Gators host Bulldogs in SEC showdown

Once embattled coach David Perno will walk his Georgia Bulldogs (14-3-1) into McKethan Stadium with a rather uniquely comfortable three and a half game conference lead. But, this is the Southeastern Conference where things can change as quickly as the weather.

The Bulldogs are playing the game just as it’s drawn up — outstanding pitching, outstanding defense and timely hitting.

In conference games Georgia ranks first in pitching with a 3.31 staff ERA. Opponents are hitting just .245 against the Georgia pitchers.  The Bulldogs are led by Joshua Fields, who hasn’t allowed a run this season in 20 appearances out of the bullpen totaling 12.1 innings. He has allowed just five hits, while striking out 37 and opponents are hitting a pathetic .074 against him. Surprisingly, he has walked 11 batters with no repercussions. 

Right hander Trevor Holder (5-2, 2.15) will be the Friday night starter. He has struck out 40, while walking 16 in 54.1 innings. Opponents are batting .248 against him. Saturday starter Stephen Dodson (5-1, 3.46) has much better control of his pitches. Dodson has fanned 28, but walked just 5 in 54.2 innings of work. He has allowed 10 home runs though. Sunday starter Nathan Moreau (1-1) is the least impressive of the Georgia starters. Moreau has struck out 34, but allowed 20 walks in 40 innings.

“Georgia has probably the best pitching staff in the SEC, at least their bullpen anyway,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think that we’ve played a tough schedule, but I think they’ve probably played a tougher one to be honest with you, playing Arizona and Oregon State at the beginning of the year. They’re all tough and we’ve got our hands full, there’s no question.”

The Bulldogs have committed just 12 errors in conference play. They rank first on the Southeastern Conference with a .982 fielding percentage. They have committed 34 errors in non-conference play, which definitely tells you that things can change.

“Anything can happen,” O’Sullivan said. “If we play well and don’t hurt ourselves, we can beat anybody.  But, we’ve also shown that of we don’t play well that we can get beat by anybody. We’re really close. I was going through this stuff last night and we’re only one run losses. It’s discouraging, because you’re so close, yet it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day it’s a win or a loss and we’ve got four one run losses and five of the losses are seven runs. You’re there, but you’ve got to make plays, you’ve got to make pitches, you’ve got to come up with key hits. Unfortunately, we’ve been on the short end of that.”

McArthur getting healthy: Florida hopes to have a much improved Brandon McArthur back in the lineup. McArthur ruptured his ACL nearly three weeks ago against North Florida. He is a valuable leader on this team and had been playing well defensively. Furthermore, McArthur is swinging an awfully hot bat hitting .533 over his past 15 plate appearances. That probably doesn’t sit well with the Bulldogs, who McArthur flat abused in 2005. McArthur went 8-12 and scored three runs while driving in two others as the Gators took two of three from the Bulldogs in Athens.

Duplicating that performance will be awfully difficult against Georgia’s outstanding pitching. It obviously doesn’t help with the injury, although it is improving with each passing week.

“When it happened that night, it was tough to walk,” McArthur recalled. “Even when I came back last week, it was tough to walk. We weren’t playing and it was still tough. But, the swelling has gone down quite a bit. It’s kind of crazy, because when the game starts it’ll be pretty tight, but as the game progressed over the weekend when I was playing (against Kentucky) it loosened up, so that was really helpful.”

Well, at least right up until the time that Mac was drilled in the leg with a James Paxton pitch. It was rather amusing to watch as turned and kept an eye on the guy with the bulky leg brace, who had just been plunked in the same leg.

“I told the first baseman (Brian Spear) that you don’t even have to put on any signs with a guy on first and third, because I know they’re going to throw me out if I even attempt to get off the bag,” he said laughing.

Adam Allen Watch: O’Sullivan said that basketball turned baseball player Adam Allen threw a scrimmage session last week and another three inning scrimmage session earlier this week.

“I think that we go into every game thinking that he might get a chance,” O’Sullivan said. “You just want to be careful that you put him into a situation where he has some success so that he can build on it. He’ll throw today in an intrasquad for three innings and we’ll keep building and maybe he might get a start next week. I don’t know. He’ll certainly be available for us this weekend.

“He’s been throwing the ball pretty good,” O’Sullivan added. “He had command of his fastball, in and out and he had a good breaking ball.”

Florida will throw Billy Bullock (3-2, 3.50) on Friday night with the first pitch at 6:30 p.m.