Florida baseball opens SEC Tournament against fellow CWS finalist LSU
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Gators face Tigers for first time since 2017 College World Series
The last time Florida and LSU shared a baseball field, the Gators were piling onto each other in the infield celebrating the program’s first College World Series championship last June in Omaha, Neb.
The Gators and Tigers, who didn’t have a scheduled game during the 2018 regular season, will meet again Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
LSU (34-23), the No. 8 seed in the bracket, advanced with an 8-5 win against Mississippi State on Tuesday night while top-seeded Florida (41-15) had a bye.
Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said he hadn’t given the matchup with the Gators much thought yet, but he felt his players would appreciate the opportunity to play the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
Then there’s also the whole matter of Florida’s 2-0 sweep in the CWS championship series last year. It hasn’t been forgotten.
“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 after the win. “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.”
LSU will start freshman right-hander Ma’Khail Hilliard (9-4, 3.53 ERA), who threw 7⅓ innings on Friday night in a win against Auburn.
“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,” Mainieri said. “He’s had four days’ rest. I don’t know how far he’ll be able to go. We’ll see.”
Florida is expected to start freshman right-hander Tommy Mace (3-0, 4.93 ERA), who held Mississippi State to 1 run and 3 hits in 6⅓ innings last Thursday in his first SEC start.
While LSU is playing to try to solidify its place in the NCAA Tournament, Florida is looking to regain some lost momentum before the regionals, entering the week mired in a season-long four-game losing streak.
“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.”
- Read more comments from India and Gators ace Brady Singer as they spoke Tuesday about the SEC Tournament and the mindset of the team.
- Looking back at the 5 biggest story lines of the season so far for Florida
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In Florida football news
- Florida and USF announced a three-game contract to play in The Swamp in 2022 and ’25 and at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in 2023. Read more here.
- SEC Country’s Zach Abolvedi writes about 4-star guard William Putnam’s impressions of Florida after visiting over the weekend. Putnam was one of four top-100 overall prospects (per the 247Sports composite) to visit Gainesville for the Great Gator Grill-Out. “As of right now, all the schools I’m visiting I’m very interested in — like Clemson, Florida State, Florida, Auburn. Ideally, I’d like to get it all over with before the football season, but I know that’s probably not going to be the case,” he said. Read more here.
- Abolverdi also shares his thoughts on which highly coveted defensive backs Florida has the best chance at, as they remain in play for a handful.
- The matter of the South Florida-area recruits being captured on a video giving The U for Miami during their visit to Florida last weekend continues to draw questions from fans, so Abolverdi shared perspective and insight on the matter during the Chomp Chat podcast.
What they’re saying on Twitter
- Florida all-time assists leader Chris Chiozza putting in a workout with the Washington Wizards:
— PK80 FLORIDA ™️ (@Jasonkessler16) May 22, 2018
- Former Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway seems to be settling in with his new team, the Cleveland Browns:
— A.D (@Ripbobby_G) May 22, 2018
Inked! ✍️@Ripbobby_G has signed his rookie contract
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 22, 2018
- Former Florida punter Johnny Townsend passing the social media torch to younger brother Tommy Townsend:
Quality replacement for the “here’s Johnny” gif whenever Tommy goes out to punt 😂😂 https://t.co/HUAVHyWKHh
— Johnny Townsend (@johnnytownsend1) May 23, 2018
— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) May 23, 2018
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