No. 4 Gators Can Bring It from the Mound

Florida just might be the best team in the country. Baseball America, the poll we use down at the Daily Journal, has the Gators (24-6, 7-2 SEC) at No. 4. They were at No. 1 not too long ago.

John Cohen, who once served as a UF assistant, has a high opinion of this weekend’s opponent (first game today at 6:30 p.m.).

“They just don’t give you anything, they don’t make mistakes defensively, they don’t walk people,” Cohen said. “Their hitting is timely, plus they can score a bunch of runs also. They’re a very complete club. They’re a club that can contend for a national championship right now.”

I wrote today about MSU’s bullpen, and while it’s been good, Florida has a more mature, complete pitching staff. Consider these numbers:

• Team ERA of 2.33 is second in the SEC.

• Opponents’ batting average of .222 is third in the SEC.

• Issued only 54 walks, fewest in the SEC.

• Weekend starters have combined ERA of 1.73.

• Tonight’s UF starter, Hudson Randall (5-0), has league-best 0.54 ERA – he’s given up three earned runs (six total) in 49.2 innings.

• More on Randall: He tossed a four-hit shutout against Tennessee last week. In his three SEC starts, Randall has given up 17 hits and only one unearned run, with 10 strikeouts and no walks. If my math is correct, Randall has thrown 28 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run.

This raises the question: Who’s pitching staff is better, Florida’s or Vanderbilt’s? The Bulldogs were shut out twice by the Commodores.

“The difference between a Vanderbilt, to me, and a Florida is Vanderbilt just throws more pitches because they strike so many guys out,” Cohen said. “Florida is just super efficient. They get so many outs early in the count, so we’re going to have to work against that. We just can’t give them three-or-less-pitch at-bats.”

There’s more to Florida than pitching. The Gators lead the SEC with a .311 batting average and are second in slugging percentage (.448). They’re solid in the field, too, with a .974 fielding percentage.

MSU, coming off that big win against Southern Miss on Tuesday, seems confident heading into this series. The big key will be matching Florida’s pitching, and reliever Luis Pollorena thinks it can be done.

“I know we can go against anybody in the country pretty much as long as we throw strikes and get ahead in the count and let the defense work,” Pollorena said. “That’s pretty much all we can do, and our offense is going to come out with a breakthrough game one of these days and just score a bunch of runs and let us do our jobs.”