CWS notebook: Gators aren't only local team on run in Omaha
Published: Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 10:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 10:58 p.m.
OMAHA, Neb. — The Florida Gators aren't the only baseball team on a run in Omaha.
The Gainesville Ghosts, a team of 11-year-olds based out of Jonesville, also were part of a two-week long tournament in town called the Omaha SlumpBusters.
The team has also had to dodge rain and has played at several different fields around Omaha. The Ghosts won their first four games before losing in the quarterfinals Sunday morning to Fort Worth 7-5. Fort Worth ended up in the finals against East Cobb, Ga., the youth club that produced Florida's Hudson Randall.
The team includes Brooks Walton, the son of Florida softball coach Tim Walton. An added benefit was that the players, coaches and parents have been able to catch some of Florida's games in the College World Series.
“It was fun to play against competitive teams,” said pitcher/first baseman Danny Sarmiento, whose father, Julio, is a coach on the team. “And we got to watch the Gators.”
BROKEN BAT: One of the strangest occurrences in this year's CWS came in the eighth inning of the Florida-Vanderbilt game Friday when Florida catcher Mike Zunino fouled off a pitch and his bat broke in half. The barrel flew into the stands and Zunino was left holding the grip.
“It was a little depressing,” Zunino said. “I mean, I had that bat almost the whole year. It was really weird seeing a barrel fly off a bat like that.
“Got a new one, got it taped up and just trying to break it in.”
Zunino has had a great season for Florida and was named the SEC's player of the year. But maybe a new bat is just what he needs at the CWS.
Zunino is hitting only .167 in Omaha in three games. One of his hits was a numbler that he beat out and the other was a bunt single. He has no RBI and has struck out four times.
PITCHING EDGE: On paper, Florida would seem to have an advantage going into the series with South Carolina.
The Gators will throw Randall tonight, while the Gamecocks are throwing freshman Forrest Koumas, who hasn't pitched in 21 days.
“Forrest has been chomping at the bit,” said South Carolina coach Ray Tanner. “His bullpens have been great, but he hasn't been on the stage Hudson Randall has. His stuff is good enough, but as a coach you are concerned about if he's able to harness his emotions and all the things that come into play.”
Because of the 13-inning game on Friday night against Virginia, closer Matt Price is unavailable tonight after throwing 5⅔ innings of relief against the Cavaliers. Starter Michael Roth threw seven innings in that game and may be available Tuesday night. Karsten Whitson will throw for UF in the second game.
LETTING THEM PLAY: With all of the downtime the Gators have had, some of the players have visited the zoo in Omaha and been to movies. Mostly, they've spent time resting and hanging out with their families.
“I think part of coaching is you try to figure out where you are at with your club,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “I think we're at a point right now where they don't need motivational speeches. They don't need me to get too involved.
“I'm just tryiong to stay out of the way and let these guys do what they do best and that's play.”
NO WILL: The SEC has won the last two national titles and will win a third straight. It has become tradition for the school's football coaches to show up for the Finals (LSU's Les Miles in 2009 and Steve Spurrier in 2010).
But Will Muschamp already had made plans to start a vacation with his family at the beach so he won't be in attendance. Making the trip to Omaha will be UF president Bernie Machen.