Gators open baseball season tonight
Florida opens the 2009 baseball season tonight with a three-game series against Louisville. The Gators are ranked No. 25 by Collegiate Baseball, while Louisville is ranked No. 8.
UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan begins his second seson at the helm after leading Florida to a 37-24 season last year.
The sereis against Louisville marks the first time since 2001 that UF has opened the season against a ranked opponent. Florida opened against No. 4 Miami in 2001.
Several area players are expected to play significant roles for the Gators again this season. Senior Brandon McArthur returns after an impressive season in which he stunned fans and teammates by playing the final 20 games of the season with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. McArthur was injured on April 2, but returned against Kentucky on April 18. He hit .367 with 20 RBI in those final 20 games while playing hurt. McArthur, 24, could have left after last season, but decided to return for his final season. As a junior, he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow in the middle of February.
"I begged him,'' O'Sullivan jokingly said when asked how he got McArthur to return. "We need Brandon, not just for what he brings on the field, but the leadership and experience that he lends to this squad is invaluable.''
Former Clearwater Central Catholic standout Riley Cooper returns to the team after a solid redshirt freshman season last year. Cooper, who has played three years as a wide receiver on the Gator football team, was rated the No. 1 prospect in the Valley League by PGCrosschecker.com and is eligible for June’s Major League Baseball Draft. Cooper appeared in 22 games with 16 starts, and batted .207 with 10 RBI, five runs and two home runs.
Freshman pitcher Alex Panteliodis (Tampa Alonso) is scheduled to be in this weekend's rotation. Former Alonso standout Tommy Toledo was the most recent freshman to start during the season's first weekend, on Feb. 24, 2008 vs. Siena. He earned the win, after working five innings with five strikeous, two runs and two walks. Toledo is out for this season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder this past fall.
Panteliodis is scheduled to start on Saturday.
Freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa Plant) is expected to see early playing time at first base, and the coaching staff has reportedly been impressed with Tucker's hitting as well.