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Bulls preparing to battle Gators to start Gainesville Regional on Friday

Redshirt junior Riley Hogan (32) has a .280 batting average this season to go along with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After an impressive week in Clearwater, the USF baseball team will now shift its focus toward UF as the two teams are set to begin the Gainesville Regional on Friday.

The Gators (38-20, 17-13 SEC) are No. 15 in the nation and are the top-seeded team in the region. They are followed in the region by No. 2 Miami (32-19, 20-15 ACC), No. 3 South Alabama (33-20, 15-9 SBC) and, lastly, No. 4 USF (28-27, 14-14 AAC).

While the task of beating the Gators to open the four-team regional may seem tough, it’s only another piece of adversity the Bulls have faced this season. USF was originally picked to finish last in the AAC by the preseason coaches poll, but flipped that prediction and won the conference tournament Sunday against UCF.

The Gators are an unfamiliar opponent for the Bulls, as they have not played each other this season. The last time the two teams faced off was in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season in which UF swept the three-game series.

Offensively, the Gators have an overall batting average of .280 and average 6.4 runs scored per game. Their lineup includes standouts like Jacob Young and Jud Fabian. Young is batting .317 this season with five home runs and 41 RBIs while Fabian has a .258 average to go along with a team-high 20 home runs. 

In comparison, the Bulls have an overall batting average of .265 and score an average of 5.3 runs per game. Freshman Carmine Lane (10 home runs and .326 batting average) and Roberto Peña (12 home runs and .249 batting average) have carried much of the offensive load for USF this season.

As for pitching, the two teams appear somewhat equal. The Gators have a collective 4.18 ERA compared to USF’s 4.12. UF also allows an average of 8.33 hits per game, while USF typically allows an average of 8.21.

The Gators have a trio of arms that could prove to be problematic for the Bulls, however. Sophomore Christian Scott (3.31) and freshman Hunter Barco (3.38) both rank in the top 15 in the SEC in earned run average. Meanwhile, junior Tommy Mace ranks seventh in the conference with 70 strikeouts.

Regardless of the result against UF, the Bulls will still have a chance to advance to the Super Regionals, as the current round is double-elimination.

The Bulls and Gators begin the Gainesville Regional at noon Friday and the game will be televised on SECN.