No. 14 Gators welcome No. 2 Commodores to Florida Ballpark for weekend series
[Update, 6:53 p.m.] First pitch for tonight's series opener is now scheduled for 7:32 p.m. because of weather in the Gainesville area.
This weekend's SEC baseball match-up at Florida Ballpark was expected to be a meeting of top-five teams.
After scuffling through the league start, the Gators (28-12, 11-7 SEC) have won eight of their last nine games and recorded double-digit hits in seven of the past eight games to move back up the D1Baseball Top 25 Rankings to No. 14 after starting the season as the consensus No. 1 choice.
Meanwhile, the Commodores are living up to the preseason hype. SEC East-leading Vanderbilt is 31-7 overall, 13-5 in the SEC and remain ranked No. 2 nationally.
The series begins at 7 p.m. today (ESPNU). Saturday's game is set for a 6:30 p.m. start (SEC Network+) and Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2). For game tickets, call 375-4683.
Vanderbilt staff pitch perfect
The Commodores have the lowest team earned run average in the SEC and sixth in the nation at 2.89. Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter have proved to be the most fearsome pitching duo in college baseball, and either one could be the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
Right-hander Rocker is 9-1 record with a 1.55 ERA and opposing teams have only a .143 batting average against him. Rocker’s fastball averages 93-96 mph and tops out at 99.
Sophomore righty Leiter is the son of 19-year major leaguer Al Leiter, He has a 7-1 record with a 1.49 ERA and a .115 opponent batting average. Leiter threw a no-hitter earlier this season with 16 strikeouts. His fastball has been clocked at 92-95 mph and tops out at 97.
Commodores can also hit
Vanderbilt has the second-ranked offense in the SEC with a .300 team batting average.
Some Vandy players to watch are junior right fielder Isaiah Thomas, who is considered a Top 100 prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft with a .316 batting average, six home runs and 20 runs batted in.
Freshman outfielder Enrique Bradfield appears to be the perfect leadoff hitter, as he owns a .331 batting average, 27 walks and 30 stolen bases.
Catcher C.J. Rodriguez is hitting .326 with four home runs and 21 RBIs.
Florida will start right-hander Franco Aleman (1-1) vs. Rocker on Friday. A battle of aces is scheduled for Saturday between UF's Tommy Mace (4-1) and Leiter. The Gators will throw Hunter Barco (6-2) on Saturday, while Vandy has not named a starter for that day.
Florida is hoping the home crowd provides the extra juice. The Gators are 23-5 at home and have won all three SEC series at Florida Ballpark to the tune of an 8-1 record.
Who: No. 2 Vanderbilt (31-7,13-5 SEC) vs. No. 14 Florida (28-12, 11-7 SEC)
When: 7 p.m. today
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Weekend: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday