GAINESVILLE -- Senior Patrick Keating takes the mound at 6:30 tonight for the Gators in their season opener against Louisville. UF is ranked No.23 in the USA Today/ESPN preseason Top 25 while Louisville is ranked No.16.
The Gators host Eastern Michigan on Tuesday and Wednesday before a visit from rival Miami Feb. 27-Mar. 1.
Second-year coach Kevin O'Sullivan appears to be moving the Gators in the right direction. Florida finished the 2008 season 34-24 and were 27-6 at home. That was a huge improvement from the 2007 season, in which Florida was 17-17 at home.
O'Sullivan's first recruiting class was ranked No.5 by Baseball America. Four of those newcomers are talented pitchers who will contribute immediately. Left handers Nick Morande and Alex Panteliodis will make their first career starts this weekend against Louisville. Freshmen pitchers Will Jolin and Anthony DeSclafani will start weekday games.
Overall, UF is a young squad (12 freshmen) but the Gators are led by a strong core of returning players. Corner infielder Brandon McArthur was awarded a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Senior outfielder Avery Barnes is the Gators' lead-off man. Junior Matt den Dekker of Fort Lauderdale, who played with the U.S. National Team during the offseason, is a preseason all-American.
Sophomore infielder Josh Adams has emerged as the Gators' best hitter. Outfielder Riley Cooper, a receiver on the football team, joined the baseball team immediately after the football national championship and could be a significant contributor this season.
HARVIN'S CHARACTER BEING QUESTIONED
Pro Football Weekly writer Nolan Nawrocki breaks down the good and bad of former UF receiver Percy Harvin, who will be participating in the NFL Combine this weekend. Nawrocki calls into question Harvin's character. "Not a likeable person and tends to rub teammates the wrong way," writes Nawrocki. Ouch. There is no doubt that Harvin has his demons (this blog was pretty critical of Harvin after his preseason incident with Chris Rainey) but the guy did work extremely hard to prepare himself for the national championship game after injuring his ankle against Florida State.
BROMBACHER IMPROVES TO 5-0
Florida sophomore softball pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (5-0) of Broward County recorded her fifth shutout of the season on Thursday. Brombacher is 25-0 in her career at UF. Brombacher was named SEC Pitcher of Week last week. She tossed a no-hitter against Coastal Carolina. Florida defeated defending national champs Arizona State 8-2 in their second game on Thursday. UF pitcher Stacy Nelson recorded her 100th career victory and sophomore Megan Bush hit two home runs in the same inning. And one of the dingers was a grand slam. Wow!