March 15, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the second time in two weeks Florida State will get a crack at knocking off the nation’s top-ranked baseball team.
The fourth-ranked Seminoles (15-1, 3-0), fresh off an Atlantic Coast Conference season-opening sweep of Boston College and riding a six-game string of victories, takes on No. 1 Florida (14-2). The second of four meetings between the rivals is set for McKethan Stadium at Perry Field in Gainesville, Tuesday at 7 p.m. (Sun Sports).
It’s the first test of arguably the most challenging week of the season for the Seminoles, who travel to Charlottesville, Va. for a three-game ACC weekend series against fifth-ranked Virginia.
While the Seminoles have had their troubles with the Cavaliers of late, they have won five of the last six meetings with coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s Gators, including four in a row. None of those victories, however, have come on Florida’s home turf, where the Seminoles have dropped three consecutive games.
“It’s always big, no matter where we play,” said FSU coach Mike Martin. “It’s a tough place to play in down there. They know that place very, very well.”
No player on the current FSU roster has experienced a win in Gainesville.
“I hate it, but I know it will be fun,” said FSU senior catcher Rafael Lopez. “We’re going to play hard and see what happens.”
The Seminoles would like nothing more than to duplicate their recent string of success at Florida’s expense, which includes a 5-3 win over the top-ranked Gators at Tampa’s Steinbrenner Field on March 1.
Florida State leads the all-time series 121-96, but has had significantly less success in Gainesville, where the Gators hold a 51-44 lead in head-to-head meetings.
Junior right-hander Hunter Scantling will make his second start of the season for the Seminoles – and first of his career against the Gators – Tuesday night. He will square off against Florida junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis.
“We play them four times out of the year and everybody looks forward to it,” FSU shortstop Justin Gonzalez said. “We always give it our best and they always give it their best. … The fans won’t be taking it easy on us, but we always accept those challenges and we like adversity. We’ll see how it goes.”