Maldonado

Senior Nelson Maldonado was 1 for 3 at the plate in the Gators' 4-3 win over Yale on Sunday.

The nature of the Florida baseball team’s opponents and outcomes through 18 games have made it difficult to gauge where the Gators are.

UF (13-5) holds the distinction of being a top-five team but has proved to be more vulnerable than usual early on in the season.

A three-game losing streak to in-state rivals South Florida, North Florida and Miami saw Florida manage just four runs and strike out 35 times. The Gators have already dropped four games at home.

For reference, UF dropped six games at home in 2018, and there are still 20 remaining games at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium this season.

Florida has shown an ability to respond to adversity, and the offense seems to be peaking at the right time, though.

Following that three-game losing streak, UF rattled off three consecutive wins to take the series against Miami and defeated Jacksonville on the road in extra innings.

The team is 7-1 in March, behind a home run renaissance led by freshman Jud Fabian. This stretch includes a 28-5 rout of Winthrop and a 15-0 shutout against FGCU.

Still, the Gators are a hard team to read.

But everyone will see what this team is all about in the next two weeks, one way or another.

Florida State (13-1) comes to Gainesville Tuesday night for its first road game of the season. The No. 11 Seminoles head into the game with 26 home runs on the season, compared to Florida’s 19 in four more games.

After FSU, Florida hosts No. 7 Mississippi State to begin SEC play. The Bulldogs (15-1) boast a .301 batting average and a 1.80 ERA as a team.

UF then plays Jacksonville again, this time at home, ahead of what will likely be its biggest test of the season: a road series at No. 1 Vanderbilt.

Florida has not lost a series to the Commodores (13-3) since 2014.

Vanderbilt is hitting .333 on the season as a team and its pitching rotation is led by Patrick Raby (3-0, 0.87 ERA).

After the road trip to Nashville, Tennessee, Florida faces FSU again, this time in Jacksonville. That will cap off a brutal stretch of nine games in 15 days, eight of which come against teams currently ranked in the top 11 and one against a team that took UF to extra innings already.

I’m sure by that time everyone will have a much better idea of where the Gators stand in the SEC and among the top teams in the country.

All of that being said, there have been some encouraging developments that may propel Florida through those nine games.

O’Sullivan shook up the pitching rotation.

Junior Tyler Dyson struggled in his role as Friday starter, pitching two no-decisions before earning a win against Winthrop. Sophomore Tommy Mace (4-0) replaced him on Friday against Yale while Dyson was relegated to the Sunday role, where he did most of his work last season.

The familiarity positively affected Dyson. He pitched a season-high 5.1 innings in the 4-3 win.

That success has spread to the team’s older players.

Senior Nelson Maldonado has played well in March and upperclassmen Austin Langworthy and Wil Dalton have both made marginal improvements offensively.

Florida has remedied some of the issues that led to its early season miscues. Now it’s up to the Gators to continue their upward trend against some of the best teams in the nation.

Follow Kyle Wood on Twitter @Kkylewood and contact him at [email protected].

Kyle Wood covers baseball and has been with the Florida Alligator since Fall 2018. He previously covered men's and women's tennis.