In 2015, the Florida baseball team had a bye at the SEC Tournament, lost a see-sawing first game late at night, rebounded to beat a team from Alabama on the second day of play, and advanced to a Saturday semifinal against LSU with a run-rule win.
In 2016, the Florida baseball team had a bye at the SEC Tournament, lost a see-sawing first game late at night, rebounded to beat a team from Alabama on the second day of play, and advanced to a Saturday semifinal against LSU with a run-rule win.
Yeah, it's spooky.
This year's Gators got their Friday win over Mississippi State, a slightly better team than the Arkansas outfit that beat and then got beaten by the Gators before the semifinals began in 2015, and Florida played LSU to start the 2016 SEC Tournament, not Arkansas, but those parallels are certainly eerily straight.
Florida, of course, went on to win the 2015 edition of the SEC Tournament, steaming through eventual fellow College World Series participants LSU and Vanderbilt on the weekend to do so. That exact same trick is impossible this year, because Vandy's already gone, eliminated by Texas A&M on Friday, but the Gators could face two elite teams this weekend.
The Tigers, who have taken three of four games from Florida in the last eight days, are smoking hot at the moment, and the Aggies have held the nation's top ranking at times when Florida hasn't had it in a vise grip this spring. Mississippi, A&M's semifinal opponent, is also an Omaha threat, but would likely have to travel to a Super Regional to get there, something that Texas A&M assuredly won't have to do, and LSU very well might avoid. (And, obviously, Florida has to get past LSU to see either the Aggies or Rebels.)
Winning it all in Hoover is also seemingly a lot less likely now than it was then, because Florida seemingly doesn't have Logan Shore available, and still won't get slugger Peter Alonso back until next week, for the beginning of NCAA Tournament play. Shore was slated to start for Florida on Thursday, but had that start scrapped after reportedly falling ill with a "stomach bug," and Kevin O'Sullivan said Friday that he will continue to rest Shore on Saturday, starting Scott Moss in his stead.
Moss (2-0, 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings with four starts) is usually a reliever, and he's fine as a spot starter. Yet he's no Karsten Whitson, who kept LSU in check in a memorable spot start in 2014 in Hoover. And Florida doesn't have as steady a hand in its bullpen this year as it did in Taylor Lewis in 2015, when the submariner closer threw 4.1 scoreless innings against the Tigers and picked up just his second win of the year.
That makes beating LSU a tall task, even though the Tigers will start Caleb Gilbert, who saw Florida in the Gators' Sunday victory in Baton Rouge last weekend. We'll see if the Gators can do so on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on SEC Network, or after the completion of Mississippi-Texas A&M.
Feel free to use the comments of this post as an open thread.