The road through the SEC baseball schedule isn't getting any easier for Tennessee.
After dropping two of three games to both Kentucky and Mississippi to start conference play, UT (19-6, 2-4 SEC) opens a three-game series at No. 3 Florida today (TV: CSS, 7 p.m.).
"We have to play our game," Tennessee coach Todd Raleigh said of playing a Florida team that's been ranked No. 1 most of the season.
"We can't give them anything . . . If we just keep it there early, we'll get to play our game. I think our running, and our offense can give them trouble. That's what we've got to do."
Tennessee will start Steven Gruver (3-2, 2.79 ERA) tonight against Hudson Randall (4-0, 0.66). Brian Johnson (4-1, 2.86) will start Saturday for Florida (21-5, 4-2) against Rob Catapano (2-0, 3.38).
Raleigh said UT isn't pressing the panic button after losing four of six games to open the SEC season.
"We're trying not to do that," Raleigh said. "(We're) trying to approach it like every other game. I don't sense that yet, but it's certainly something that's looming playing two of the best teams in the country in the next six games.
"The defending national champion (South Carolina) and a team that's been No. 1 most of the year (Florida). That can happen . . . I think we'll be OK. It's marathon, not a sprint."
Tennessee plays host to No. 4 South Carolina, a team that took two of three at Florida last weekend, at home next weekend.
Ramsey Could Start: Raleigh, who hasn't announced Sunday's starter, said UT closer and outfielder/catcher Matt Ramsey will get a look as the third man in the weekend rotation at some point this season, but it likely won't be at Florida.
"(It) could be Ramsey. (We're) getting ready to break him out. It's going to be soon. He hasn't thrown enough pitches yet to get out, but he's going to be in that rotation."
Good (or Bad) Timing: Raleigh said that it was hard to tell if UT was catching Florida at a good or bad time. The Gators have lost three of their last four after starting the season 20-2.
"I've seen it work both ways," Raleigh said. "If I'm Florida, it's got their attention in practice . . . But at the same time, the confidence might not be there. It can go both ways."
Grant Ramey is a freelance contributor.