THE BACK NINE

Schwarz's slam sprung streak


Published: Monday, May 15, 2017 at 8:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 15, 2017 at 8:13 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after some time in St. Augustine with my father and a lovely Sunday with the mom who puts up with the most (thanks, Karen)

10. The question is not an easy one to answer, but I think it will be answered over the next few weeks. Is Florida's sudden surge of baseball offense coming on because the Gators have figured it out or because of the pitching they have faced? It's probably a little bit of both. Alabama ranks 12th in the SEC in ERA while Georgia is 14th. But you can just watch games (if you can get past the horrendous missed calls by the umpires) and tell that this is a different team. Is it possible that it was one swing of the bat that changed everything? JJ Schwarz delivering that grand slam way back against South Carolina on April 22 was big at the time, but it's possible we didn't know how big. Look at it this way — counting that game, Florida has won 10 straight SEC games. In those games, the Gators are hitting .310, averaging 7.1 runs per game and have hit 11 home runs. Here's another factor — hitting is contagious.

11. There is no question Schwarz coming around has been a huge factor in Florida's success. Think about this — after the second game of the opening SEC series against Auburn, Schwarz was threatening the Mendoza line, hitting a paltry .200. He is now hitting .280 and is actually eighth in the SEC in RBI with 45. There were a lot of people clamoring for Schwarz to be taken out of the lineup when he was struggling at the plate, but the truth is that Florida can't be a great team unless he's part of the equation. He may be a quiet young man, but he is the straw that stirs the drink for UF.

12. Don't tell me you don't have anything to do this weekend. Obviously, it's a huge series when Kentucky comes to town with the SEC on the line and softball will be hosting another regional. We may take the softball hosting thing for granted, but just think about how many NCAA events Florida has hosted over the years in a lot of sports (quick, somebody look it up) and how lucky we in Gainesville are to have those entertainment options available. It's pretty amazing that the league got all of its 13 teams in the regionals (Vanderbilt? Vanderbilt? Paging Vanderbilt.) Most of the howling in the softball community was about Minnesota not getting a top-16 seed. All the Gophers did was go 55-3, garner a No. 11 RPI and a No. 3 ranking. I don't care about their record against top-25 teams. That's a joke. And Alabama, the No. 16 seed, gets to play host to some angry northerners. Should be fun.

13. One more baseball note, you have to give the SEC schedule makers credit even if it's just a coincidence that both the East and the West come to one series on the final weekend of the season. Lucky guess? Gut feeling? OK, while I'm asking questions, here are a couple that I'd like an answer to. 1. If players always say how great it is to sleep in your own bed when you get to host, why do football teams always stay in hotels the night before home games? 2. Why is the SEC Tournament double-elimination for baseball and single-elimination for softball? I'll expect your answers in the form of a question.

14. Soooooo, did he or didn't he? Did Zaza Pachulia step under Kawhi Leonard or was it just a bad accident? Only Zaza knows for sure. I do know this — he wouldn't be the first player to try to get a hot shooter to come down on his foot to cause a sprained ankle. There does seem to be an extra step toward Leonard by Pachulia — who has a less-than-spotless track record when it comes to dirty plays — but all we know for sure is that it changed what might have turned into an amazing series. Or it could be that Golden State had some rust after a long layoff and would have smoked San Antonio anyway. Imagine what the reception is going to be in San Antonio when Pachulia goes into the game. It might break a record for the loudest boos ever.

15. It won't be official until the baseball standings are finalized, but Florida has clinched another sweep of the GateHouse Media Group SEC All-Sports Award. Florida has clinched the overall award, which will be presented to Scott Stricklin at a UF football game in the fall, and clinched the men's portion and has already won the women's with all of the SEC sports decided. Congratulations to the coaches, athletes and administrators who continue to display a high standard of excellence. With that, the Back Nine can't help but wonder what is going on at Tennessee. I don't want to mention any retired athletic directors by name, but the Vols look like they will finish 10th overall. That is one underachieving athletics program considering the money it brings in annually. Hey, but all of the football players got Music City Bowl champion rings. Isn't that special.

16. This year's edition of The Players Championship showed that your tournament is only as good as your leaderboard. Which means it was pretty blase. Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel said the Tour has turned it into a “scrambling contest” with all of the changes that were made and taken the real shotmakers out of contention. Give the course some time to break in those new greens. The tournament has such a history of “name” winners (Sergio, Tiger, Phil, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler) that it's way too soon to judge it based on one year. But I do believe there needs to be a long look at the setup.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Dick Vitale, the ESPN broadcaster — “THANK YOU on behalf of @TheVFoundation we did it baby/Raised $3.12 MILLION -Our GALA WAS A SMASHING SUCCESS.” He works so hard at that event and it does so much good. Way to go, Dickie V!

18. First, a sad goodbye to Powers Boothe, who played one of the great villains of our time in “Tombstone” and the reluctant hero in “Red Dawn.” The world doesn't seem as interesting without him. Now, I'll try to bring the room back up with a strong playlist:

“Messin' With Me” by Northern Faces.

“Fool's Errand” by Fleet Foxes.

“The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” by The National.

“Seeds” by Carla's Garden.

And for an oldie, anything from the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 which we saw Sunday. I ran into the McElwains after the movie and Jim and I were both most impressed with the music. Pick one? OK, “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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