Series preview: Florida travels to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs

·3 min read

Florida baseball head coach Kevin O'Sullivan received devastating news on Tuesday that his team will have to finish the rest of its season without ace Hunter Barco. He announced via his social media that he won’t play another game this season and will undergo Tommy John surgery.

That’s a tough blow for the Gators that are in a last-minute push to make the NCAA tournament. They have another chance to improve their resume when they travel to Starkville, Mississippi, to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs this weekend.

In Barco’s absence, starter Brandon Neely has stepped up quite nicely. He has only allowed four hits and two earned runs in 17 1/3 innings over his last three starts. O’Sullivan will need Neely to keep his dominance going if Florida wants to grab the series this weekend.

Projected Starting Lineup

Probable Starters (Friday 8 p.m. EDT)

Team

Pitcher

Record

ERA

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Brandon Smith

3-3

3.75

FLORIDA

Brandon Sproat

5-4

4.39

NOTES: Sproat has been a rollercoaster this season mainly because he has a bad outing once in every three starts since the Gators’ last non-conference weekend series versus Seton Hall. Unfortunately, for Florida, he has had two strong outings and is due for another bad start based on the trend this season. Can he break out of it?

Probable Starters (Saturday 7:30 p.m. EDT)

Team

Pitcher

Record

ERA

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Cade Smith

4-2

4.20

FLORIDA

Brandon Neely

2-0

3.35

NOTES: O’Sullivan needed someone in his weekend rotation to step up in Barco’s place and Neely has done just that. He has been electric giving up a WHIP of 0.83 in 15 appearances, including four starts. Florida will lean on him again this weekend.

Probable Starters (Sunday 2 p.m. EDT)

Team

Pitcher

Record

ERA

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Preston Johnson

3-3

5.52

FLORIDA

TBA

TBA

TBA

NOTES: Gators Wire will update the Sunday starters when more information is released from Florida. O’Sullivan has started the last two weekends on the final day of the series but has struggled mightily. He may elect to try someone new this weekend.

Series History

OVERALL

67-51

AT HOME

32-22

AWAY

27-25

NEUTRAL

8-4

NOTES: Florida historically has had much more trouble versus Mississippi State on the road than at home. The Gators are traveling this weekend. They need to at least win the series to stay in the race for the NCAA tournament.

Follow the Action

FRIDAY (8 p.m. EDT)

SATURDAY (7:30 p.m. EDT)

SUNDAY (2 p.m. EDT)

Predictions

GAME 1: Florida, 5-3

GAME 2: Florida, 8-2

GAME 3: Florida, 4-3

SERIES: This is another make-or-break SEC weekend series for Florida. It needs to collect as many wins as it can before the regular season concludes. It would look really good on the Gators’ resume if they can grab the series sweep in Starkville this weekend.

Florida should win all three games this weekend because Mississippi State isn’t as talented as it was in previous years. The Gators have usually been able to take care of business against unranked opponents.

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