Florida riding Young, momentum into SEC tourney semifinals

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida outfielder Jacob Young celebrates with teammates after hitting a homer against Alabama in the seventh inning of Thursday's SEC tournament game in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. — Florida entered the SEC Baseball Tournament earlier this week after losing four consecutive games, including being swept at No. 1. Arkansas.

The six-seeded Gators could have been eliminated early.

"It could have went one of two directions after the weekend at Arkansas," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.

But instead, Florida (38-19), ranked No. 13 nationally, has taken the high road, winning three consecutive tournament games to advance to Saturday's single-elimination semifinal. Florida will play second-seed Tennessee (45-15) at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Volunteers eliminated Alabama on Friday via run-rule, 11-0.

Saturday's winners advance to Sunday's championship game at 3 p.m. (ESPN2). Five seed Ole Miss (41-18) plays top seed Arkansas (44-10) in Saturday's second semifinal.

Although the Gators have received production up and down the roster this week, the tone was set in their first at-bat in the win Tuesday over Kentucky.

 Leadoff man Jacob Young homered on the first pitch he saw in the first inning and the Gators have not trailed in outscoring teams 24-4. 

Young has provided the spark, as he is 7 for 13 (.538), with two home runs, a double, five runs batted in and scored four runs.

"He's everything you want in a player that you're coaching," O'Sullivan said of Young. "He's a great student, and he makes all the right decisions off the field. But as far as a baseball player, he really sets a good example for the younger players. He's a team player, number one, and he always gives good effort on the field.

"He only knows one gear, he's the epitome of what you want in a player in a program like ours, and he certainly sets the example that way. When he goes, we go."

The Gators are hitting .346 in the tourney. They followed the 18-hit outing in the run-rule win over three seed Mississippi State on Wednesday with 14 hits in the 7-2 win over Alabama on Thursday.

"Baseball's a game of momentum," O'Sullivan said. "We kind of got on a roll early, and some guys were feeling really good about their swings."

Note: After Thursday’s win, O’Sullivan said starting pitchers Tommy Mace, Hunter Barco and Franco Aleman are done for the week. ... Florida is 1-2 against Tennessee, losing the series in Knoxville last month.

Saturday

What: Semifinal of SEC Baseball Tournament

Who: Florida (38-19) vs. Tennessee (45-15)

When: 1 p.m.

Where: Hoover Metropolitan Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM