Diamond dilemmas: UF baseball, softball in unfamiliar situations

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Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan has had to make frequent trips to the mound this season, as his pitchers have not been as productive as seasons past. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The best way to characterize Florida’s bat and ball sports this spring would be to say it has been different.

Both programs have set such a high standard that a season like both are experiencing brings some perspective.

Gator fans have come to expect the four-weekend circus of postseason ball in Gainesville.

But these have been strange seasons, where the negative results have piled up at a numbing rate.

So we won’t have the usual number of visitors from different parts of the country, but the postseason still has a chance to be interesting.

Here’s a look at how they stand as we head down the stretch:

SOFTBALL

There is no question Florida will have another trip to the NCAA Tournament for the 17th consecutive year. It has been an uneven season for coach Tim Walton’s Gators, but 40 wins and a top-10 RPI means we know Florida’s season won’t end at the SEC Tournament (which starts today).

The question is where will the Gators play?

In the history of the program, Florida has almost exclusively played in two stadiums in the NCAA Tournament — the one at home and the one in Oklahoma City.

In the postseason, UF has played only once prior to the Women’s College World Series anywhere but Gainesville. That happened when Florida lost a Super Regional in 2007 at Texas A&M.

UF’s position on the national seed cut line could be drastically influenced by the SEC Tournament. Floria is probably anywhere from an eight to a 10 seed going in.

The top eight seeds get to host both Regionals and Super Regionals. If Florida was a 10 seed and the seven seed lost its Regional, Florida could still host both.

But first the Gators would have to get to the Super Regionals and a pedestrian 18-8 record at home makes it difficult to take anything for granted.

BASEBALL

The Gators may be the toughest team for the NCAA selection committee because of conflicting parts of the resume.

Florida has a chance over the two weekend series and the SEC Tournament to do one of three things:

• Put the Gators in without question, as a two or a three seed.

• End Florida’s postseason streak under coach Kevin O’Sullivan at 11 seasons.

• Force some creative thinking.

Florida’s RPI is fine at 31, a testament to the schedule. But the bad news on the other end of the teeter-totter is UF’s record in the SEC.

No team with only 12 conference wins has ever made the NCAAs. Florida needs to win four of the last six regular season games to get to 13 wins.

In other words, here’s your carrot.

The situation is reminiscent of the Florida basketball team this year when the Gators used a tough schedule and a strong RPI to get in. Also in UF’s favor are nine “quality wins” which is tied for the third most in the country this season.

We do know that if Florida does enough to qualify, the Gators will be traveling for the first time since 2013 when UF went to Boomington, Ind., for a quick two-and-through.

It could be Miami, which has a chance to host, but there will be plenty of potential sites in the southeast to choose from. If the Gators do get in, remember they are 3-12 on the road this season.

SEC Softball Tournament

Who: 11 South Carolina (36-16) vs. 6 Florida (40-15)

When: Today, 1:30 p.m.

Where: College Station, Texas

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 92.1 FM/1230 AM

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