Gators freshmen shine in SEC opener; Alabama has best overall record over last two seasons

 Barry Allen   in Baseball

Jud Fabian photo courtesy of The University of Florida Athletics.

SEC PLAY BEGINS

For the first time in more than 620 days, SEC Baseball is back.

Arkansas is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, according to the six college baseball polls. Four of the six polls have five SEC teams ranked in the Top 5. Two other polls have four SEC teams ranked in the Top 4. In all, 11 different SEC teams are ranked in the various polls.

Florida and Texas A&M opened league play last night in Gainesville. The Gators looked like the preseason No. 1 team in the country with a resounding 13-4 win, to snap the Aggies 11-game winning streak. The 13 runs were the most scored by the Gators in an SEC opener since 2002.

As league play begins, here are the combined non-conference records of all 14 SEC teams over the last two seasons. This does not include Thursday’s SEC opener between Florida and Texas A&M.

Alabama has the best overall record at 30-4 (.882) over the last two seasons. Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M have all won 30 games since the 2020 season. Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss were all 16-1 when season abruptly ended last year.

 Team                                  2020-21 Non-SEC Record

Alabama                              30-4 (.882)

Tennessee                            30-5 (.857)

Ole Miss                               29-5 (.853)

Florida                                 29-6 (.829)

Texas A&M                            30-7 (.811)

Georgia                                27-7 (.794)

Mississippi State                   26-7 (.788)

Vanderbilt                            26-7 (.788)

LSU                                      27-8 (.771)

Arkansas                               23-7 (.767)

South Carolina                      23-8 (.742)

Kentucky                              22-9 (.710)

Auburn                                 24-10 (.706)

Missouri                               18-15 (.545)

FRESHMEN LEAD GATORS IN SEC OPENER:

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has always had top-notch recruiting classes.

The Gators had another Top 5 class entering this season and a trio of freshmen really stood out in the Gators 13-4 SEC-opening win over Texas A&M on Thursday night in Gainesville.

Designated hitter Nathan Hickey, catcher Mac Guscette and second baseman Colby Halter went a combined 9-for-13 with five runs scored, two doubles, one home run and four RBIs.

Guscette went 4-for-5 with two runs scored, one double and one RBI. Hickey finished with three hits and one RBI. Halter added two hits, including a 2-run home run in his second career SEC at-bat.

UF did all its damage in three innings. The Gators scored three runs in the third, six runs in the fourth and four runs in the sixth inning.

All three rookies played key roles in the third and fourth inning rallies.

Guscette and Halter opened the third inning with back-to-back singles. Guscette scored Hickey’s RBI single. Halter scored on Kirby McMullen’s two-run single.

After the Gators batted around in the third, Guscette led off the fourth with a double down the left field line. Halter followed with a 2-run homer to right. Two batters later, Hickey walked and scored on Butler’s sac fly.

Sophomore centerfielder Jud Fabian (2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI) hit a massive 3-run homer in the sixth inning.

The Gators roughed up A&M starter Dustin Saenz for five runs and eight hits in three innings of work. He had only allowed four runs in his previous four starts combined.

Florida ace Tommy Mace improved to 4-0 with his fastball and slider that kept the Aggies off balance. He worked seven innings and allowed two earned runs and six hits, with 11 strikeouts and no walks.