Snead succeeds by slinging sneaky strikes

Published: Friday, March 14, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 11:09 p.m.

When former Santa Fe High School standout and current Florida freshman reliever Kirby Snead gets the call, it's usually to come in and face a dangerous left-handed batter in a key situation.

While Snead, a 6-foot, 190-pound lefty, has a nice array of pitches, it's his unusual low angle of delivery that often leaves batters shaking their heads or muttering to themselves after facing him.

“My low slot comes right in, and it looks like the ball is going to hit them,” Snead said. “I just try to throw strikes and don't let them hit.”

So far, so good.

Heading into this weekend's opening SEC three-game series against Arkansas at McKethan Stadium, the crafty lefty has made 10 appearances, just one short of sophomore reliever Danny Young's team-high mark of 11.

In four innings of relief work to date, Snead has allowed just four hits, facing 15 batters and striking out five of them without allowing a walk.

“Kirby's numb,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “I mean, I don't think he knows anything other than just come in and throw strikes.”

Florida's veteran players have been equally impressed.

“Lefties don't see that delivery often, and they don't like it,” junior left-hander Bobby Poyner said. “For him to be able to do that as a freshman is unbelievable and it's great, and you see how much he pitches. It's always in huge situations, and he's been a huge help to the success of our team.”

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue has gotten an up-close and personal look at Snead's ability.

“I can't be happier for him, because he's done his job every single time he's been out there,” Gushue said. “As a young guy, he's relied on us older guys, and he's really a key piece of this puzzle that's going on right now.”

Snead's humility also has played a major role in his fitting in so quickly.

“I always want to learn and get better as a player and as a person, just how to act on and off the field,” he said. “I get a lot of advice like that.”

Snead is the second Santa Fe baseball player in recent years to sign with the Gators, joining former Raiders star Avery Barnes (2006-2009).

“I have wanted to play for Florida since I was 5 years old, when I first started playing baseball,” said Snead, who committed to the Gators in July of 2011, the summer before his junior year at Santa Fe. “It's just been amazing. It's something I've dreamed of, so now that I've been able to accomplish it, I just need to go in and do my job.”

As a starting pitcher for the Raiders, Snead was a three-time Gainesville Sun All-Area selection, posting a 4-4 mark with a 1.30 earned run average and 77 strikeouts in his final season when he was team captain.

O'Sullivan's plan all along was to utilize him as a situational relief specialist, and Snead has certainly delivered.

“We've made his role very simple,” O'Sullivan said. “It's not complicated. He's got a different angle that left-handed hitters just don't like. He just keeps throwing low strikes and doesn't over-analyze it. He's done a really good job for us.”

For Snead, it's all about contributing.

“I kind of figured I'd be in this role when I got here, so it's perfect,” he said. “I mean, that's all I want to do is come in and help the team, get a couple of guys out and help us win.”

Being a local athlete, Snead has a core group of followers, led by his family and friends, cheering him on whenever he takes the mound at home.

“It's just local people who have seen me play and watch me grow,” he said. “It's very humbling and very exciting.”

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