After wrapping up a dominant opening weekend against Charleston Southern in Gainesville, the No. 7 Florida Gators (3-0) will make their first road trip to take on a cross-state foe, the South Florida Bulls (1-2), in a midweek doubleheader to kick off a five-game week for the Gators.
Florida had a dominant opening series versus the Buccaneers, but should be in for a greater challenge against the Bulls. USF picked up a win on opening day against the No. 13 Maryland Terrapins before ultimately dropping the series, 2-1.
There are plenty of questions for Kevin O’Sullivan and the Gators in the midweek, and opportunities to prove the team’s offensive outpouring against Charleston Southern wasn’t a fluke.
The biggest question mark headed into the midweek is the pitching staff. With Jac Caglianone excelling in his debut start Sunday, the weekend rotation is likely solidified for the time being. That leaves O’Sullivan with two spots to fill and plenty of bodies to fill them.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Cade Fisher is listed as the starter for Tuesday. The Dalton, Georgia, native got some reps on the mound this past weekend. He pitched the sixth inning versus the Bucs on Saturday, recording three consecutive outs, including a strikeout to close the frame.
Fisher beats out experienced arms like Brandon Neely, Nick Ficarrotta and Ryan Slater, who were all top five in innings pitched for the Gators last year. One of those three will likely get the Wednesday start, which is currently TBA.
The Gators scored 37 runs in their opening series. Three UF players (Riopelle, Josh Rivera, Ty Evans) are batting above .500 and nine Gators have notched an RBI. Evans currently holds a perfect slugging percentage of 1.000. All of this offensive dominance comes in the absence of much production from junior outfielder Wyatt Langford, who has be dubbed by many to be the gem of the UF roster and a highly touted MLB draft prospect.
Langford recorded just three hits in 12 at-bats versus the Bucs. While he did record two RBIs, its likely his production will increase back to normal. If the rest of the lineup can keep up, the Gators batting order could be dangerous.
USF allowed just 24 runs versus Maryland, so the Bulls should provide a greater defensive challenge for the Gators. The Bulls had only one error compared the Charleston Southern’s six from opening weekend. The Bulls’ pitching staff combined for a lackluster 7.33 ERA, but UF will be facing different arms in the midweek. On the series preview published by Florida, sophomore right-hander Jack Cebert is listed as USF’s starting pitcher for Tuesday.
Cebert appeared in 21 games last season, making five starts. He recorded a 2-3 record, a 7.09 ERA and 31 earned runs. He threw 35 strikeouts across 39.1 innings pitched.
The Bulls will certainly provide a greater challenge for the Gators as they begin their first five-game week of the 2023 season, but Florida still has an opportunity to remain in its dominant ways and grasp national attention.
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. tonight. The game will stream on ESPN+.