Florida Gators baseball prepare to host Missouri Tigers

The Florida Gators baseball team is riding high on a 12-game winning streak this season and a 20-game home winning streak dating back to last season. Their 18-1 mark has allowed the team to retain their No. 1 preseason ranking through the first month of the season but SEC play, the season within the season, kicks off Friday as Florida (18-1) hosts Missouri (14-6) this weekend at McKethan Stadium.

Florida was picked by 13 coaches as the preseason favorite to win the SEC, with every coach in the league (other than Kevin O’Sullivan who couldn’t vote for his own team) picking Florida. That has put a target squarely on Florida’s back, something they’ve already felt during the first month of the season.

Series History: The Florida Gators have taken 11 of the last 15 meetings against Missouri, including a three-game sweep of the Tigers the last time they made the trip to Gainesville in 2014. However, the Tigers bested Florida last year in Columbia, despite losing on Friday.

All three games of the series will be broadcast on SEC Network+ throughout the weekend, but the SEC Network will also broadcast a”Based Loaded” feature, with a broadcast where all seven league games will be shown throughout the night. If you’re interested in watching all of the SEC action, tune in to SEC Network at 7 pm Friday night. If you just want to watch Florida and Missouri, the game will be streamed in its entirety on SEC Network +.

Scouting Missouri:
Team batting average: .266
Team ERA: 3.23
Starters ERA: 1.79

Hitters to watch:
OF Jake Ring – 25-73 (.342) – Ring was 4-19 (.210) against Florida last season
SS Ryan Howard – 24-81 (.296) – Howard was 5-23 (.217) with a homerun against Florida last season.
DH/P Brian Sharp – 17-53 (.320) – Sharp

Scouting Florida:
Team batting average: .309
Team ERA: 2.39
Starters ERA: 1.95

Hitters to watch:
1B Pete Alonso – 26-62 (.419) – leads the team in batting and is on a 9-13 (.692) hot streak over the last four games, including two home runs.
2B Deacon Liput – 25-66 (.395) – The freshman has reached base in all 18 games this season. Liput has hit all over the lineup for Florida and continues to produce no matter where he’s hitting.
OF Nelson Maldonado – 7-40 (.175) – The freshman started his career in a 2-26 slump but has been on a tear going 5-14 (.357) over the last four games, including the game winning RBI in three of those contests.

Friday night (7 pm): RHP Logan Shore (4-0, 2.00 ERA) vs. Reggie McClain (3-0, 0.85 ERA)

Logan Shore has set the tone for the Florida Gators all season long. Florida has won every game Shore has started this season. Shore carried a 0.84 ERA into his start against Harvard before four earned runs caused that number to balloon slightly. Shore has been as good as advertised and exactly what the Gators have needed on Friday nights.

Reggie McClain, a redshirt senior, has given up just three runs in his four starts, lasting 31.2 innings. Even more impressive is McClain’s 26-1 strikeout to walk ratio. McClain will challenge Florida hitters on Friday by pounding the zone and trusting his defense.

Saturday night (7 pm): LHP A.J. Puk (0-1, 2.65 ERA) vs. RHP Tanner Houck (2-1, 1.61 ERA)

The pitching matchup on Saturday features to starters who are familiar with each other after playing together on Team USA last summer. Puk and Houck were two thirds of a three-man no hitter that Team USA hurled against Cuba. Just a sophomore, Houck will again play for Team USA this summer.

After a slow start, Puk has put together two better starts against Dartmouth and Harvard. Florida will need him to continue to round into form as SEC play begins.

Sunday afternoon (1 pm) : RHP Alex Faedo vs. LHP Austin Tribby (2-1, 3.33 ERA)

Faedo struggled two weeks ago against Dartmouth but rebounded with a career day against Harvard, striking out 13 over 8.1 innings. Faedo has flirted with no-hitters twice this season, against Miami and Harvard, and has been one of the most consistent players on the team. Faedo’s 36 strikeouts on the season are 10th best in the country.

Tribby, a senior, made a team high 31 appearances last season and will earn the Sunday start against Florida. Tribby came out of the bullpen in Missouri’s last win, throwing 1.1 innings, striking out two, walking one and surrendered one hit.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC