Not much has come easy away from McKethan Stadium for the Gators.
Florida’s season has been riddled with one-run losses and crushing defeats away from Gainesville at the hands of lower-tier in-state programs like Jacksonville and UCF. And who could forget about being swept at Auburn for the first time in 30 years?
Florida (16-9), which owns a dismal 1-6 record on the road this year, even had trouble putting away Stetson in a 9-8 win that UF nearly choked away in extra innings.
But the problem isn’t as obvious as you might think.
Sure, the Gators haven’t hit as well in ballparks not situated on Stadium Road. But it’s been the element that has carried the team thus far that has failed it on the road: pitching.
Florida pitchers own a minuscule 2.06 ERA at McKethan Stadium this season, a number that skyrockets to 6.22 outside of Gainesville.
There’s good news for UF, however.
When No. 8 Florida squares off against No. 12 Florida State tonight at 6, the two teams will take the field in a neutral site at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
And for Florida, domination doesn’t begin to describe the last two years against its rival.
Not only has UF held FSU scoreless the last three times they’ve played and currently hold an impressive streak of 31 scoreless innings, but the Gators are 6-1 against the Seminoles since the start of last season.
Florida State has scored just seven total runs over those last seven games, good for an average of one run per game.
Florida even turned to a quartet of freshmen pitchers in Nate Brown, Kirby McMullen, Andrew Baker and Tyler Dyson to piece together a shutout two weeks ago against FSU.
“It was a good ol’ pitchers duel,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the win. “We had some young freshmen step up and grow up.”
Tonight, another freshman will get his chance to do the same.
Right-hander Garrett Milchin will make his first career start. The lanky 6-foot-5, 210-pounder is 0-1 and owns a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 innings this year.
Milchin’s start will come just a game after Florida’s bullpen contributed to blowing a five-run lead Sunday against LSU.
“Those are games, I would think, with our pitching staff when you have a five-run lead it should be enough,” O’Sullivan said after the loss.