For the first time this season the No. 2 Florida Gators (24-3, 4-2 SEC) will host a game at McKethan Stadium not ranked as the best team in the country. The Mac, however, will host a No. 1 team as the new No. 1 Texas A&M Aggies (22-3, 4-2). The Aggies are the highest ranked opponent to visit Gainesville since No. 2 Miami in 2005, with the Gators taking two of three.
Florida extended its winning streak to 17 games with a Friday night win in Lexington but fell twice to Kentucky to lose its first series of the year. The Gators bounced back with a win over Florida State on Tuesday night. With the win Florida clinched the season series with the Seminoles and have now won 9-of-11 against their instate rival.
The Aggies are coming off an impressive series win over LSU at home in College Station. A&M won Thursday night 6-1, before dropping a close game 3-2 on on Friday and eventually took the series on Saturday with a 3-1 victory. They backed that up with a 7-2 win over Houston on Tuesday night.
Scouting Texas A&M:
This weekend will be interesting for Florida, sort of like looking in a mirror. The Aggies have a talented pitching staff, deep bullpen and don’t provide an easy out in the lineup. Head coach Rob Childress and Kevin O’Sullivan are good friends and share very similar philosophies, something that shows in the way they have built their ball clubs.
Team batting average: .335 (Leads the SEC)
Team ERA: 2.63
Starters ERA: 2.42
Hitters to watch:
OF JB Moss — Moss leads A&M with a .410 batting average, a .680 slugging percentage and nine doubles. He’s second on the team with 24 RBI. Moss also leads the team with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts.
3B Boomer White — White packs a big punch in a small package. He’s second on the team with a .388 average and has only struck out five times on the season.
2B Ryne Birk — Birk is third on the team with a .343 average and has four triples this season. He’s third on the team with seven stolen bases in nine attempts
Team batting average: .291
Team ERA: 2.75
Starters ERA: 2.99
The Gators’ 3-4-5 hitters have been in a funk. JJ Schwarz, Pete Alonzo and Deacon Liput are a combined 16 for their last 81 (.197). Florida has been able to work around slumping bats all season by getting production from all parts of the batting order, but they need those three guys, who are all very good hitters, to start producing more consistently.
Friday: Junior RHP Logan Shore (5-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. Freshman RHP Tyler Ivey (2-0, 1.97 ERA)
Regular Friday night starter Jace Vines was scratched this week due to an illness. In his place the Aggies will throw Tyler Ivey, a freshman who has begun his career off on the right foot.
Ivey has a big league arm and has hit 96 this season at home, where the Aggies have a gun that runs a little hot. Ivey’s fastball will sit in the low-to-mid 90s and good off-speed that he is comfortable throwing in all counts.
Shore wasn’t at his best last weekend against Kentucky, allowing four runs, all earned, over just five innings. He was able to earn the win, keeping a sterling record on the season, but he would like to return to form on Friday night for the Gators
Saturday: Sophomore RHP Alex Faedo (5-0, 2.70 ERA) vs. Senior RHP Kyle Simonds (5-0, 2.83 ERA)
In a rotation flip-flop, Kevin O’Sullivan moves Sunday starter Alex Faedo into the Saturday role this weekend. Faedo had a solid outing against Kentucky, lasting 5.2 innings, allowing six hits, just two runs and struck out eight in a no decision.
Simonds scattered eight hits over 6.2 innings of work in a win last Sunday against LSU. The senior allowed two runs, walked and struck out one.
Sunday: Junior LHP A.J. Puk (1-2, 3.49 ERA) vs. TBD
Puk is coming off of another shaky outing. On paper his six earned runs over just 4.1 innings looks bad, but other than a first inning home run, Puk cruised through four innings before losing it in the fifth. The shakeup in the rotation should help ease some pressure off of the 6-7 projected No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft and O’Sullivan hopes it will get him going.