It was unclear whether or not the 2013 Florida Baseball team would make it into an NCAA Regional Tournament. The Gators finished the regular season just above .500 with a (29-28) record. It appears what saved the Gators’ chances was their brutal schedule. The SEC is one of the toughest conferences in college baseball; the SEC has the top two spots in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll with LSU and Vanderbilt, respectively. The Gators also challenged themselves in non-conference play, facing off against teams like 13th ranked Indiana, who won the Big Ten Conference Tournament and are in the Bloomington Regional with Florida, and the Gators played three midweek games against Florida State who is currently ranked 9th in the nation.
Now Florida begins yet another run in the NCAA Tournament. This is in fact the sixth year in a row that head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has produced an NCAA Tournament team- the first Gator head coach to bring a Gator team to Regionals six times in a row. The Gators face a hard-hitting opponent to open Regionals- they match up against the Ohio Sun Valley Champ Austin Peay Friday afternoon. The tournament is double-elimination and kicks off Friday at 1 on ESPN3.
All They Do Is Win:
So you’re probably thinking, ‘where in the world is Austin Peay and what are they doing in the NCAA Tourney’? Don’t let the dinky sounding name fool you. The Governors have an impressive (45-13) record and are riding a 15 game winning streak, a figure that leads the nation. While their schedule may not look too impressive due to the Governors’ conference- the Ohio Valley- wins are wins and their record proves that they are a strong baseball team. Regionals will be held at a neutral site in Bloomington. The Governors have won all three of their neutral site games in 2013. The Gators, however are 0-2 dropping games in Jacksonville against FSU and in Hoover, Alabama against Texas A&M last week
The Governors can hit and they hit very well. In fact six guys in their usual batting order are hitting .317 or better. Their leadoff man outfielder Rolando Gautier bats at .329 and has 69 hits and 16 doubles on the year. The best hitter on the team infielder Craig Massoni, who has batted in all 53 games this year, is hitting .388 and has an outstanding 16 homers and 68 RBI. Infielder and catcher Jordan Hawkins has also started in each game this season and has 11 homers and 52 RBI. Senior Outfielder Cody Hudson leads the team in doubles with 19. Clearly regardless of who’s at the plate, Austin Peay has an impressive lineup from top to bottom.
Complete Pitching Staff:
The Governors usual series starter is right hander Lee Ridenhour, and rightfully so. The redshirt junior has just a 2.22 ERA in 11 appearances. He has a 7-1 record. Senior righty Casey Delgado has earned 4.83 runs in 18 games, but he has 100 strikeouts on the year. Zach Hall, who is starting on the mound Friday against the Gators comes in with a 4.68 ERA in 17 games.
Not only is the starting pitching staff dominant, the Governor bullpen has been consistent as well. Senior right hander Tyler Rogers has the most impressive showing for 2013. Rogers has just a 1.83 ERA in 38 games, and has given up just 27 hits on the year. He also has 21 saves for the year. Junior Kacy Kemmers has a 5-0 record on the season.
You might not have heard of Austin Peay, but the Governors made the Regional with a 2 seed for a reason. Florida, the 3 seed are looking to get the momentum they had in early April, when they won three SEC East series and two in state midweek games against USF and FGCU. Florida has faced Austin Peay in past seasons, and the Gators have a 3-2 edge in the series.
2 Other Teams in Bloomington:
1 seed Indiana- Indiana has a similar resume as Austin Peay, they are (45-15) and won the Big Ten. Florida has an advantage if they play Indiana because they faced the Hoosiers back in early March. The Gators lost the series 1-2, but Florida seems like a different team from then to now.
4 seed Vailpariso- The Crusaders have a 31-26 record and are the Horizon League Champions. Since they are the 4 seed they will face Indiana at 6 on Friday.
Morgan Moriarty is a sophomore Telecommunications major at the University of Florida, and covers college football and recruiting for Florida SportsTalk Radio. She is also on the University of Florida Women’s Club Water Polo Team. Follow her on Twitter here @Morgan_Moriarty