Monday, May 29 2023

After sweeping No. 13 Ole Miss last weekend and getting a few days of extra rest thanks to a rained-out midweek matchup against Florida State, the Florida Gators baseball club is ready to continue its hot start in SEC play against the Auburn Tigers this week.

The Tigers are currently 17-7-1 and 2-4 against the conference, with both SEC wins coming against the Georgia Bulldogs. It won’t help that Auburn is down its ace, right-hander Joseph Gonzalez, especially because Florida is averaging just under 10 runs a game at Condron Family Ballpark.

Meanwhile, the Gators have had fairly good pitching on the weekends. Ole Miss is probably a better-hitting team than Auburn right now, so Brandon Sproat, Hurston Waldrep and Jac Caglianone should all bounce back on the mound this weekend.

Speaking of Florida’s Golden Spike candidate, Caglianone is still leading the nation in home runs and hit four big flies last weekend to celebrate Wyatt Langford’s return to the lineup. Expect both to have big weekends with Langford being the MVP of the series after a mild comeback.

It should be another fun weekend for Florida Gators fans, and there’s a chance that the brooms come out again.

Projected Starting Lineup

Pos.

Player Name

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

C

[autotag]BT Riopelle[/autotag]

.309

.387

.536

97

22

30

4

31

1B

Jac Caglianone

.400

.462

.971

105

32

42

17

38

2B

[autotag]Cade Kurland[/autotag]

.378

.470

.694

98

35

37

8

33

3B

[autotag]Colby Halter[/autotag]

.266

.373

.500

64

19

17

3

12

SS

[autotag]Josh Rivera[/autotag]

.402

.500

.804

97

37

39

11

39

LF

Wyatt Langford

.386

.521

.843

70

30

27

7

19

CF

[autotag]Michael Robertson[/autotag]

.289

.455

.342

76

21

22

0

9

RF

[autotag]Ty Evans[/autotag]

.243

.307

.417

103

20

25

3

29

DH

[autotag]Tyler Shelnut[/autotag]

.279

.380

.574

61

15

17

4

9

Probable Starters: Saturday (6:30 p.m. EDT)

Team

Pitcher

Record

ERA

FLORIDA

RHP Brandon Sproat

4-0

3.60

AUBURN

RHP Will Cannon

2-0

2.29

NOTES: Sproat kicked off SEC play with a brilliant complete game against Alabama, but he wasn’t nearly as sharp against a tough Ole Miss team to beat at the plate. Auburn is more similar to Alabama, so the expectation is a quality start from Sproat at the minimum. The Tigers aren’t the biggest swing-and-miss team, though, so put the over/under on strikeouts at 6.5 this week.

Will Cannon will get his first start of the season Friday against Florida after making nine appearances out of the bullpen for Auburn this season. His 2.29 ERA has earned him a shot as the Tigers look for a replacement at the top of the rotation for Gonzalez. He’s worked 4 2/3 innings and 3 innings over his last two starts, so don’t expect anything more than five from him on Friday.

Probable Starters: Saturday (6:30 p.m. EDT)

Team

Pitcher

Record

ERA

FLORIDA

RHP Hurston Waldrep

4-1

4.78

AUBURN

RHP John Armstrong

5-0

3.91

NOTES: Waldrep’s strikeouts numbers have come down a bit since starting SEC play, but that was expected to some degree. This might be the weekend he gets back to double-digit strikeouts, though, after an up-and-down performance against Ole Miss a weekend ago.

John Armstrong is another bullpen guy for Auburn that is getting a shot in the starting rotation. Florida will likely give him a proper welcome to life as an SEC starter and hand Armstrong his first loss of the season. He is particularly effective against lefties, though, so watch out for that.

Probable Starters: Sunday (1 p.m. EDT)

Team

Pitcher

Record

ERA

FLORIDA

LHP Jac Caglianone

3-0

3.41

AUBURN

LHP Tommy Vail

2-1

3.57

NOTES: Caglianone walked eight guys in 3 2/3 innings last weekend and has struggled over the past couple of weeks on the mound. There’s not guarantee here that Caglianone picks things back up, and this is clearly the game Auburn thinks it can win in the series.

That’s why the Tigers are throwing their typical Friday arm, Tommy Vail, on Sunday. This is a strategy many teams have used against the Gators this season, but it hasn’t always paid off.

Other Players to Watch

Grayson Belanger / Auburn Athletics

At the plate, Auburn is a pretty easy team to read. They have two power hitters, Bryson Ware and Justin Kirby. Ware is also second on the team in average at .404, but Kirby is an all-or-nothing bat with 30 strikeouts on the season. It wouldn’t be odd to see Kirby add five more to that total over this series, either.

Sophomore Ike Irish is another guy to look out for. He’s leading the team with a .416 batting average and has an OPS of 1.117. Other than that, Cole Foster is the only other Tiger batting over .305 with more than 25 at-bats.

It should be a good weekend for Gators pitching if they can navigate the tricky parts of the lineup.

Series History

OVERALL

119-134-2

AT HOME

66-50

AWAY

45-81-1

NEUTRAL

8-3-1

NOTES: Florida hasn’t lost this series since 2017 when they were swept on the road. Auburn might hold the edge in the all-time series, but Florida can add cut the deficit down by three this week if all goes right.

Follow the Action

SATURDAY (6:30 p.m. EDT)

SATURDAY (6:30 p.m. EDT)

SUNDAY (1 p.m. EDT)

* Watch links go directly to game feed

Predictions

GAME 1: Florida, 10-4

GAME 2: Florida, 13-2

GAME 3: Florida, 7-6

SERIES: The Gators are as hot as any team in the country right now, and Auburn is going to struggle against them this weekend. Sunday seems like the only real chance for Florida’s lineup to run into a wall, and Caglianone’s latest struggles make me think that game will be close. Not the others, though.

Florida sweeps the series, 3-0.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports

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