It all comes down to this weekend’s pivotal Southeastern Conference road series for the Tennessee Baseball Team.
The Volunteers arrived in Gainesville, Wednesday afternoon well aware that a successful series against Florida is imperative if the club hopes to occupy a slot in next week’s SEC Tournament bracket.
Tennessee currently sits in 10th place in the overall league
standings, and only the league’s top-eight teams earn tournament berths.
Game times for the series with the Gators are set for 6:30 p.m. on both
Thursday and Friday, and 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Saturday's game will be televised regionally on Sun Sports, and all three contests can be heard in the Knoxville area on WNML, The Sports Animal (AM 990, FM 99.1 & 99.3), A Citadel Broadcasting Station.
Although Tennessee (31-22, 11-14 SEC) currently finds itself on the outside looking in at the SEC Tournament picture, the Vols have an opportunity to play their way into contention for the annual event at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
The Big Orange are hitting at a .297 clip and have constructed a 4.65 ERA. Five Vols have raised their season batting average to .313 or better. Junior outfielder Andy Simunic leads the way with a .348 average, 69 hits and 26 stolen bases. Sophomore second baseman Tony Delmonico has raised his season average to .327 after hitting at a .478 clip with nine RBIs over UT’s last five games.
At 27-26 (14-13 SEC), Florida occupies third place in the SEC Eastern Division and sixth place in the overall league race. The Gators have fashioned a 16-15 home record and have won two of their five home SEC series this year. Florida sports a .295 team batting average and a 5.49 staff ERA.
Offensively, the Gators are led by senior first baseman Matt LaPorta, who has built a reputation as one of the nation’s top collegiate hitters. LaPorta leads the SEC in batting average (.423), slugging percentage (.853), on-base percentage (.579) and ranks second in the conference with 19 home runs.
This weekend’s pitching matchups feature Tennessee ace James Adkins (5-7, 2.86 ERA) in Thursday’s series-opener against Florida right-hander Kyle Mullaney (4-1, 4.85 ERA). Freshman left-hander Nick Hernandez (4-2, 5.25 ERA) will start for UT Friday, while the Gators send right-hander Bryan Augenstein (6-5, 5.49 ERA) to the hill. And freshman Billy Bullock (2-6, 5.64 ERA) will take the mound for Florida Saturday against a UT pitcher who has yet to be announced.
The Volunteers trail the all-time series with the Gators 72-129, dating to
1916. Tennessee has won six of its last 10 meetings with UF and two of the last three series in Gainesville. The Vols under Rod Delmonico are 24-30 against Florida, including an 11-13 mark in Gainesville.
Florida is the home state of eight current Vols as well as third-year pitching coach Mike Bell. This weekend marks UT’s second trip to the Sunshine State this year, as it opened the season with a three-game series against Florida State in Tallahassee.
Some other SEC series that UT fans should keep an eye on this weekend:
Ninth-place LSU (12-14-1) travels to first-place and No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt (19-8).
Tennessee owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over LSU.
Eighth-place Kentucky (12-14-1) hosts 12th-place Auburn (8-19).
The Vols also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Kentucky. Seventh-place Alabama (13-14) goes to third-place Mississippi State (14-11).
Alabama owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information