Coming into the season, Kevin O'Sullivan's Florida Gators squad were the odds on favorite to take home some hardware in Omaha. Nothing has changed.
We're a young, uber-talented team, though we are coming off a tough series loss to aTm and relinquished the barrel to Louisville on Tuesday.
Let's do a quick run-down:
1) They have a giant lefty scouts believe will be the first college pitcher taken in this year's draft - possibly 1-1 to the Phillies - in AJ Puk, and he's not even their Friday starter.
2) They are tops in ERA (2.84), Ks (512), and walks (118)in the conference; and have the 2nd best opponent's batting average (.224). We're #2 with a 2.88 ERA and 480 Ks, #3 with a .226 opponent's batting average, and #6 in walks (160).
3) They're the top fielding team in the conference for the 2nd straight year, and this is after losing a 1st round SS.
4) Though they're middle of the pack w/r/t batting average (7th to our 8th), they're 2nd in walks, have the 2nd least Ks, top 3 in slugging and triples, and top 4 in home runs.
5) At 41-8 (16-7 SEC), the Gators just tied the Game Penises for top record in the conference (and even when they were 2nd, were still ranked #1 by pretty much all publications).
In short, they're pretty much what we were last year, but with more power.
Here's the good news: we have two of the top three pitchers in the conference, as Kyle Wright is #1 among starters with an 1.89 ERA and Jordan Sheffield is #3 with a 2.09 ERA. They'll need to be on their A games against Peter Alonso, Buddy Reed, JJ Schwarz, and the rest of the Gators, as hoping for more than 2 runs against either Logan Shore or AJ Puk is a fool's errand. Take one of the first two games, and Raby will have a chance in the rubber game. Lose the first two, and we might have to scrape and claw to host a Regional.
Either way, this is appointment TV.
On The Mound
Friday, May 13 6pm CT SECN
RHP Jordan "Top Sheff" Sheffield (7-3, 2.09) vs. RHP Logan "The Weasel" Shore (9-0, 2.32)
In normal SEC series, this would be the pitching duel to watch. This is not a normal SEC series
Saturday, May 14 3pm CT ESPN2
RHP Kyle "The Stuff" Wright (6-3, 1.89) vs. LHP AJ "Oh God, Not in the Face!" Puk (3-3, 3.04)
We've got two hopes in this one: 1) Wright is sharp - painting corners with 92-95mph two seamers with great movement, and fooling them with his knee-buckling off speed stuff; and 2) Puk comes out wild.
With all the (justifiable) talk about his special arm, Puk, at times, has trouble finding the strike zone. We're going to need to be patient at the plate early and not give him any strikes he doesn't earn. In short, keep Ro Coleman the hell away from this matchup.
Sunday, May 15 12pm CT SECN
Patrick "Mad Dog" Raby (6-1, 2.09) vs. RHP Alex "Juggalo Soda" Faedo (9-1, 3.10)
Raby has still technically not been named the Sunday starter, but come on. He's going to be.
Great teams step up to the challenge when their backs are on the line. This weekend, we find out if we're a great team this year, or one year away.
As always, Walsh, you suck! Noah is ugly! Boo Calathes!