Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Making Biggest Stride Fitting Matchup for UF, FSU

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Making Biggest Stride Fitting Matchup for UF, FSU

Article excerpt

OMAHA, Neb. -- It's only natural that a hard-throwing closer

might not be swayed by a soft-sell recruiting pitch, which might

explain how a one-time Florida State baseball fan ended up

signing with the Gators.

Florida coach Andy Lopez clearly took the right approach with

reliever Paul Rigdon, a standout at Florida Community College at

Jacksonville after starring at Jacksonville's Trinity Christian.

"Coach Lopez told me that you can come and play for a national

title or watch us play for a national title," Rigdon said

Thursday, after the Gators wrapped up their first practice at

Rosenblatt Stadium. "Now that we're here, he's a man of his

word."

Rigdon wasn't the only player buying into that recruiting

pitch. Lopez brought 26 new players into the program with his

second recruiting class; the nucleus and future of a Florida

team that finds itself matched against Florida State at 1 p.m.

today (CBS TV-4) in a first-round College World Series game.

"I think Andy Lopez has done the most remarkable job of any

Division I coach," said FSU coach Mike Martin. "I don't know how

he did it."

Seeing, however, is believing. Before the second-seeded Gators

had reason to believe in themselves, they put their faith in

Lopez, who took over the program three years after guiding

Pepperdine to the 1992 CWS title.

Lopez's swift transformation of the Gators likely got its

biggest lift on March 3, when Florida twice rallied from fourrun

deficits to score an 11-10 victory over the 'Noles in

Tallahassee. The victory gave UF a pair of wins over FSU for the

first time since '89 and only the second season series sweep at

Dick Howser Stadium in school history.

"I think it might have been [the turning point], going up to

Tallahassee and doing something we haven't done in a long time,"

said UF freshman third baseman Mark Ellis, whose eighth-inning

two-run double proved decisive. …

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