The Sunshine State hasn’t lived up to its name for the Gators recently.
Florida had games against Florida A&M and Stetson postponed due to rain on Tuesday and Wednesday. Because of the inclement weather, the undefeated Gators (8-0) will play ball for the first time in a week against Troy (8-1) over the weekend at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The canceled games put the Gators in danger of cooling off, but their pitching gives them a good chance to keep the furnace burning against the Trojans.
UF’s weekend rotation has fanned both the flames and opposing hitters regularly to start the season. It’s the main reason why Florida sits atop the college baseball world at No. 1. Friday starter Tommy Mace (1-0) has been the heartbeat of the pitching staff.
The right-hander has given up just three earned runs in two starts to kick off his junior campaign. A major reason for his early-season dominance has been his ability to get out of jams with the strikeout. He has 14 K’s through 13 frames.
Jack Leftwich (1-0) will be on the hill Saturday, and Hunter Barco (1-0) will close out the series on Sunday for Florida. Barco, a freshman, earned the weekend gig after picking up a win in his first-career start against Miami last time out.
Challenging Mace will be Trojans ace pitcher Levi Thomas (2-0), who has yet to surrender a run.
Thomas gave up just two hits in his first start of the year on Feb. 14 against Northern Kentucky and followed that stellar performance with a no-hitter through six innings against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 21.
Trojans pitchers Orlando Ortiz (1-0) and Tyson Ellis (0-0) will follow Thomas to complete Troy’s rotation against Florida.
While the Trojans present a formidable challenge for the Gators’ bats, Florida hitters should be able to push right back.
The Gators’ 85 hits through eight games ranks 10th in the country, and their 11 home runs on the year are good for sixth.
Much of their offensive success can be credited to two men in particular: Jud Fabian and Josh Rivera.
Fabian has been a force for Florida. The sophomore center fielder leads the team in hits (13), RBI (nine), homeruns (three) and runs (10).
Right on the tail of his offensive production is the freshman Rivera. The reigning co-SEC Freshman of the Week has the second-highest batting average of the Gators’ everyday starters (.360). He’s ridden that batting average to nine hits, two home runs, seven RBI and six runs.
Opposing pitching has been kind to Troy hitters so far this season. The Trojans, as a team, are batting .344 from the plate in their nine games.
Their most dangerous hitter is Caleb Bartolero. The sophomore catcher has 17 hits, 16 RBI, two home runs and 11 runs scored this year
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