Tonight the Gators face Bethune-Cookman at 7pm in their opener of the NCAA Baseball Regionals. The Gators (42-15) are the overall No. 3 seed in the tournament.
Bethune-Cookman (35-20) has an all time record of 0-23 against UF. But in 2008, UF needed late heroics to defeat the Wildcats in Regional play. Bethune has won five consecutive conference championships, so they won't be intimidated by the atmosphere. They are also hitting .342 as a team, but their 5.22 ERA will not be enough to get past Florida.
The other side of the Regional is Florida Atlantic (35-22) and Oregon State (31-22). This shapes up to be a favorable draw in that UF has FAU this season and Oregon State is not the same team that won back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007. Oregon State was a bubble team, but were 10-5 in their last 15 games. That erased an awful stretch where they lost 11 of 12 games in April.
The thing to look for this weekend will be how UF uses their pitching staff. In double elimination, some teams have a sense of urgency and will send closers out for a six out save or remove pitchers too early. After starters Alex Panteliodis, Brian Johnson and Hudson Randall, UF will need to have a few arms ready for long relief. UF has been off for a week after they were eliminated from the SEC Tournament, but nearing the end of a long season, the fewer pitchers used, the better off the Gators will be.