As we discussed yesterday, the strength of the Florida Gators baseball team is largely concentrated in their pitching. With one of the top 1-2 pitching combinations in the nation in Alex Faedo and Brian Singer, Florida is well-equipped to handle a three game series where winning any two games clinches a spot in the College World Series.
While pitching is undoubtedly a strength, Florida’s bats have, at times, been stagnant through stretches although there have certainly been times where they have lit up the scoreboard.
This was perhaps best evidenced in a three-game series in mid-April against Vanderbilt where Florida took two of three games in Nashville, putting up 30 total runs, but also getting shut out in one of the three games (winning 20-8 in the finale certainly didn’t hurt their cause).
As a team, Florida batted .264 on the season with a .362 on-base percentage. Comparatively, the Deacs hit .311 with a .405 on-base percentage. Even taking into account the hitter-friendly nature of Gene Hooks Field, it’s clear that when it comes to hitting the Wake Forest Demon Deacons hold a sizable advantage over the Gators.
To add to the potential stress of not being able to get the bats awakened for two or three games, the status of one of their top two hitters, Ryan Larson - one of only two Gators to bat over .300 on the season - remains up in the air after Larson was hit in the head during the SEC Tournament and missed all of the Gainesville regional last weekend. Meanwhile, the prolific Wake offense had six regular starters top the best single average (.320 by Ryan Maldonado) including an absurd .359 average for First-Team All-American Stuart Fairchild
Let’s take a look at what an expected batting order might be for both Florida and Wake Forest to see what the pitching staffs will be dealing with.
Wake Forest-Florida Potential Lineups
Of importance is that if Larson is able to play, he is normally the lead-off man and would bat there accordingly, thus shifting around these lineups a bit. Larson had a .318/.406/.478 slash line this year and hit five home runs while bringing in 23 runs. If he goes, it’s likely that Horvath will not see as much action, as he has been the one primarily roaming around center with Larson unable to play.
While it’s not certain where everyone else would land, this is roughly the batting order that Wake can expect to face with minor alterations. Other guys Wake can expect to at least make an appearance this weekend are Keenan Bell (.278 BA), Blake Reese (.243 BA), and Christian Hicks (.289 BA, 4 homers).
Wake, on the other hand, has been fairly consistent with not only the nine bats, but also the batting order. Breazeale will likely catch the first two games from Parker Dunshee and Connor Johnstone, but if it goes to game three look for Logan Harvey to take over catching duties while Breazeale shifts to the DH role.
While there are no easy outs in the Wake order, teams are forced to immediately go through murderer’s row straight out of the gate facing off against six consecutive batters with an on-base percentage of .410 or higher. And once you get through the top six, you’re still tasked with Steel and Maronpot’s power before getting to Harvey, who has almost a .400 OBP himself.
It’s no secret that the Diamond Deacs boast one of the nation’s top offenses and, as has been mentioned here and on other sites previewing the series, the matchup between Florida’s pitching aces and the Demon Deacon offense is going to be one of the best contests you see this weekend all across college baseball.
If there are any specific questions about the lineups, or what you can expect to see from Florida or Wake on offense, let us know and we will do our best to answer.
Tomorrow we will take a look at how these teams fared against their respective schedules, including Wake on the road and Florida at home. Additionally, we will look at bullpen management and overall keys to the series before having a roundtable with predictions up either tomorrow afternoon or Saturday morning.
The Deacs are two days away from taking the field in Gainesville for game one of the Super Regionals. We can’t wait and hope the fan base is fired up as well. And as always, go Deacs.