No. 1 Florida Gators host No. 7 Vanderbilt in pivotal series

This weekend the No. 1 Florida Gators (41-8, 16-7 SEC) will host the No. 7 Vanderbilt Commodores (36-13, 14-10 SEC) for a three game series at McKethan Stadium that will go a long way towards deciding the winner of the SEC.

With just two weekends left before the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, this series will feature a slew of future Major League players trying to battle it out for the chance to position themselves for a championship.

“This is why you come to Florida. This is why you wanna play in the SEC, for weekends like this,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We call it big boy baseball. Strap it on and let’s go. It’s two very talented teams going head to head.”

Friday — 7 pm on SEC Network
Saturday — 4 pm on ESPN2
Sunday — 1 pm on SEC Network

Last Week:

The Gators went 3-1 last week with a midweek win over Bethune Cookman, which finished off a perfect 14-0 record in midweek games this year. The Gators bookended wins Friday and Sunday around a loss on the road in Knoxville last week, their 2-1 weekend gave them a share of the lead in the SEC with South Carolina.

Vanderbilt dropped its first ever game in College Station 1-0 on Thursday. Jordan Sheffield’s 24-consecutive scoreless innings streak was snapped with a run in the very first inning. The Dores picked up a win on Friday night before dropping the series finale on Saturday, being no-hit by the Aggies’ Kyle Simonds. Vanderbilt lost its midweek matchup against Louisville 8-5.

Scouting Vanderbilt:

Team batting average: .276
Team ERA: 2.86
Starters ERA: 2.00

Hitters to Watch:

Jaren Kendall – Kendall leads the team with a .349 (68-195) batting average, 14 doubles, five triples, 23 stolen bases and 50 RBI.

Bryan Reynolds – Reynolds, like Kendall, has started all 49 games for the Dores this season. Reynolds leads the team with 10 home runs and a .601 slugging percentage.

Scouting Florida:
Team batting average: .287
Team ERA: 2.84
Starters ERA: 2.78

Pitching matchups:

Friday: RHP Logan Shore (9-0, 2.32 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Sheffield (7-3, 2.09 ERA)

Friday nights in the SEC usually feature a matchup of soon-to-be Major Leaguers. That’s exactly what we have on Friday night. When the Gators take the field Friday it will be 364 days since the Gators have lost a game started by Shore. The right-hander from Coon Rapids Minnesota may not have the flashiest or most dominating stuff, but he has been pillar of the rotation since his freshman year.

Sheffield is the definition of a power pitcher. He’ll top out at 98 on the radar gun tomorrow with an above-average change up and a wipeout slider to boot. He gave up one run (unearned) in the first inning last week at College Station, but boats a 31-inning streak of not allowing an unearned run.

If you’re into a premium pitching matchup this game is a can’t miss.

Saturday LHP A.J. Puk (2-2, 3.04 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Wright (6-3, 1.89 ERA)

Puk threw 91 pitches over 3.1 innings of work last week against Tennessee. He gave up two earned runs and walked a season-high six batters. It’s been an up and down season for the lefty, and the Gators will be looking to end a three game losing skid when Puk starts. Puk leads the SEC striking out 12.70 batters per nine innings.

The sophomore Wright earned the Dores’ only win over Texas A&M last week, hurling seven scoreless innings, scattering just three hits and striking out six to notch his sixth win of the season.

Sunday: RHP Alex Faedo (9-1, 3.11) vs. TBA

Faedo scattered five hits over seven innings, allowing just one run on a wild pitch in a win over Tennessee last Sunday. The sophomore is second in the SEC, fanning 12.29 batters per nine innings. Faedo has been a dominant force for Florida this year and his nine wins is tied for best in the conference.

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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