Just a week ago, the Tigers had momentum and hopes of turning their season around, but now as they head to Gainesville, they’re losers of their last 3 games. So what can the Tigers expect this week?
Coming into the season, the Gators (22-11, 6-6) were the pre-season No. 1 team in college baseball and they were expected to be led by top draft prospect CF Jud Fabian. Unfortunately for the Gators, neither Fabian nor the team as a whole has reached those expectations.
Fabian currently is hitting just .228 and has struck out an astonishingly high 49 times, but he still has provided power with 11 HR, 28 RBI, and .851 OPS. However, when you’re expected to be one of the top college position players taken in the draft, numbers like these are underwhelming.
For where Fabian hasn’t excelled, freshman C Nathan Hickey has picked up some of the slack. Fabian leads the team in AVG, OBP, SLG%, RBI, and OPS. Other than Hickey another key bat to be on the lookout for this weekend in the Florida lineup is LF Jacob Young. The sophomore sets the table at the top of the lineup with a .407 OBP and leads the team with 12 2Bs and 34 runs.
Other than hitting homers, which the Gators rank near the top of the SEC in, the rest of their offense is pretty middle-of-the-road with regard to the rest of the SEC. However, last week the power-oriented South Carolina offense gave the Tigers fits last week, so the Gators could spell more trouble for Mizzou. Here’s what their lineup has done this season:
On Friday night, the Tigers will see Tommy Mace. For the Junior, he’s had a solid season overall, but he hasn’t been a dominant ace. With that being said, Mace has still been extremely consistent this year outside of one start against South Carolina. In 45 IP this year, Mace has 60 Ks and has walked just 8 batters. What’s even more impressive about that is that while he throws all those strikes, Mace still has only surrendered two home runs this year.
Mace’s two best starts this year have come against Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Against the Aggies, he went 7 IP with 11 Ks and 2 ER, but his start against the Rebels might have been even more impressive. Despite going just 5 IP, Mace gave up no ER and had 7 Ks to 2 BBs. Against one of the most potent offenses in the country, 5 shutout innings like that is something very special.
After Mace, the rotation blurs a little. There’s been some discontinuity amongst the Saturday starters, but the most common arm on Saturdays has been Jack Leftwich. The righty has started six times this year, but last Saturday, he actually came out of the bullpen instead. Leftwich, like Mace, has been good but not great this year. He has a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 IP with 47 Ks and 17 BBs. However, what’s been most impressive about Leftwich this year has been his 0.97 WHIP. Limiting runners on base can pose serious problems to a Mizzou lineup that struggles driving in runs.
On Sunday, Freshman LHP Hunter Barco will get the ball for the Gators. This year Barco has been what many freshmen are when they enter the SEC, inconsistent. Barco currently has a 5.40 ERA in 39.2 IP, but has struck out 51 batters this year. He hasn’t walked many batters this year apart from his last start against Tennessee when he issued 5 free passes. His most typical flaw has been pitching deep into games. Just twice this year has Barco gone 6 full innings or more and just once in SEC play. If the Tigers can get one of Barco’s starts where he is less dialed in, they could pull it out, but his stuff is still very dangerous for a Sunday starter.
The Tigers desperately need to win a game in this series to remain respectable in the SEC. Florida was supposed to be one of the best teams in the country this year, but they’ve turned out to be pretty on-par with an average SEC team.
If the Tigers can’t steal one of these games, the season will probably get to its bleakest point of the year. After losing to MO State and squandering an opportunity to win back-to-back series, the Tigers’ respectability in the SEC is on the line.
Friday | 6:30 pm | SEC Network +
Saturday | 1 pm | SEC Network +
Sunday | 12 pm | SEC Network +