GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 24 Tennessee and SEC Eastern division rival Florida square off in Gainesville this weekend for a pivotal late-season conference series with postseason implications.
The Vols and Gators enter this weekend’s series separated by just one game in the standings and will be looking to add to their resumes as they battle for postseason positioning.
Friday and Sunday’s games will be streamed live online via SEC Network+ and the WatchESPN app while Saturday’s contest will be televised live on the SEC Network. John Wilkerson and Vince Ferrara will also call all three games for the Vol Network (FM 99.1/AM 990) as well as UTSports.com and the UT Gameday App.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday: RHP Garrett Stallings (7-3, 3.03 ERA) vs. RHP Tommy Mace (7-4, 4.77 ERA)
Saturday: LHP Garrett Crochet (3-3, 3.58 ERA) vs. RHP Jack Leftwich (4-5, 7.02 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Zach Linginfelter (6-4, 4.65 ERA) vs. TBA
Series History vs. Florida
Overall: Florida leads, 152-87
In Knoxville: Florida leads, 65-47
In Gainesville: Florida leads, 82-39
Neutral Sites: Florida leads, 4-2
Last Meeting: April 8, 2018 in Knoxville (W, 6-4 in 7 Inn.)
While Florida has had the better of Tennessee in the all-time series, the two programs has been very evenly matched as of late, splitting the past eight meetings. Three of those games have gone to extra innings. Tennessee won its last series in Gainesville back in 2017.
Need to Know
- Tennessee is coming off a 9-4 midweek win over Austin Peay and will look to rebound after losing its home series against Missouri last weekend. UT enters the series ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and No. 10 in the RPI.
- UT improved to 6-3 in games against in-state opponents with Tuesday’s victory over Austin Peay.
- Andre Lipcius added to his already career-high home run and RBI totals in Tuesday’s victory over the Governors. The junior third baseman belted his team-leading 13th home run of the season while driving in his 47th run. Lipcius also tied a career high with four runs scored on the night.
- Lipcius’ 13 home runs this season are the most in a single season by a UT player since current Detroit Tigers slugger Christin Stewart had 15 back in 2015.
- The Vols erased a four-run deficit in the last Friday’s series opener against Missouri to win 11-5. The four-run deficit was the largest overcome in a win this season for UT.
- Friday’s win over the Tigers was Tennessee’s seventh over a ranked opponent this season. The Vols enter this weekend’s series against Florida with the No. 1 strength of schedule in the nation.
- Tennessee has done major damage with two outs over the past six SEC games, scoring 28 of its 36 runs with two outs in that span.
- Freshman Jake Rucker continued his impressive hitting in SEC play last weekend, recording two hits in all three games against Missouri. He led the team in batting average, hits, doubles, RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage for the series.
- The Greenbrier, Tenn., native had three doubles in the series after having just four the entire season entering the weekend. He was also the only Tennessee player to record at least two hits and drive in a run in every game this weekend.
- Rucker has recorded multiple hits in five of his last seven games and has quietly emerged as one of the Vols’ top hitters in SEC play, his .324 batting average in league play leads all freshmen in the conference while his .412 on-base percentage is the second best among freshmen.
Florida Gators (29-21, 9-15 SEC)
- 2018 Record: 49-21 (20-10 SEC)
- 2018 Postseason: College World Series (t-3rd)
- Florida was picked to finish second in the Eastern Division of the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll after winning the SEC and making the program’s 12th trip to Omaha.
- The Gators have had a down year by their lofty standards, entering this weekend’s series in fifth place in the SEC East with a 9-15 conference record.
- UF is led by Kevin O’Sullivan, who has led the program to the NCAA tournament in all 11 seasons as head coach. He has also led the Gators to seven CWS appearances and the program’s first National Championship in 2017.
- Florida’s strength has been its offense, ranking in the top half of the SEC in the majority of statistical categories. However, UF has struggled on the mound, ranking last in the conference in ERA and opponent batting average.
- Sophomore infielder Brady McConnell has been the Gators’ top hitter this season, entering the weekend leading the team in batting average (.360), hits (67) and home runs (12). He is also tied with Kendrick Calilao for the team lead in RBI with 40.
- Friday-night starter Tommy Mace has been UF’s most consistent starter this season. The sophomore righty is 7-4 with a 4.77 ERA over 12 starts and has 63 strikeouts on the year.
On Deck for the Vols
The Vols will cap off the regular season with four home games next week, starting with their final non-conference game of the regular season next Tuesday night at 6 p.m. against Tennessee Tech. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+ and the WatchESPN app. Tennessee will then host No. 11 Ole Miss next Thursday-Saturday in the final SEC series of the year.