When the No. 4 seed Florida Gators take the field this weekend, hosting the Gainesville Regional, they’ll be met with familiar faces.
The Gators are hosting three Sunshine State teams, two of which they have already faced this season.
Friday, the Gators will finally make up a game against FAMU — the two teams were supposed to play on February 17 but the game was postponed and ultimately canceled due to weather. The rest of the bracket features FAU and USF — teams that Florida has a combined 3-0 record against this season.
“It certainly takes a lot of the guess work out,” manager Kevin O’Sullivan said. “You kind of know the teams a little bit, you know their tendencies, and you know their players. From a scouting report standpoint it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.”
Florida played USF on February 18 — a 13-3 win in Tampa — and again on May 5 — a 5-1 win in Gainesville. The Gators and Owls played at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter on February 24 — a 5-1 Florida victory.
The regional sets up nicely for the Gators. Last season as the No. 1 overall seed Florida was rewarded with a No. 4 seed on College of Charleston than many thought could have been a two-seed in another regional. A quick Friday loss left Florida to face another unfamiliar opponent in North Carolina and another loss. For a team that relies on so many freshmen, the familiarity of their opponents this weekend should help in the acclimation to postseason play.
Another difference from last year is how Florida enters the Regional. Last season, the regular season SEC Champions, Florida made it to the SEC Tournament Championship only to lose to LSU. It’s a loss Florida never recovered from. After an opening game loss in the tournament, the Gators racked up four straight wins, including a late-inning comeback against No. 1 LSU. After sputtering through the middle of the season — as much as a team with 40-wins can sputter — the Gators finally feel as if they’re hitting their stride.
“I feel like we have yet to show what we’re truly capable of,” sophomore outfielder Buddy Reed said. “Obviously we showed great performances this whole week, but we definitely still have a lot more to prove and we’re just going to focus on Florida A&M and hopefully get to Omaha.”
The SEC Tournament win was nice but it was never the goal. Florida wants to avenge back-to-back two and out performances in Regional play from the past two seasons. The goal in February was to get to Omaha. They’re five wins away from that but still keeping the one game at a time approach.
“We’re not worried about that right now,” Mike Rivera said. “We’re focusing on FAMU right now and that’s it. We’re going to take it game by game and that’s it.”