O'Sullivan, Gators look to shake off rust in field
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 12:11 a.m.
On Tuesday, Florida went on the road for the first time this season and appeared very poised, polished and proficient in a win over Central Florida.
Florida Gulf Coast at No. 13 Florida
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Radio: AM 850
A night later, the same Gators made a real mess of things on their home field, committing six errors and faltering at the plate in the clutch in a 12-inning loss to Georgia Southern.
There's no mystery here. This is what the Gators are right now — a young team that is very early in the process of growing up and trying to gain an identity.
There are going to be nights like Tuesday, often times followed by nights like Wednesday.
“It's our youth,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “There's no real excuse for young. It is what is is. We just have to get a little bit better.”
The most alarming thing about Wednesday's loss was the overall shoddy play in the field. On top of the six errors, the Gators let some ground balls slip through the infield for hits that could have been outs. It was too much to overcome.
“We know we need to clean up our defense,” O'Sullivan said. “That will get cleaned up. That's probably the most surprising thing at this point because we felt our defense was going to be one of the strong points of our team. And it will be.
“We're only four games in. We'll get better.”
The Gators are hoping the improvement begins in a three-game weekend series against Florida Gulf Coast University.
Like the Eagles from Georgia Southern, the Eagles from FGCU figure to be a stern challenge for the young Gators.
In Friday's opener, UF will face FGCU ace right-hander Ricky Knapp, the Atlantic Sun Conference pitcher of the year after going 9-4 with a 2.34 earned-run average last season. The Gators will counter with their ace, junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford.
“We're going to have to regroup. Simple as that,” O'Sullivan.
With a young team, O'Sullivan said it's going to be important to continue to stress the positives with his players.
One of the positives in Wednesday night's loss is the fact the Gators rallied from a 6-1 deficit with a five-run fifth inning and then took the lead in the sixth, before falling 8-7 in extra innings.
“There's nothing else you can do,” O'Sullivan said. “You have to be a realist, too. We know we have to clean up our defense, and there are certain things we need to do a little bit better job of.
“You have to keep them upbeat. We've got a lot of work to do. Certainly, our players know that and our coaches know that. You can't harbor on a loss. We can't keep talking about it. It's one game. We play 56.”
The Gators insist there will be no lingering effects from Wednesday's frustrating loss.
“We'll go back out and work hard and we'll be ready to play,” sophomore outfielder/pitcher Justin Shafer said. “We'll battle back.”
“It's all part of a process that young teams go through,” sophomore second baseman Casey Turgeon said.
“We've got a lot more ahead,” he said. “It's one of those things where the younger guys are getting more comfortable. A couple more games, and you'll see a big difference.
“We'll come out next time and close the door in the late innings.”