Gators plan to make most of regional opportunity on road

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Florida catcher Brady Smith. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

It was a long time ago in baseball years, nearly a decade ago as the calendar flies. A young head coach in just his third year was about to be taught a lesson.

It’s one that hasn’t been lost on him.

“It was a tough learning moment for me,” Kevin O’Sullivan said.

He was about to take his first Florida team to Omaha, to the mecca of college baseball, and O’Sullivan was fired up.

Too fired up.

He had detailed reports prepared on each of the other seven teams who made it to the College World Series that season. The trouble was that Florida was only playing one of them.

“I had seven different folders, seven different reports on all the other teams in Omaha,” he said, “and we were recruiting. We went down to the Perfect Game National (showcase) in the Trop(icana Field).

“We played UCLA (in Omaha) and we just weren’t prepared. I did a terrible job preparing us. I spread myself too thin. I just did not do a very good job.”

UCLA won that day in 2010, 11-3. O’Sullivan still remembers the Bruins had figured out starter Alex Panteliodis’ patterns for holding runners and stole third earlier in the game.

Two days later, Florida was eliminated by rival Florida State and its season was over.

That’s why the Florida head coach doesn’t want to talk about the teams Florida might face in the Lubbock (Texas) Regional.

Only the one it will face.

“My whole focus is on Dallas Baptist,” O’Sullivan said. “I haven’t done any work on Texas Tech or Army. You get to this time of year, recruiting gets put to the side and your only focus is on that first game.”

It’s a message he has sent down the line to his players. Forget about winning the regional. Worry about winning Friday night.

“We have tried to implement that to all of the guys on the team, especially younger guys,” said senior Nelson Maldonado. “We have to focus on this one game.

“We got in, so we’re going to make the most of it.”

Florida’s biggest concern before the regionals were announced was just making the field. Although there was a confidence that UF’s uneven resume would be good enough, players were still checking projections throughout the weekend.

“We were sweating it out a little bit,” said pitcher Jack Leftwich.

Florida’s 8 p.m. EDT game will mark only Florida’s third regional on the road under O’Sullivan, 2008 Tallahassee and 2013 Bloomington, Ind., being the other two.

“It’s a challenge,” said Maldonado. “We love playing at the Mac, but it will be nice to play on the road and see what we’re made of.”

TALE OF THE TAPE

Lubbock (Texas) Regional

Florida; Dallas Baptist

33-24; Record; 41-18

.281; Batting; .282

70; HR; 70

.452; Slug %; .459

219; Walks; 277

47-70; SB; 84-106

5.22; ERA; 3.92

59; Opp HR; 44

.268; Opp BA; .240

200; Opp BB; 207

57; Errors; 55

.973; Field %;.974

NCAA Lubbock Regional

At Rip Griffin Park, Lubbock, Texas

Friday, ESPN3 Live Stream, AM-850, 98.1-FM

Game 1 — Army (35-24) at Texas Tech (39-17), 4 p.m.

Game 2 — Florida (33-24) vs. Dallas Baptist (41-18), 8 p.m.

Saturday

Game 3 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser

Game 4 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner

Sunday

Game 5 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser

Game 6 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner

Monday

Game 7 if necessary — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner

3 COMMENTS

  1. This year’s team’s biggest obstacle is what Sulley has been saying a lot this year….the bounce back innings. Score 2-3 runs in the Gator half, and then turn around and give up 3+ runs the next half. If you look back at pretty much every win, you’ll probably be hard pressed to find those, where it’s the opposite on the majority of losses. 5.33 team ERA, is the Achilles heal….pitchers either hit their spots or they don’t. Let’s hope they are able to do it the next two weekends. Good luck Gator Baseball.

  2. I’ve heard MLB commentators discussing the old adage that a walk is as good as a hit. I say no. Seems to me more walks score, especially a lead off walk, than singles do. That said, if I were Sully, I would be preaching strikes. Just throw strikes! Dammit! Strikes! Don’t pick at corners, don’t try to be cute. I surf MLB games, so I don’t remember exactly which team, seems like the Cards, where they had the lead late and the relief pitcher threw four balls just inside and off the plate barely to a lefty leading off, then proceeded to walk the next batter. Started out with 9 out of 10 balls. Suddenly bases are loaded, the lead is lost, and the starter gets a ND after a more than a quality start.

    Fill up that strike zone guys, and Go Gators!

  3. Losing in the SEC tourney is the best thing that could’ve happened to this team, considering they still got in. Best case if they win the whole tourney, they jump to a 2-seed, which is effectively no different than a 3, and they never were gonna have the arms to win the SEC tourney. They’ll be on more rest than any other team in the field, we finished the year with very high quality starts from 3 guys for the first time all season, all of which were high pressure road starts. Mace and Leftwich, when pitching their best, have as good stuff as any 1-2 punch in college baseball outside of maybe Vandy or Miss State. Dallas Baptist is a good draw too. They haven’t faced a power-5 weekend starter all year. Several decent midweek wins, but those are against #4-#5 starters.