The Florida baseball team opens the SEC Tournament on Wednesday with a familiar foe, facing LSU for the first time since sweeping the Tigers in the College World Series finals last summer.
The teams are in much different situations as they meet again at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
Florida (41-15) is the tournament’s top seed and ranked No. 1 in the national polls while eighth-seeded LSU (34-23) is trying to solidify its case for the NCAA postseason.
Florida baseball vs. LSU game details
When: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Where: Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Hoover, Ala.
Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Florida baseball vs. LSU, how to watch online
The game can be streamed online via WatchESPN.
Florida baseball vs. LSU pitching matchup
Florida RHP Tommy Mace (3-0, 4.93 ERA) vs. LSU RHP Ma’Khail Hilliard (9-4, 3.53)
Florida baseball vs. LSU preview
The Gators are mired in a season-worst four-game losing streak and looking to restore some momentum before the NCAA Regionals next week.
For that reason, the stakes might be a little higher for Florida here than they would be otherwise.
The Gators have already won the SEC’s regular-season title and are assured a top seed in the NCAA postseason, but they don’t want to go limping into the regionals as they seek to compete for a second straight College World Series title.
“From a team standpoint, we need to come back to our winning streak, you know, get our team camaraderie back and play well as a team,” third baseman Jonathan India said Tuesday at the team hotel. “We need that momentum going into regionals, so we’re actually going to take this really serious this week and play well.”
SEC Pitcher of the Year Brady Singer remains day to day with the hamstring issue that sidelined him from his last scheduled start.
Florida will instead open the tournament with Mace, a freshman who made his first SEC start last week against Mississippi State. The Gators lost that game, but Mace was terrific while holding the Bulldogs to 1 run on 3 hits in 6 1/3 innings last Thursday.
LSU, meanwhile, had to play its way through the first round, beating Mississippi State, 8-5, on Tuesday night to reach the double-elimination part of the bracket.
Hilliard, the Tigers’ announced starting pitcher, last threw on Friday.
“Hilliard’s going to come back quickly because we don’t have any other options. We used just about everybody [Tuesday night], so I don’t really see what other option we have,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He’s had four days’ rest. I don’t know how far he’ll be able to go. We’ll see.”
As for the rematch of the 2017 College World Series finalists, Mainieri said he expected his players would be fired up for the matchup.
“I didn’t even know, honestly, until earlier [Tuesday] who was in our side of the bracket, I was so focused on Mississippi State. And then I looked and I said, ‘Oh my goodness, if we win, we play Florida,’” Mainieri said. “I can’t tell you how much we’re looking forward to that. We’ve had a great rivalry with Florida for a lot of years. Obviously, last year we played in the national championship series.
“They’re undoubtedly the No. 1 team in the country. [Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan] has done a tremendous job with their program and they won the SEC. We didn’t get to play them this year because that’s how the schedule just played out, so I can’t tell you how excited our team is about the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country.”