The Back Nine comes at you after a softball weekend in the brilliant sunshine of Gainesville and maybe the least amount of time I’ve ever spent watching a major.
10. Let’s start with what happened in Columbia, Mo., over the weekend as a Florida baseball team left for dead on the side of the road crawled out of a deep ditch, dusted itself off and may have put themselves into the postseason. Florida’s sweep of Missouri was something of a stunner, especially the way the Gators pitched … compared to how they had been pitching. Here’s the UF line from the mound for the three-game series:
16 hits, 5 earned runs, 26 strikeouts.
“It all started with Tommy Mace getting a good start and getting the momentum going the right way,” Kevin O’Sullivan told The Back Nine. “Frustration was at an all-time high the week before (going 1-2 at home against Tennessee), but they responded.” We even saw a rare display of emotion from Sully after the last out Saturday. “It’s been a long season,” he said. “But if we get in, we’re going to be tough to beat. I’ve seen some real growth from a young team.” So, will the Gators get in? Well, the magic number was to get to 13 SEC wins — which Florida did — although it’s not a guarantee. Florida should be in based on the metrics with a No. 25 RPI and a No. 3 strength of schedule. O’Sullivan points out that when you add up Florida’s record against the SEC and ACC combined the Gators are 18-18. Florida also has 16 Quad 1 wins, which is tied for 10th in the country. “The No. 1 job of the committee is to put the best teams in there,” O’Sullivan said. “We are certainly one of the top 64.”
11. So the Gators are kind of in the same position as men’s basketball this year. They should be in because of the difficult schedule, but it wouldn’t hurt to win a game in Hoover at the SEC Tournament. The trouble is that the Gators will be facing one of the best pitchers in the league Tuesday in a one-and-done scenario. Asa Lacy was suspended last weekend for arguing balls and strikes in his previous start, but he’s back and rested with his 2.13 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 76 innings. Win and there is no question. Lose and it gets a little fuzzy. But one would think that the committee will send the message that scheduling matters. We will see. Florida on Friday beat one of the best pitchers in the country in TJ Sikkema. It would really be interesting if Florida is sent to Miami as a three seed. There would not be a more dangerous three seed in the tournament.
12. Tim Walton was quick to credit Florida’s fans after all three regional games this weekend and they were loud from the time the Gators walked to their dugouts to the end of each game. He knows that every edge is going to matter as the Gators take on Tennessee in the Super Regional. It seems like a year ago that the two teams played, but it was in early March to start the SEC season. The Vols blasted seven homers in the first two games, three off Kelly Barnhill, to win 9-1 (run rule) and 3-0. Florida rallied behind Barnhill’s two-hitter and two Amanda Lorenz homers to run-rule Tennessee 8-0 in the third game. “We’re a different team than when we played Tennessee at the beginning of the season,” Lorenz said. “And I‘m sure they would say the same thing, too, that they are a different team.”
13. Brooks Koepka pulled a Tiger Woods this weekend. Not just by being really good and looking like he lives in the workout room, but by making a major boring. I literally watched about 30 minutes Sunday and by the time I shifted in my seat a one-shot lead went to three and I went back to a movie. It’s not his fault, but that’s what sports is. There are no guarantees that we are going to be entertained. What he has done over the last eight majors is another reason for Tiger comparisons or even Jack Nicklaus. But we have seen golfers have incredible runs and then fizzle out. He may be boring, but there might not be anybody more mentally strong right now.
14. I have a new rule — any time I see or hear a coach talking negatively about the transfer portal or a player’s right to transfer, I will stop reading and delete the story. Every million-dollar coach should say this, “It’s the rules the way they are set up and the society we live in and we brought this upon ourselves with our stupid restrictions on where a kid can go and not go, so now it’s time for us to adjust.” Nobody whines more in this world than the people who have the most and don’t want to lose any of it. Just shut your yappers.
15. About five years ago my daughter decided she was a Golden State fan and because I didn’t have an NBA team I told her I would be one, too. And we bought T-shirts and cheered for Steph and the boys and our timing couldn’t have been better. Now, she says she doesn’t care anymore, but I am fully invested. Oh well, it’s still great to be riding that bandwagon.
16. We are closing in on the 25th Bob Dooley Invitational (June 8) with a full field and tons of incredible sponsors and prizes, but we need a couple of volunteers to man the Tim Tebow hole. No, he won’t be there, but there is a cardboard cut out and plenty of food and beverages. I would think some service clubs or students looking for service hours would be interested and you know how to reach me.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to veteran sportswriter Ray Ratto, one of the real legends — “Poll: Who are the Warriors better without?
11. When does this idiocy cease?
12. No seriously, when?”
I don’t know, Ray. I just know I love watching this team play basketball.
18. So the knee held up for three days in a softball press box, which was encouraging. I made sure to get there early to avoid crowds and have time to come up with this playlist.
• “Be My Fire” by The Blue Stones.
• “Cartoon People” by Billie Marten.
• “The Weekend” by Interpol.
• “New House” by Rex Orange County.
• And because I might actually go to the movie theatre to see this movie, which looks like it has the potential to be really something, for an old one “Yesterday” by The Beatles. Or Jack Malik. Check out the trailer and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.