If the Florida Gators are circling dates on their calendar, this past week and the week to come have been covered in red sharpie.
Florida entered Knoxville, Tennessee, last Thursday to take on the then-11th ranked Volunteers. The Vols served as a test for UF and an opportunity for revenge. Tennessee swept the Gators in last season’s series and ended Florida’s Southeastern Conference tournament run, handing UF seven shutout innings and a 5-8 loss.
The Gators emerged from the 2023 series victorious, taking the series 2-1. Florida is now 8-0 in weekend series. UF still has a solid SEC slate ahead of itself and will continue the rivalry action this week versus Florida State and Georgia.
Highs and lows on Rocky Top
The Gators came out with force on Thursday and Friday to the tune of a 11-point scoring margin across the two wins.
Junior infielder Josh Rivera and senior catcher BT Riopelle led the offensive with back-to-back homers, but the highlight of Florida’s night was its pitching staff. Gators ace Brandon Sproat and a bullpen duo of Philip Abner and Brandon Neely combined for 18 strikeouts.
Tennessee picked up its sole run in the second before UF’s pitching staff threw seven scoreless innings to close game one.
Florida’s bats were hot in game two, putting up eight hits and nine RBIs on the way to a 9-3 victory.
There were still things to improve upon from the series, however. Florida took a run-rule loss in the series finale, 14-2.
The Gators were shut out through six innings, and Jac Caglianone struggled on the mound. The two-way phenom gave up six walks and was pulled off the rubber in the first.
With a win Saturday Florida may have moved up in the national rankings. For now the Gators are firmly in third behind Louisiana State and Wake Forest. The Gators enter the new week 27-6 overall (9-3 SEC) and 5-0 in their opening five conference series.
Next up, Florida takes on in-state rival Florida State tonight at home in what was supposed to be the finale of the Sunshine Showdown, however a delay forced the Jacksonville leg of the series to later on this season.
Since their last matchup with the Gators, a 5-9 loss, the Seminoles have continued to struggle on the way to a 13-18 (4-11 ACC) record. The ‘Noles have lost nine of their last 10 games since UF visited Tallahassee.
With Ryan Slater (4-0, 3.80 ERA) on the mound and barring any mishaps in the bullpen, the Gators should be able to hold their own against their traditional rival.
‘Dawgs in town
The Gators will continue the rivalry slate with a matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs.
The ‘Dawgs are last in the SEC East with a 3-9 conference record and a 18-14 standing overall. However, the Bulldogs have won three of their last four and picked up a series win against Kentucky this weekend. Still, the Gators have an opportunity to pick up their second SEC series sweep of 2023 this weekend.
First pitch tonight against FSU is set for 6 p.m. The game will stream on SEC Network+.