game in the Gainesville Regional against Marist, Florida was held to just a run on five hits in nine innings in an eventual 5-1, 12-inning win over USF. Then, the following night against Bethune-Cookman, Florida scored just two runs on five hits in a 5-2 loss. Florida went scoreless the first five innings Monday in its deciding game against Bethune-Cookman before Austin Langworthy’s three-run homer in the sixth helped UF pull away for a 6-1 win.

“We kind of played a little bit tight, especially near the end,” Guthrie said. “It happens. We just weren’t swinging well this weekend. Hopefully we can work on some things, look at their pitchers and hopefully come in with a good approach, just play relaxed and free and if we can do that, our lineup can be dangerous.”

The Gators may need to provide more run support for their pitchers against a Wake Forest team that’s put up impressive offensive numbers throughout the season. The Demon Deacons are averaging 6.7 runs per game this season, batting .311 on the year with 100 home runs and 436 RBIs.

O’Sullivan said he expects UF’s hitters to bounce back this weekend.

“It’s just one of those weekends,” O’Sullivan said. “I think Saturday’s game against USF was a very difficult one for us because we saw every one of their good arms in one game, they threw the whole kitchen sink at us, and they’re good. It was hard for us to get into any kind of rhythm. And then obviously, historically when we see teams with velocity we don’t normally see on the weekends we tend to struggle at times.”

EXTRA BASES: Florida junior right-handed pitcher Alex Faedo and sophomore right-handed pitcher Michael Byrne were both named to Baseball America All-American teams. Faedo (7-2, 2.70 ERA) was named second-team All-American, while Byrne (3-4, 1.55 ERA, 16 saves) earned third-team honors. “It was a nice accomplishment,” Faedo said. “I was happy I got to see Byrne’s name on there. We’re throwing partners so it was good that he got a little recognition. I guess it means we’re doing our job for the team and we’re putting our best effort and helping our team win.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or kevin.brockway@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway’s blog at Gatorsports.com.