O'Sullivan: 'We're not going anywhere'
Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 6:17 p.m.
OMAHA, Neb. — The hangover of two-and-out was still hanging over Kevin O'Sullivan on Tuesday morning, but the light of a new season put fire into his voice.
Before the Florida baseball team returned home to Gainesville without the trophy it came to Omaha to claim, O'Sullivan made one thing clear — the window may have slammed on the 2012 team, but it hasn't closed on the program.
“We're not going anywhere,” he said. “This wasn't the last team we're going to have here. It's not like we're not recruiting good players.”
Despite losing the core of his 2012 team — players like Mike Zunino, Preston Tucker and Nolan Fontana — O'Sullivan said Tuesday that he expects the train to keep rolling.
“We're going to be good next year,” he said. “We're not going to be as deep, but I like the recruiting class we have coming in. We're going to be very athletic. There are going to be some growing pains, and it's not going to be the same names. But we're going to be fine.”
Certainly, the departing players have left a legacy at UF. Florida had never before been to three straight College World Series, and even though the Gators went 3-6 in those three years, they generated excitement in the Gator Nation.
For this year's team, the expectation level was a burden. For next year's team, it will be about living up to the legacy left behind.
“They've been great players, but more importantly, they've been a great representation of what we want in this program,” O'Sullivan said. “I think they've done the right thing both on and off the field. I've been awfully proud of the way they've played and the way they've represented our program. They've set a standard that following teams will have to live up to.
I'm awfully proud of what they've been able to do.”
But so many of them are gone. The seniors for sure, the juniors almost definitely. It's not like the ones left behind are roadkill.
Florida (47-20) will return most of its infield with Vickash Ramjit at first, Casey Turgeon at second and Josh Tobias at third. Incoming freshman Richie Martin could be the next Gator shortstop.
“He's going to be a starter,” O'Sullivan said. “He's a heckuva player.”
One of the biggest losses for the Gators will be Zunino, not just for his offense but his defense and leadership. Taylor Gushue, who made a splash early in the season even though he still should have been playing in high school, will have the first shot at taking that spot.
In the outfield, Tyler Thompson will be back after missing a good part of the season with a torn ACL as will Justin Shafer, who had four hits in the CWS, including three doubles.
“We're going to have to find a third outfielder,” O'Sullivan said.
On the mound, two-thirds of the weekend rotation should be set with Karsten Whitson and Jonathon Crawford. Keenan Kish, who came on in the postseason, could be the third starter or the closer.
“I like our pitching staff and I like the guys we're bringing in,” O'Sullivan said. “I think Corey Stump is going to be a guy who is going to make a big jump.”
O'Sullivan, like so many college baseball coaches, will have to wait until everything settles with his recruits and his juniors. But he feels confident that his program is not going to take a big hit despite all of the losses of personnel.
“We're going to be different,” he said. “But we're not going anywhere.”
Notes: Senior Preston Tucker closed his UF career as the NCAA's active leader in games played (265), home runs (57), total bases (596) and RBIs (258). He also ranks third in hits (340) and doubles (70) and sits second in at-bats (1,032).