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February 20, 2014

Midweek: Mattson finds a role with Gators



The bases were loaded and there were two outs with the Gators searching for a way to break a Tuesday night game against Central Florida open in the bottom of the seventh. Recent history - well, 2013 - would tell us this might not end so well for Florida, a team that struggled to manufacture runs a season ago.

Don't tell Braden Mattson about status quo. He wasn't on this team a year ago, and his line-drive hit knocked in two runs to give the Gators a lead they wouldn't relinquish. One night later, he went 2 for 4 with an RBI in an 8-7 win against North Florida.

"I'm sure everyone was happy to see us finally put one together," Mattson said Tuesday.

"He's so ready for this. That kid was born to play baseball," junior catcher Taylor Gushue said. "I told him before the game, 'Dude, sometimes I'm nervous and I just look at you and I'm not nervous anymore.' He's that kind of kid."

Mattson is a newcomer to Florida, but he is hardly unfamiliar with this level of baseball. He's a junior, having spent his freshman season at TCU and his sophomore year as a versatile player at San Jacinto College, just outside of Houston. A volunteer coach at TCU Mattson continued to keep in contact with knew Florida's staff from past experiences and helped him land at UF.

Listed as a catcher, Mattson is capable of playing almost any outfield position, though he admits center field is not his specialty, as well as first base and - to a lesser degree - third.

"You see him run the bases, he can run," Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He's that guy. He's got some power. He's got some grit. He's older and it kind of breaks up those young guys in the lineup."

Expect to see Mattson become more a part of the lineup for the 4-1 Gators, especially against left-handed pitching as a first baseman. He has seen action in all five games, starting three and has a .643 on-base percentage with four RBI.

-- THIS WEEKEND --



No. 23 Florida heads to Miami for a three-game series against the No. 16 Hurricanes (2-2). While the midweek was a success for the Gators, Miami comes in having lost two of its last three with dropped games against Maine and Florida Atlantic.

The Hurricanes are led by a pitching rotation that coach Jim Morris believes is one of the best in the country. Miami's weekend rotation has been set since well before the season and includes three left-handed starters highlighted by Chris Diaz (Friday) and 2013 All-ACC selection Bryan Radziewski (Saturday).

Florida will trot out its same rotation from opening weekend, led by Friday night starter junior Bobby Poyner, who pitched 5.1 scoreless innings in his season debut. The Gators have won 16 of their last 18 games against the Hurricanes, and O'Sullivan is 17-7 against Miami in his time at UF. All three games can be viewed on ESPN3.

Friday: 7 p.m. - Poyner (1-0, 0.00)
Saturday: 7 p.m. - Brett Morales (0-1, 13.50)
Sunday: 1 p.m. - Karsten Whitson (0-0, 13.50)


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