Still in control
Published: Friday, May 13, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 13, 2005 at 12:18 a.m.
The nine-game slide has turned Florida's baseball team from SEC leaders and cinch regional hosts to looking up at Tennessee and wondering if RPI will be enough.
But for the seniors who could be playing their last home series this weekend at McKethan Stadium - and for the rest of the team - the good news is that their goals are still right in front of them.
"We're in position where we pretty much control our own destiny," said senior outfielder Jeff Corsaletti. "You couldn't ask for it to be better."
Despite losing seven of their last nine games, the Gators know that their SEC destiny - and probably their chances at hosting a regional - will be decided in the final seven games of the regular season.
It begins tonight with the first of three games against Mississippi State. Florida, which led the Vols by 2¶ games when the slump began, now trails by ¶-game.
Tennessee travels to LSU for a weekend series, but UF coach Pat McMahon isn't focused with what happens in Baton Rouge.
"You do what you do. You don't worry about what other people do," McMahon said.
The four seniors on the team - Corsaletti and pitchers Tommy Boss, Connor Falkenbach and Mike Pete - will be honored before Saturday's game. Corsaletti leads the team in hitting, Boss will start Sunday and Falkenbach has been a tireless reliever appearing in 11 straight games.
They are the last connection to former coach Andy Lopez. All four signed with Lopez, who was fired before they made it to Gainesville before their freshmen seasons.
They were part of a class that included four other players - Justin Hoyman, Austin Easley, C.J. Smith and Jonathan Tucker - who all signed professional contracts after their junior years.
"It was strange because I got a call that summer that Coach Lopez had been fired," Corsaletti said. "I knew I'd be starting over. But Coach Mac has been great."
Under McMahon, the seniors have been to three straight regionals, hosting once. They know now that their chances of hosting again may rest on the way they play the rest of the way.
"Every team I've ever played on has gone through slumps," Corsaletti said. "We just have to play like we did at the beginning of the year."
If they play the way they did during the first 40 games, 30 of them victories, Florida's strong RPI will make hosting a regional a no-brainer. The overall SEC title as well as the SEC East also hang in the balance. The seniors will play a major part in trying to jump-start a team made up of mostly underclassmen.
"They've had a tremendous challenge because of the youth of this ball club," McMahon said. "But those four guys epitomize student-athletes as citizens and role models. Tommy and Connor have already graduated and the other two are on track. The University of Florida will miss them very much. I'll miss them very much. But they'll always be Gators."
You can reach sports writer Pat Dooley by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 374-5053.
AT A GLANCE
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