Revenge is the fuel that sustains us. This has been brutally apparent during this year's SEC Tournament. In game 1 against the unrecognizable state of Mizzourah, we had swept them earlier, and cared so little about beating them that we started Turd Ferguson and his comically over-sized hat. If not for a lucky bounce off a center fielder's knee and a ball popping out of that same fielder's glove - and over some fencing they'd set up - we might have flamed out early.
In the first game against aTm, our listless play resumed and we took a beating. A very necessary beating. We'd gotten cocky and thought our talent would be enough. With Carson Fulmer on the mound, such a mindset is easy to slip into, but when Allemand and Birk made us look silly, we got angry.
The two games that followed were revenge killings, plain and simple. Beating Alabama 16-1 was what psychologists call displacement. Curb-stomping aTm 12-3 the following day was for pride and to reassert dominance.
Similarly, beating Florida today will be to correct a wrong.
Florida is higher than us in the polls, the RPI, and worse yet, beat us two games to one due to a fluky end of the rubber match game.
Though we're first in the SEC East to their 2nd, the previous facts make it likely that the NCAA Selection Committee has Florida penciled in as a National Seed instead of us. A Florida win this afternoon doesn't even make this debatable.
All of this will be on our minds today as we face junior RHP Eric Hanhold (1-0, 3.91 ERA) - a man making only his fourth start of the year. His previous starts have been against Bethune-Cookman, Fairfield, and a team that just got swept by Clemson (in your face, FSU!). Against those teams, he went 5 and 1/3 scoreless, 3 scoreless, and 2 and 1/3 letting up 5 runs. In addition, he's had 10 relief appearances, and has pitched 23 innings in total.
In short, if Hanhold is still on the mound in the 5th inning, we haven't done our jobs. This will be a staff start for the Gators, so expect to see a lot of different arms today.
It's easy to label the Commodores' counter as a staff start, as well, as we're likely giving the ball to a freshman who is also making only his 4th start of the year. Thinking this way would be errant.
For the rest of the year, no matter who we play, one thing will be true: Vanderbilt will have better pitching depth.
Kyle Wright has gone 5-1 with a 1.21 ERA in 44 and 2/3 IP. On some teams, that's an Ace. On Vanderbilt, that's a guy who has to battle for midweek starts. Wright sits in the low 90s and displays excellent command for a young pitcher. He has three pitches he can throw for strikes, and has displayed enough pitching acumen to be in the mix for a weekend rotation spot next year.
Today, Wright will have to be careful with senior Josh "Doctor" Tobias and the rest of his 100% Natural Good Time Family Band Solution. As they displayed against LSU last night, they might not be flashy or dangerous, but they play excellent defense and have gotten timely hitting all year. Last night, against an oft dominant Alex Lange, they managed to keep it a one run game until LSU went to the bullpen. While Lange was on the mound, that 1-0 lead looked more like 4-0. At many distinct points of the game, Florida could have let their focus lapse, and the floodgates would have opened. They didn't. They played perfect defense and trusted that they'd find a way to squeak a run through eventually. With Lange out of the game, they attacked. In short, they have been taking their Teamocil.*
Expect 6 solid innings out of Wright before we go to Bowden and Sheffield to close it out. Wright's only goal is to hand the ball to Corbs with a lead.
Florida will not let their focus lapse. They will turn no doubt doubles into outs. They will do all the little things correctly.
We must counter by playing with anger. By clubbing them to death to right a wrong. By being relentless in our attack.
We. Must. Destroy. Them.
*Teamocil may decrease your sex drive.