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SEC Baseball Team Previews: Florida Gators

SEC Baseball Team Previews: Florida Gators

Florida had a rough go of it in 2019. The Gators nearly missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Kevin O’Sullivan’s 12 years at Florida. They’ll be looking to come back in force and make another run at the College World Series.

2019 Record: 34-26 (13-17)

Postseason: 1-2 in Lubbock Regional

Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 4th

2020 Prediction: 3rd in the East

2019 Season

Last season started out as a disaster for the Gators. They scrambled to start the non conference schedule, going 3-3. By the time conference play had begun they had already lost five games. They got just four wins in their first four SEC series – three of which came against Alabama.

All things considered, the season ended well enough. A final series sweep against Missouri earned Florida a bubble spot in the Lubbock Regional, just barely making it in the tournament. In their place, the Tigers were left outside the bubble.

All in all, the upperclassmen underperformed while the younger players played just as new young players do. The unfavorable mix was just barely enough to scrape a regional bid in a down year for the Gators.

2020 Schedule

Notable Non-Conference Games

February 21-23: @ No.3 Miami 41-20, 17 RPI

March 3: @ FAU 41-21, 37 RPI

March 10, 24, April 14: No.12 Florida State 42-23, 50 RPI

SEC Baseball Team Previews: Florida Gators
Florida’s loss in the Lubbock Regional last year snapped a streak of four straight College World Series appearances. (Photo by wruf.com).

The nonconference schedule is packed with dangerous Florida opponents once again. An early-season rivalry series against Miami is going to have the country’s eye as it will likely feature two top 5 teams. Florida bested the Hurricanes two out of three a year ago in Gainesville.

An interesting midweek against Florida Atlantic separates the Florida State midweek games. The Owls defeated the Gators in the midweek last year 13-11.

Florida State was swept in all three games by Florida in 2019. Florida has dominated the Fresh From Florida Sunshine Showdown recently. They are winners of 11 in a row and 16 of the last 17. The Seminoles are desperately looking to flip those numbers.

SEC West Opponents

March 27-29: No.20 Texas A&M

April 2-4: @ No.7 Arkansas

April 24-26: No.25 Ole Miss

May 1-3: @ No.8 Auburn

Not Playing: No.10 Mississippi State, No.11 LSU, Alabama

Florida’s West schedule is sure to set up some marquee matchups. The first weekend of April brings the Gators to Fayetteville, AR in what sets up to be at the very least a top 15 series.

Likewise, the first weekend in May sets up in much the same way. The two series are separated by Texas A&M and Ole Miss, two teams that are likely to fluctuate in and out of the rankings.

Florida will want to make sure they take care of business against the Aggies and Rebels in Gainesville. While Auburn isn’t the toughest place to play, they’ll be facing one of the toughest rotations in the West. Baum Stadium in Fayetteville is no easy place to win a series either.

2020 Roster

SEC Baseball Team Previews: Florida Gators
Hunter Barco was taken in the 24th round of the MLB Draft by the NY Mets. (Photo by jacksonville.com).
Potential Starters

RHP Tommy Mace: 8-5, 5.32 ERA

RHP Jack Leftwich: 6-5, 5.31 ERA

LHP Hunter Barco: Freshman

The pitching was horrendous for the Gators in 2019. They were dead last in the SEC in opponent batting average, strikeouts, runs allowed and home runs allowed. Their 5.37 team ERA was 13th best in the league. The previous 4 years averaged a 3.25 ERA.

Needless to say, the pitching needs to improve. Ace Tommy Mace is as aware of this as anyone. He and fellow starter Jack Leftwich have emphasized the need to improve to the club as a whole. Another season like 2019 won’t get the Gators far in the postseason.

Incoming freshman Hunter Barco is part of a loaded recruiting class for the Gators. He’ll be the likely candidate for the final Sunday spot. He can hit 94mph on the gun and has one of the best changeups on the team.

Offensive Weapons

The Florida offense was respectable a year ago, which it needed to be in light of a weak pitching staff. They’ll have to replace the top two hitters but still retain a solid core. Jacob Young leads that core off at the top of the lineup, returning with the team’s best batting average at .311.

SEC Baseball Team Previews: Florida Gators
Jud Fabian only hit .232 last season but is second of returning players with seven home runs. (Photo by floridagators.com).

Senior Austin Langworthy returns the best all-around numbers from last season. He slashed .283/.362/.498 last season with 10 home runs. The lefty also did a little pitching last season and might see the bump again in 2020.

Outfielder Jud Fabian had high expectations for his freshman season. He struggled at times but showed flashes of greatness. His offseason has made huge progress this offseason and should be batting third. He made Preseason All-SEC Second Team honors.

Outlook

There’s a reason the Florida Gators are ranked in the top five for the preseason. They didn’t lose too much from a year ago, and brought in the fourth-ranked recruiting class. They return a lot of their offensive prowess and have reloaded where they can.

If Mace and Leftwich make the leaps they’re expected to, this team will be very dangerous. If Hunter Barco can live up to his hype, the rotation builds to one strong enough to make the run at Omaha.

 

 

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