The Florida Gators are back on the road after two midweek wins against the Stetson Hatters and the FAMU Rattlers. Florida will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee to take on the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee comes into this weekend series as the sixth-ranked team in the country according to D1 Baseball’s rankings. The Volunteers have a 25-5 record with wins against Georgia, LSU, Alabama, and Georgia State.
The Volunteers are having a tremendous season which is being carried by their pitching staff. Tennessee has a 3.19 ERA which ranks third in the SEC only behind Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. The Vols have a very talented roster and it’ll be another tough opponent for Florida. Here are three Tennessee Volunteers to watch against the Gators.
RHP Blade Tidwell
Going into this season, everybody expected Jackson Leath would be Tennessee’s top arm. However, Leath suffered an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season. With Leath out, they’ve needed a pitcher to fill in the Sunday starter role and it was Blade Tidwell.
The true freshman has been terrific and has had the most success compared to all of Tennessee’s starting pitchers. In seven starts, Tidwell has a 4-1 record with a 2.58 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9.
Tidwell was considered one of the top high school prospect in the country last draft class. On Perfect Game, Tidwell was the 71st ranked prospect and the 22nd ranked RHP in the country. Tidwell is a 6’4” 200-pound right-hander that has a fastball that sits in the low-90s and tops out at 95 mph. He also has two breaking pitches with his curveball and sweeping slider.
INF Liam Spence
The Australian-born infielder Liam Spence has had a terrific season for the Volunteers. He’s in the middle of his senior season and is also their leadoff hitter. Spence has been a great surprise for the Volunteers since their top draft prospect, Max Ferguson is having a bad season.
During the 2021 season, Spence is slashing .404/.523/.567 with 42 hits on the season which is tied for eighth nationally. Spence also has seven doubles, two triples, two home runs, 21 walks, and a team-high 1.090 OPS.
With the lackluster seasons that Max Ferguson and Luc Lipcius are having, Tennessee relies on Spence to get things going for them. He’s their leadoff hitter and can cause havoc on the base paths. Florida’s pitching staff will need to do whatever they can to keep Spence off the bases.
RHP Sean Hunley
The last Tennessee Volunteer to watch for this weekend started his career as a starting pitcher but has turned into Tennessee’s most reliable relief pitcher. Senior right-handed pitcher Sean Hunley is the team’s unofficial closer but is also their most used relief pitcher.
In his senior season, Hunley has made 14 appearances which leads the club. Hunley also has a 4-1 record with a 2.70 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 10.2 K/9 and a 1.8 BB/9. He also is tied for first on the team in saves with three.
There’s no doubt that the Gators offense will see a heavy dose of Sean Hunley. Florida’s bats must be ready to hit because Hunley is an arm that pounds the strikeout and will not give up many free passes as he has only allowed nine free passes (walks or HBPs) in 30 innings pitched.