Dooley: O’Sullivan, Walton share more than similar success

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Florida baseball coach Kevin O' Sullivan has led the Gators to a NCAA championship and five SEC titles, which ties him for fourth most in league history. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

Their offices are on the opposite sides of buildings that are connected by concrete. Tim Walton is in the Lemerand Center and Kevin O’Sullivan is across the way in the baseball offices.

But during their hectic seasons, there isn’t a lot of time to compare notes.

“His season is going on the same time as mine is,” said O’Sullivan. “He’s on lockdown the same as I am.”

Still, it’s difficult to look at the two coaches of Florida’s ball programs and not see the striking similarities in their results.

Baseball. Softball.

“It’s still a game of catch,” Walton said.

And both coaches know how to make the simple game work.

In fact, as different as the games are, the products on the field are so similar you’d think the two coaches are constantly picking each other’s brains.

The most obvious way they are alike is in the success on the field.

Walton recently won his fourth consecutive SEC regular-season title.

“Four in a row in this league? That’s so hard to do,” O’Sullivan said.

So are the five SEC titles Sully has won, including the latest this season.

“I’ve been around a lot of good baseball coaches and played for some,” said Walton, a former Oklahoma pitcher. “What he has done is amazing.”

It’s a mutual admiration society because they are both striving for the same thing week in and week out. And the goal is always the same.

Go to the middle of the country to play for a championship.

Sully has been to Omaha, college baseball’s mecca, six times. Walton has taken his softball teams to Oklahoma City eight times.

Twice, in back-to-back seasons, Walton won it all. O’Sullivan did it with baseball last year.

And in each case, one of the first texts the other one received was from the other ball coach. Last year, Walton even went to Florida’s first two wins in Omaha.

That was a lot of victories in one stadium.

Walton is getting his team ready for a regional as the No. 2 national seed. O’Sullivan’s regional, likely as a No. 1 seed, won’t come for a couple of weeks.

But they both will arrive at the postseason with the same basic plan.

Pitch.

Play defense.

The hitting will come.

“I get more upset at errors than I do bases on balls,” Walton said.

There aren’t many to get upset about for either coach. Florida annually is among the nation’s leaders defensively in both sports.

“Last year we were both in the top five defensively,” Walton said. “To do that at the same school, that’s hard to do.”

Both have junior pitchers who are dominant, Kelly Barnhill for the women and Brady Singer for the men.

“But I think one thing that makes us similar is that they have a pitching staff and we have a pitching staff, not just one pitcher,” Walton said.

The sports are different, as we all know. Under handed vs. over handed. A circle instead of a mound.

But it still comes down to the same thing.

Scoring more runs than the other team.

They share the same strength and conditioning coaches. They both are getting new stadiums, although softball’s isn’t moving. When they are completed, they will share the same street.

And there are times when they share information.

“We do have several personal conversations every year,” Walton said. “We have recruited the same family — like JJ Schwarz and Taylor — and talk about that. And we have some compliance conversations.”

And there was this — Walton went to O’Sullivan last year to talk about the way he handles his pitchers.

“I just wanted a better understanding on his throwing program because he takes unbelievable care of his pitchers,” Walton said. “How they recover and how they build up their pitchers.”

Both coaches preach tempo on the mound. Get it, get your sign and let it loose.

It’s worked pretty well.

“I have a lot of respect for the way they play,” Walton said.

“I sit back and look at Tim’s program and just shake my head at the success he’s had,” O’Sullivan said.

Gator fans know this — they’re awfully glad to have them both.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.


Baseball Thursday

Who: Florida at Mississippi State

When: 7:30 p.m.

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

Online: SEC Network+

Softball Friday

Who: Bethune-Cookman at Florida

When: 7:30 p.m.

Radio: 92.1-FM/1230-AM, 100.1-FM/900-AM

Online: ESPN3

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Pat. Very insightful and it is nice to see each coach complimenting the other and also looking to the other for help, etc. Glad to see that they are both looking over at the other program and smiling. It is super hard to do what each program has done consistently, and I know we have the best two coaches out there for this. Go Gators!

  2. Could be that Walton’s kid will someday play for O’Sullivan. He is a pitcher from Buchholz and signed with Santa Fe. Might be ready to contribute at UF in a year or so.

  3. Awesome article,
    Gator nation, hold your head up with pride! Our UAA is by far the ‘Best’ in the nation!!!

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