Formerly on Varsity Blue: Preview North Florida

Image from

@North Florida
7pm – February 25, 2009
Harmon Stadium
Jacksonville, FL
Media: Yet to be released (see relevant links)
Probable Pitchers: Yet to be released
Michigan Record vs Opponent: 0-0, no previous games


Image from UNF Website

Michigan meets up with the North Florida Ospreys of the Atlantic Sun (A-Sun) conference in its first midweek game of the year. This will also be the first true road game (albeit trivial) for the Wolverines. North Florida finished last year 111th in RPI, one spot ahead of the Big10’s second place team (Purdue). This year, North Florida looks to make a fairly dramatic step backwards. The preseason coaches poll has them projected to finish 5th in the A-Sun (pdf). There has been speculation that with the conference expansion and the inability to make the NCAA tournament, there had been some motivation issues last year. North Florida made the jump from D2 to D1 last year, along with 4 other teams in the A-Sun, and they are noneligible for post season play. Its a stupid rule, but a rule nonetheless.

So Far This Season

The Osprey have started off the season the BankFirst Challenge hosted by Mississippi State. They faced both Northern Illinois and Mississippi State twice during the weekend. Against Northern Illinois, North Florida too both games by a score of 6-3 and 9-3. North Florida’s recaps of games are insanely confusing. Case in point:

Junior Preston Hale held his own well in the three-hole, going 2-for-3 and going 3-for-3 when leading off the inning.

UNF (1-0) had its vaunted First Coast Offense kicking on all cylinders, moving runners to the extra base on almost every chance, going 14-for-27 in advancement opportunities.

Against Mississippi State, UNF lost both games by scores of 7-1 and 9-7. Mississippi State is a lower tier SEC school, finishing 127th in RPI last year. The Osprey ended up batting .257 on the weekend against the week pitching lead primarily by centerfielder Brian Wilson (.444), left fielder Michael Smith (.400) and first basemen Ryan Puskar (.357). One the mound, the team wasn’t very pretty, the exception being starter John Atteo who threw a complete game (3 ERs).

Stars Offensive Starters

The Osprey return four starting players from last year’s starting lineup. They are lead by thrid baseman/left fielder Andrew Hannon and corner outfielder Preston Hale. Hannon was second on the team (highest returning) in batting average at .359 and RBIs at 44. Hannon was a non-factor this past weekend, only playing in one game, going 1/4 with a run and an RBI. Preston Hale batted .350 with 4 homeruns and 34 RBIs. He also lead the team with 16 doubles. Hale was also quiet this weekend, batting on .285 with 3 runs and an RBI.

Second basemen T.J. Thompson hit .317 last year, with 11 doubles, 3 triples, and a home run, but .317 isn’t that intimidating in college. The other returning starter, catcher Michael Gropper hit .317 on the year as well, but that was in limited starting time. Behind the plate, Gropper has a fairly good arm, but he still gave up about 70% of stolen base attempts. David Eldredge has started three of the games so far, but has been meh batting. He did get 4 RBIs in the first outing against Northern Illinois, but he followed that up with two games going 0/3.

Puskar has to be the big highlight so far for the Osprey. The first basemen already has two homeruns, scoring 5 runs and having 9 RBIs (all in the last two games). He and the two other outfielders, Wilson and Smith, have torn the cover off the ball. They’re both batting over .400 and have scored a combined 7 runs in 4 games.

Pitching Starters

I’m not sure who to expect to start this game. The Ospreys have five pitchers coming out of rehab for various surgeries. Any one of them could start against us. I wouldn’t expect any of the starters from the weekend. That limits it to 4 guys I know nothing about. Live with it.

Semi-Relevant Links

There may be some sort of video available from UNF’s website. It says “Watch” and it links you to the A-Sun’s IPTV. While I hope it’s on, I’ll be unavoidably detained by work. Hopefully it has on-demand video for replays. It looks like it might, I just haven’t had time to play with it.

I’ll link up to the MGoBlue audio and game tracker when those come available. The starting pitchers will probably be announced tomorrow as well, I just wanted to get this out before I head out for the day.


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