NCAA Regional: Gators host Gainesville Regional

After winning the SEC Tournament over the weekend, the Florida Gators were virtually assured of earning a national seed in the 2011 NCAA Baseball Tournament.

On Monday, the NCAA selection committee confirmed it, awarding the Gators with the second national seed.

In its NCAA Regional, top-seeded Florida (45-16) will play host to second-seeded Miami (36-21), third-seeded Jacksonville (36-22) and fourth-seeded Manhattan (34-7).

“There’s so many good teams in Florida, we figured we’d get at least a couple Florida teams,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got a very good field and I think it’s wide open. We’re going to obviously have to play as well as we can if we want to come out on the winning end of things.”

Florida will open NCAA Regional play on Friday at 4 p.m. against Manhattan, while Miami meets Jacksonville in the opening game at noon. All games will be broadcast live on ESPNU.

Manhattan is the only team the Gators have not faced this season, and head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said they’re very talented.

“They won their conference tournament,” O’Sullivan said. “Anybody that wins their conference tournament is playing well this time of the year. They’re certainly going to be a good club. Anybody that wins their conference tournament this time of year is a dangerous team.”

The Jaspers, this year’s Metro Atlantic conference champions, are playing in an NCAA Regional for just the second time in the past 54 years.

Their most recent trip came in 2006, when the program advanced to the regional final as the fourth seed. They lost 10-4 to second-seeded Miami.

“We’re going to worry about Manhattan first, we’re not going to look ahead to the second game or the third game,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time like we’ve done all along.”

Florida is a little more familiar with the other two teams in the Gainesville Regional, having played both during the regular season.

The Gators swept the Hurricanes in an early season series in March, winning 8-3, 1-0 and 5-3. Notably, Miami was without head coach Jim Morris for that series after he was hospitalized with surgery.

“Miami, I’ve followed them closely throughout the year,” O’Sullivan said. “I think they’ve improved as the season’s gone on. They’ve got really quality starting pitching. I think they’ve got a really good pen. They’re aggressive offensively on the base paths, they’ve got some guys that can run.”

This is the third-straight year that Miami has played in Gainesville in postseason play, having been eliminated by the Gators in the 2010 Gainesville Super Regional and having been eliminated during NCAA Regional play in Gainesville in 2009.

With the Hurricanes coming to town, sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall is hoping the rivalry will breathe some life into the Gainesville Regional.

“It’s a big rivalry,” Randall said. “Maybe fill the stands a little bit more, get this place a little more excited for the game. It should be a good series if we play them. Earlier in the season, we had a good series against them, so we feel pretty confident when we’re playing them.”

The other opponent the Gators could face in their NCAA Regional is Jacksonville, who beat Florida 11-2 less than two weeks ago.

“They put it to us pretty good here,” O’Sullivan said. “I think they’re very, very offensive. I think we saw their number one pitcher in that mid-week game, so they’re very, very capable, as well.”

The winner of the Florida-Manhattan game will play the winner of the Miami-Jacksonville game on Saturday at 4 p.m., with the losers meeting earlier that day at noon.

Florida has not yet decided on an opening-day pitcher, but O’Sullivan will likely announce a decision on Thursday.

“Probably when we set our rotation, it’ll just be game one,” he said. “We’ll see what happens after game one, and then after that game we’ll decide who’s going to throw game two and just take it one game at a time. I think if you look too far ahead, you find yourself possibly getting in trouble.”

2011 NCAA Regional: Gainesville Regional Schedule
Game No. Teams Time (ET) TV
Friday, June 3
1 No. 2 Miami (36-21)
No. 3 Jacksonville (36-22)
12 p.m. ESPNU
2 No. 1 Florida (45-26)
No. 4 Manhattan (34-17)
4 p.m. ESPNU
Saturday, June 4
3 Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 12 p.m. ESPNU
4 Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 4 p.m. ESPNU
Sunday, June 5
5 Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 12 p.m. ESPNU
6 Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 4 p.m. ESPNU
*Monday, June 6
7 Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6 7 p.m. ESPNU
* if necessary