Vols host Gators in key SEC series

UT Game Notes | UF Game Notes

The Tennessee baseball team looks to gain some ground in the Southeastern Conference race this weekend when it hosts Florida???the league???s first-place team???for a three-game set at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Volunteers sport a 5-4 SEC record through three weekends of league action and sit just two games out of first place.

Game times for this weekend are set for 7 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Saturday???s game will be televised regionally on SportSouth, while Saturday???s game will be televised regionally on Fox Sports Net. All three games will be broadcast on the radio in the Knoxville area on WNML AM 990, FM 99.1 & 99.3, with John Wilkerson and Kyle Hixson calling the action. The radio broadcasts also can be accessed free online at UTsports.com.

Tennessee owns a 17-10 overall mark on the year, including an impressive 13-2 record at home. Florida brings a 20-8 (7-2 SEC) record to Rocky Top and is ranked as high as 13th nationally.

???Florida???s got a good club,??? UT head coach Todd Raleigh said. ???They???re a very opportunistic team, and they???ve got a lot of veterans position-player-wise. I think they???re pitching probably a little better than they thought they would. Their starters are certainly giving them a chance to win every weekend.???

Led by first-year head coach Kevin O???Sullivan, the Gators boast SEC series wins over Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU this season. Florida ranks fourth in the league with a .307 team batting average and ranks second in the conference in runs scored (8.0 per game).

With a .374 batting average, UF shortstop Cole Figueroa is one of three Gators hitting at least .350. He is also one of three Gators regulars with at least five home runs on the year. Florida has been outstanding on the basepaths this season, stealing a league-high 55 bases in 66 attempts.

Tennessee, meanwhile, has ridden solid pitching through the early portion of SEC play. But the Vols bats have come on recently, as the Big Orange are hitting .318 over their last five games. The Vols are 2-0 this season against ranked opponents, with victories over Texas and Charlotte.

Close games have been the norm for UT, however, as 14 of its games have been decided by three runs or less. Tennessee owns a 7-2 record in games decided by a single run.

???This year we???ve been pitching pretty well on the weekends, and that???s been our key,??? Raleigh said. ???We???ve made some defensive lapses. And offensively, we just don???t have the guns to blow anybody out.

???We???ve had an ability to keep games close and win a few games that some people probably didn???t think we could. I think our battle is really good right now. We just don???t have a lot of room for mistakes.???

Tennessee???s pitching rotation has been altered slightly for the weekend, as sophomore left-hander Nick Hernandez (0-1, 4.09 ERA) moves from the Sunday slot to make his first career Friday start in SEC play. Florida will send sophomore right-hander Billy Bullock (3-2, 3.11 ERA) to the hill Friday.

Vols left-hander Bryan Morgado (3-2, 2.54 ERA) retains his normal Saturday spot in UT???s rotation and will oppose Florida right-handed freshman Tommy Toledo (4-1, 2.70 ERA). Morgado ranks second in the SEC and tied for sixth nationally with 53 strikeouts on the year.

Tennessee sophomore right-hander Steve Crnkovich (4-2, 4.42 ERA) slides from Friday to Sunday this weekend. The Gators??? Sunday pitcher is slated to be junior right-hander Patrick Keating (4-0, 2.45 ERA).

Hernandez (Hialeah) and Morgado (Miami) are two of six current Vols who hail from the Sunshine State. Other Florida natives on the UT roster are catcher Yan Gomes (Miami), outfielder Shawn Griffin (Hollywood), shortstop Danny Lima (Miami) and reliever Danny Wiltz (Miami).

Tennessee trails the all-time series with Florida 130-74, dating to 1916. The Vols have won four of the last six meetings and each of the last four series vs. the Gators.

The two coaching staffs share some history, beginning with Raleigh and O???Sullivan. Both were mentored by current Clemson head coach Jack Leggett. They regularly occupied opposite dugouts when Raleigh was an assistant at James Madison University (1994-98) and O???Sullivan worked on the coaching staff at Virginia (1996-97).

O???Sullivan later worked on Leggett???s staff at Clemson with current Vols assistant coach Bradley LeCroy from 2003-05.

This weekend???s ballpark promotions are highlighted by Friday???s ???Pack the Park??? event. Free T-shirts, food and drinks will be available to UT students in the left-field bleachers section. Hot dogs will be available for just $1 Friday, Tennessee football offensive coordinator Dave Clawson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and there will be a postgame fireworks show.

Tennessee???s ???Family Plan??? ticket package is available for Saturday???s game. For just $20, families receive four tickets, a large pizza and a baseball autographed by coach Raleigh.

Sunday is ???Fan Appreciation Day,??? with all kids (age 12 and under) receiving free admission as well as a coupon for a free hot dog and drink. Kids can run the bases after the game, and fans can visit with the Vols on the field after the series-finale as well.





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