June 9, 2011 10:14:00 AM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As the Florida baseball team''s Friday starter, Hudson Randall isn''t used to having bad starts.
The sophomore right-hander, who was a freshman All-American last season, leads Florida''s starters with a 2.38 ERA and is 9-3 on the season.
There''s one start he''s still ruing over: his loss at Mississippi State.
Randall gave up six earned runs on nine hits in 2 1/3 innings, his worst start of the season.
Friday, he''ll take the mound in Game 1 against the Bulldogs in their NCAA Super Regional in Gainesville.
"I got a sour taste in my mouth from the last start I had against them," Randall said. "They were really aggressive swinging at two of the first three pitches, knowing I wasn''t going to walk them. I was leaving the ball up that game, so I''m looking forward to this weekend, pitching to the corners a little bit more, expand the zone and maybe get them to chase to the corners."
Florida head coach Kevin O''Sullivan hasn''t named a starter for Game 2 but said weekend starter Karsten Whitson is a likely candidate.
Who starts isn''t as big of an issue for Florida as some other teams left in the NCAA tournament, as they boast a deep and diverse bullpen -- even without closer Austin Maddox, who is nursing a sprained foot and is day-to-day.
In 69 innings, Florida''s top three bullpen arms, Keenan Kish, Maddox and Steven Rodriguez have lost just one game and have an ERA a hair over one run a game.
Not having Maddox won''t change O''Sullivan''s late game options on the mound.
"I''m not gonna throw our second or third best option, I''m gonna go with who I think can get us out of that jam," O''Sullivan said. "If it''s in the seventh, go with the guy that can get you out of that jam and at the end just see what you got. There''s a lot of guys capable of game. I''m not gonna save somebody for the last out if we get in a jam in the fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth."
Johnson expected to play; Maddox a game-time decision
Florida pitcher Brian Johnson was due for solid two weeks off.
Just not under the circumstances of a concussion suffered at the SEC tournament when catcher Mike Zunino hit him in the head with a throw to second base.
A weekend starter and key bat in the lineup, Johnson didn''t play in the Gainesville regional last week. He''ll return to the lineup this weekend, but it''s unclear in what capacity.
What''s certain is O''Sullivan''s belief that Johnson is fully fit to contribute wherever needed.
"Brian''s getting his final testing right now," O''Sullivan said this morning. "I anticipate things go well and he''ll be able to go. He was out here yesterday. He went through a full practice, threw a bullpen, took BP, looked great.
"He''s a big, physical guy, and I think the rest probably helped him a little bit. He looked great. You get to this point in the year, a guy throws 80, 85 innings (so) it''s not a bad thing he gets 10 days off."
Florida players remember "turning point"
Florida''s come-from-behind win over Mississippi State in the SEC tournament did more than it in the winner''s bracket in Hoover.
The 7-5 win, powered by Brian Johnson''s late-inning grand slam, set the table for the dominating performances over Miami and Manhattan last weekend.
"We had to play from behind, and that was a turning point in the year," Florida''s Preston Tucker said. "We made some mistakes early and they jumped on us. We learned a lot about ourselves that game. Brian, with one swing, really changed the whole ball-game. We need to compete with them. They can score runs just like we can."
The familiarity hasn''t affected preparation; if anything, it''s intensified the tape study knowing MSU has played three close games against the Gators, Tucker said.
"You''re never gonna get too much information," he said. "We went over their pitchers for an hour-and-a-half, two hours yesterday because you can never be over-prepared for a team. Every SEC team is a competitor.
"They''ve got a ton of pitchers they will throw at us. They played three competitive games with us already and they can keep it close. If we make a few mistakes they can take advantage of it."