Florida Gators Weekend Preview: Baseball's series with South Carolina takes center stage

Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

Florida's shot at getting over .500 against South Carolina is the highlight of the weekend in Gators sports.

The Weekend Review runs down Florida's sporting successes and failures in the non-football, non-men's basketball, non-track sports on crowded fall and spring weekends. If you have a club sport or other note to include in the Weekend Review, hit @AlligatorArmy.

Baseball has chance to get over .500

Despite the struggle that has been Florida's baseball season to this point, the Gators have a chance to get over .500 this weekend. It won't be easy, of course, but if Florida can do it, its shot at the NCAA Tournament improves immeasurably.

That's because Florida, still just 17-18 on the year, would need to sweep South Carolina to do it. A sweep of the Gamecocks, even in Gainesville, is a titanic result — and Florida would be on a five-game winning streak over top-20 teams if they did finish off the 'Cocks on Friday and Saturday.

As for that "It won't be easy" part, though: Florida ace Jonathon Crawford battled for the Gators on Thursday, going 6.2 innings and allowing just one earned run and getting his second win of the year, but Crawford sliding back into the top spot of the order means that Florida will be pitting Danny Young against South Carolina's Jordan Montgomery tonight at 7:30. Montgomery's 3-0 on the year, with a 0.76 ERA, and hasn't allowed a run since February 23; USC has won all four of his starts.

Saturday's 3 p.m. finale is probably going to be even more fun: Florida's likely to start Johnny Magliozzi, who closed for the Gators on Thursday, but Jay Carmichael, out for the last week, is available. Kevin O'Sullivan might well run out Magliozzi and Carmichael in some order, hoping for six innings, then turn to a bullpen that usually has one or both of those players available for relief.

In any case, Florida is turning to underclassmen all over for help — Magliozzi is a sophomore; Carmichael, Young, and impact hitters Harrison Bader and Richie Martin are all freshmen — and will have to hope its youth movement trumps Carolina's. If it does, the Gators' very bright future may seep into its dimmer present.

Women's tennis looks to win share of SEC title

The last time Florida's women's tennis team didn't win the SEC title was 2009. Florida has just a little road work left to do this weekend to make it four straight conference titles.

Florida takes on Kentucky on Friday at 4 and Vanderbilt on Sunday at 2, and both teams can do nothing more than spoil the Gators' parade: Florida is 10-1 in the SEC, with its only loss to 10-1 Texas A&M, and secures nothing less than a share of the SEC crown with wins over the Wildcats and Commodores. Florida has to hope for Texas A&M and 10-1 Georgia to lose to hold the title by itself, but with the Aggies and Dawgs both also hitting the road this weekend, that's still a possibility.

No matter how the regular season shakes out this weekend, though, Florida still has the SEC Tournament to look forward to next week, and the Gators have dominated the last three editions of it, going 9-0 over the last three years and dropping just two points in those nine matches.

Men's tennis wraps up home slate

Florida's men's tennis team doesn't have quite the same SEC aspirations as its counterparts with two X chromosomes. But the Gators will be playing for critical SEC Tournament positioning when finishing up their regular season at home this weekend.

Florida is just 5-5 in league play this year. But there's only one team that is guaranteed to finish ahead of Florida (9-1 Georgia) if the Gators win both their matches this weekend, and the difference between the No. 2 seed Florida could conceivably earn and the No. 7 seed that is more likely is a bye that prevents the Gators from having to win four matches in four days to take the tournament title.

Florida plays on Kentucky on Friday at 5 and on Vanderbilt Sunday at 1, if you would like to see the Gators pursue that seed.

Softball takes show on road to Kentucky

Florida softball's grand slam onslaught in a series win against Mississippi State last weekend showed off the Gators' power. There might not be more of that this weekend in Kentucky.

Florida travels to Lexington for a three-game set (Friday at 6 p.m. Eastern, Saturday at 1, Sunday at noon), and gets a squad that is on a six-game winning streak and 10-2 in its last 12 games. Better still for the 'Cats, they've allowed just 14 homers on the year, which is a good sign when the team coming in has 57 on the season.

Of course, there's a catch to that Kentucky figure: The 'Cats haven't seen Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M, or Florida (the four SEC teams in Division I's top 10 for homers per game).

But there's a catch to Florida's 57, and its slams last weekend: Lauren Haeger, she of the team-leading 12 homers, didn't hit any of the dingers last weekend, and hasn't homered since March 22.

She's due for Haeger bomb or two. Good luck, Kentucky.

Lacrosse finishes ALC road slate

Florida's lacrosse squad has already taken the only loss it can afford in American Lacrosse Conference play if it wants another regular season ALC title. The Gators will look to avoid a second on the road at Vanderbilt on Sunday.

First draw for the Gators and Commodores is at 2 p.m., and Florida will look to take the series lead against Vandy and set itself up to win the ALC title in Nashville. Vanderbilt beat Florida in Gainesville and in the ALC Tournament in 2010, and is both the only ALC team to have been up 2-0 on Florida in their all-time series and one of two to have beaten Florida twice. (The other team is Northwestern.) And with Florida's win over Syracuse earlier this year, Vanderbilt tied the Orange for the second-best record against Florida in women's lacrosse.

Clearly, Vandy has had some success in the past against the Gators, but that was not the case last year in Gainesville, where Florida put together a 17-5 victory over the 'Dores that was 9-1 in Florida's favor at halftime.

If Kitty Cullen can have another game like her five-goal performance on that day (she has only three goals against Vandy in three other games), Florida should be just fine.

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