So far, so good for the nation’s preseason top ranked team.
The Gators knew they wouldn’t- and couldn’t- redeem themselves for their heartbreaking, 2015 season ending loss to Virginia in one week against a pair of directional schools called the Eagles. What they did do is take care of business five straight times, and that’s something they’ll have to get used to doing throughout the season if they want to return to Omaha.
Florida opened their 2016 season last weekend against Florida Gulf Coast, and swept them by a combined score of 24-9. The school once known as “Dunk City” a few years ago offered little resistance in any of the three games, only briefly grabbing an early lead in the middle game against AJ Puk. But the Gators were never really in danger in any of the three games; Logan Shore silenced FGCU in the 4-2 win on Friday, Ryan Larson’s four hit day highlighted an offensive explosion in the following day’s 8-4 win, and an even bigger offensive fireworks show propelled the Gators to a 12-3 Sunday victory to capture the sweep.
Eastern Michigan put up more of a fight. After getting clobbered 12-4 in Gainesville on Tuesday, the northern Eagles nearly stole one from the Gators the following night in Lakeland. EMU took advantage of a five run top of the eighth to stake a 7-4 lead, but the Gators put up two in the bottom of the eighth and two more in the ninth. OK, I can’t just say it like that and pretend it went down in a normal fashion; Florida had tied the game and loaded the bases in the ninth when EMU got called for catcher’s interference on Buddy Reed. So UF won on your average walkoff catcher’s interference play.
So while the games have played out in a variety of ways, the result has been the same each time: Florida won. Now, though, the opponent gets tougher, as the Gators face a huge early season test in the 6th ranked Miami Hurricanes. It’s true, Florida has won 21 of the last 26 games against Miami, and it’s also true that the Gators no longer have to deal with Canes ace Andy Suarez, but Kevin O’Sullivan’s club will still have their hands full this weekend.
Miami has a dangerous lineup, featuring outfielder Willie Abreu, and a great three man pitching rotation of Thomas Woodrey, Michael Mediavilla and Danny Garcia. Of course, Florida’s got quite a formidable rotation of their own (Logan Shore, AJ Puk and Alex Faedo) and an even more explosive offense (led by JJ Schwarz, Peter Alonso and Buddy Reed), so something’s got to give this weekend, as it always does in early season matchups between great teams.
For better or worse, we’ll know a lot more about this Gator team- though far from everything we’ll need to know- by Sunday afternoon.