No. 11 Florida Hosts Seton Hall in Weekend Series – Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 11 Florida hosts its final non-conference series of the season this weekend, welcoming Seton Hall of the Big East Conference to town for a three-game set.

Due to inclement weather on Friday, the first two games of the series will be played via a Saturday doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. Game two will start 45 minutes after the conclusion of game one. The series finale is scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 13. All three games will stream live on SEC Network+.

The Gators (11-3) and Pirates (0-10) have only ever met three times prior, facing off in a weekend series back in 2017. Florida won the first (W, 8-0) and third games (W, 4-3) to claim a series victory, with the lone loss coming via a 13-inning affair in game two (L, 2-3). Heading into the weekend, Florida has won 10 of its last 11 games on the year.

Pitching Matchups

Saturday | 1 p.m. (SECN+) Saturday | 45 min. after Game 1 (SECN+) Sunday | 12 p.m. (SECN+)
Seton Hall RHP Hunter Waldis (0-2, 3.75 ERA) RHP Drew Conover (0-0, 5.59 ERA) RHP Brennan O’Neill (0-2, 6.75 ERA)
Florida LHP Hunter Barco (2-1, 2.65 ERA) RHP Brandon Sproat (2-1, 1.17 ERA) RHP Nick Pogue (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Entering week four of the season, Florida is ranked inside the top-13 by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA and USA Today, peaking at No. 10 and sitting at No. 11 in the D1Baseball Top-25.
The Gators went 4-1 last week, sweeping the midweek slate with wins at North Florida (W, 11-2) and vs. Florida A&M (W, 17-0) before taking two-of-three at No. 22 Miami (L, 2-5 / W, 8-1 / W, 11-3). The Orange & Blue followed that with a 1-0 midweek win over Jacksonville on Tuesday, before Wednesday’s rematch was postponed due to rain.

Picked to finish fifth out of eight teams in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Seton Hall is 0-10 to open the campaign. Eight of those losses have come on the road, while the remaining two occurred at neutal sites. The Pirates are hitting .190 as a team and the pitching staff holds a 10.00 ERA.

2022 represents O’Sullivan’s 15th season as the head coach at Florida. During that time, O’Sullivan owns a 596-281 (.680) record, passing the legendary Dave Fuller (556-354-6) for the most wins in program history on March 9, 2021. O’Sullivan’s .680 winning percentage ranks third among all active Division I head coaches, while Florida’s .622 clip in SEC play since 2008 stands as the top mark in the conference. O’Sullivan is just four wins away for 600 in his career (all at Florida).

On Tuesday, March 8, right-handed pitcher Tyler Nesbitt made his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery, and this weekend it will be right-hander Nick Pogue’s turn. Prior to this week, Nesbitt and Pogue last took the mound on March 10, 2020 – a span that will stretch 733 days once Pogue fires his first pitch on Sunday.

Florida is 34-6 across its last 40 regular season games at Florida Ballpark, including an 19-3 mark in their last 22. In the inaugural season of Florida Ballpark, the Gators delivered a dominant 28-9 record at home. Florida closed out the regular season with eight-straight home series victories, going 27-4 in Gainesville across the team’s final 31 regular-season contests and losing just one game in the final 13 matchups in that span.

The Gators have held opposing teams scoreless across the last 25 1/3 innings at home dating back to Feb. 27 vs. Georgia State. Florida enters the weekend having shut out its opponents in back-to-back home games (W, 17-0 vs. FAMU; W, 1-0 vs. Jacksonville) for the first time since March 14, 2017 (1-0 vs. Florida State) to March 24, 2017 (1-0 vs. LSU).

With just six errors in 509 defensive chances, Florida ranks seventh nationally with a .988 fielding percentage.

Florida ranks 12th nationally with a 2.16 team ERA backed by a 1.70 ERA across 69.0 innings from the Gators bullpen. Florida pitchers have combined for a 1.56 ERA with a .174 BAA over the last 11 games dating back to Feb. 22 at Stetson. Opposing hitters are batting .193 against Gator pitchers this year.

Hitting just .186 as a team after opening weekend vs. Liberty, the Gators now own a .300 average heading into the weekend (opponents: .193). Last week, the Gators batted .311 as a team while holding opponents to a .186 mark. Florida has outscored opponents by a 104-32 margin on the season (+72).

The Gators are tied for third in the nation with 27 home runs. Meanwhile, the Florida pitching staff has allowed just five home runs all year.

Off to a .397/.470/.690 start with a career-high four home runs, second baseman Colby Halter has hit safely in all 14 games and has a 16-game hitting streak dating back to last season. On Feb. 28, Halter was named the SEC Co-Player of the Week in addition to earning mention as one of Collegiate Baseball’s National Players of the Week.

For the third time in as many weeks, a Gator garnered weekly SEC honors. This time it was right-handed pitcher Brandon Sproat, who made two starts last week (at UNF, at No. 22 Miami) and posted a 0.00 ERA with 10 strikeouts across 8 1/3 innings of work.  Dazzling against No. 22 Miami on March 5, Sproat fired a career-high 6 1/3 shutout innings to earn the victory with four hits allowed, two walks and eight strikeouts.

In his first two starts, left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco allowed just one run across 12 innings with 23 strikeouts to open the year at 2-0. Despite picking up a loss at No. 22 Miami last weekend, Barco still owns a 2.65 ERA with 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a 14.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 28 strikeouts rank tied-17th nationally.

2021 Third Team All-American outfielder Jud Fabian is hitting .364/.512/.758 with four homers and 10 RBI over Florida’s last-nine games. Fabian recorded his sixth-career multi-homer game on March 2 vs. Florida A&M and homered again at Miami on March 5 to bring his career total to 36 home runs, which ranks tied-for-eighth all-time at Florida. The Ocala, Fla. native posted a .600 on-base percentage and slugged .750 during the three-game series at No. 22 Miami, drawing seven walks over the course of the weekend.

Making his first-seven ca­reer appearances, right-handed reliever Blake Purnell has not allowed an earned run across 14.0 IP to begin the year. Purnell is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and has 14 strikeouts compared to just one walk.

Coming off an All-SEC Freshman Team 2021 season, outfielder Sterlin Thompson is batting .368/.422/.517 with a team-high five home runs (T-24th nationally) and 15 RBI. Thompson hit safely in each of the first 13 games of the season, but saw the longest hitting streak of his career end with an 0-for-4 night vs. Jacksonville on March 8.

After being out for all of 2021, right-handed pitcher Nick Ficarrotta has appeared in seven games already to open the year with a 2-0 record, a team-high three saves, 1.15 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 15.2 innings pitched. He fired a career-high 4.2 scoreless frames on one hit and one walk with a career-high six strikeouts to earn the win at Stetson on Feb. 22. He also pitched 2.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts at No. 22 Miami to earn the save on March 5.

From Feb. 26 to March 2, a Flor­ida freshman hit his first-career homer in four-straight games: Corey Robinson (3/2), Deric Fabian (3/1), Ty Evans (2/27) and Rene Lastres (2/26). 

Opened in 2021, the state-of-the-art Florida Ballpark was named Ballpark Digest’s 2021 College Ballpark of the Year in December. Newly equipped with permanent outfield concessions and restrooms, Florida Ballpark features a 360-degree open concourse, shade structures for fans and high definition video and sound.
After being selected 40th overall in last year’s draft, Fabian is again projected as Florida’s top prospect by MLB Pipeline, coming in as the No. 45 overall prospect for the 2022 MLB Draft. Barco follows closely behind at No. 54, while Thompson (No. 90) and Sproat (No. 98) fell just inside the top 100. The Gators’ middle infield duo of Halter and Rivera recently received draft buzz as well, with D1baseball ranking the former as the No. 60 college prospect and the latter sitting at No. 78. All six of the aforementioned players were ranked as top-30 prospects in the SEC by D1Baseball, in addition to Pogue, who was tabbed the conference’s No. 50 prospect.

The gates of Florida Ballpark will open two hours and 15 minutes prior to first pitch for every home game. 
Those visiting Florida Ballpark on game day should be aware of updated traffic patterns surrounding the ballpark. The 2022 season welcomes the addition of Ballpark Way, which will serve as a connecting route to the ballpark from Archer Road. For those departing the ballpark via Hull Road, fans will be directed to turn right onto Hull Road from the parking lot and travel eastbound towards SW 23rd Drive. See HERE for a postgame traffic guide to utilize when departing the ballpark.

General Parking is available in the west Florida Ballpark baseball lot and the Fifield parking lot located directly across Hull Road. Disabled parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis in the Florida Ballpark west lot with a valid Disabled Placard. Click HERE for a Parking map.

Due to the likelihood of increased traffic for this weekend, parking may be limited around Florida Ballpark and other athletic venues located on the southwest side of campus. Fans are encouraged to park in the lot located at Fifield Hall. 
There will be a free shuttle service provided to and from the Fifield parking lot each day of the weekend series.
As a reminder, mobile ticketing is required. There will be two ways to access your tickets:
1) through the Florida Gators app from your mobile device or
2) through Fans will also be able to transfer or donate their tickets easily within the app or online.
For a smoother and safer entry on game day, fans are encouraged to add their tickets to their Apple Wallet or Google Pay account in advance of coming to the ballpark. 
Florida hosts No. 8 Florida State on Tuesday, March 15 at 6 p.m. prior to the start of Southeastern Conference play next weekend. The Gators kick off the SEC slate with a trip to Alabama from Friday, March 18 to Sunday, March 20.

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