Bright rays of sunshine, a nice breeze and a partly cloudy sky engulfed Gainesville on Tuesday evening, right around the time Florida’s baseball team was supposed to have its first pitch. But a horrendous forecast earlier in the day forced UF to postpone its game against the Jacksonville Dolphins.
Now, the two teams will hit the diamond tonight at 6 p.m. on the grounds of McKethan Stadium. Freshman Hunter McMullen (0-0, 1.86 ERA) will get his first start of the season for UF while the Dolphins will throw out senior Spencer Stockton (1-2, 3.12 ERA).
Florida (18-4) and Jacksonville (13-8) split the season series last year, with each team winning at its own stadium.
Last year in Jacksonville, UF watched its bullpen implode in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving up all three of the Dolphins’ runs in the final frame for a walk-off loss.
This year, Florida’s bullpen is trending up, but it is still struggling to find consistency from its relievers.
UF closer Michael Byrne has a perfect 0.00 ERA in 11 appearances this season, and McMullen — who is making his first career start tonight — has looked stout coming out of the pen this season with his aforementioned sub-2.00 ERA
But other relievers are still trying to find their swagger.
Sophomores Nick Long and Andrew Baker have been up and down in their outings this season. They both have ERAs above 4.00, combining for seven earned runs in 13.2 innings pitched.
The same talk of triumph and head-hanging also goes for a pair of Florida freshmen. Jack Leftwich and Jordan Butler have each had their share of solid outings, but have hit a few bumps as well.
Leftwich has been the definition of hot and cold, tossing three hitless innings and striking out six against the Miami Hurricanes on Feb. 24. But just two appearances later, Leftwich was rocked for five hits, four walks and six runs against UCF during a mid-week start.
The same goes for Butler. The freshman threw a combined eight scoreless innings in wins against North Florida on Feb. 27 and Stony Brook on March 3.
However, in his next two appearances, Butler was tagged for six earned runs in 7.2 total innings pitched against UCF on March 7 and Florida State on March 13.
As of now, Florida has been carried by its offense in the early stretch of SEC play. And going into tonight’s game, it could be more of the same as the bullpen tries to find its groove.
Florida will host both games against the Dolphins this season, with the second matchup scheduled for April 17 at 6 p.m. The Dolphins (13-8) come into Gainesville on a three-game winning streak after sweeping their weekend opponent, Fairfield.