For the first time this season, the nation’s No. 1 baseball team finds itself confronted with some adversity. It has shown up in the form of a second consecutive loss on back-to-back nights to state rival Central Florida.
Maybe it’s actually a good thing, a needed thing. At least that’s Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s take on it.
“Quite honestly, things have been a little bit easy for us up to this point,” O’Sullivan said. “No one likes to lose, but to be honest with you, this is probably what this team needs.
“It needs a little motivation. Hopefully, this will motivate us to play a little better this weekend.”
On a cool Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium, the Gator bats turned cold, especially in the clutch in a 4-2 loss to the Knights before a crowd of 3,253.
The Gators (12-3) left nine runners on base and failed to take advantage of bases-loaded opportunities in both the fifth and eighth innings.
“We put ourselves in a position,” O’Sullivan said. “If we get one hit here, one hit there, who knows what could have happened?
“Credit Central Florida. They played good the last two night. It’s as simple as that.”
The Gators had a difficult time with five UCF pitchers, including starter Joe Sheridan, who usually is a weekend starter for the Knights. UF managed only four hits on the night, one an infield single in the first inning. One of the Gators’ two runs came on a bases-loaded walk in the fifth.
“All their pitchers did a really good job,” UF first baseman JJ Schwarz said. “Last night, we had the offense going and no pitching. Tonight, the pitching was good enough and the offense just wasn’t there.”
If there is such a thing as a good loss, this was one, O’Sullivan said.
It was a learning experience in a lot of ways, O’Sullivan said.
One is that it gave him a chance to see two of his promising true freshmen pitchers — starter Jordan Butler and reliever Tommy Mace — perform against a good team that improved to 10-3 on the season.
“We’ve learned a lot about our team the last two days,” O’Sullivan said. “We ran a bunch of freshmen out there on the mound. It just gives us a lot more to learn about our team.
“That’s really what you’re trying to do at this point, trying to figure out who can do what and who can handle certain situations.”
Butler and Mace both pitched well — but both also had one big mistake.
Butler gave up a two-out, two-run home run to Rylan Thomas in the first inning, while Mace gave up a solo two-out home run to Matthew Mika in the sixth. Those were enough runs to secure the win against a struggling UF team at the plate.
The Gators could not string together any hits and simply could not come up with a big hit when they really needed one.
O’Sullivan gave most of the credit to UCF’s pitchers, even though they did combine to walk nine batters.
“We’ve seen some really good arms the past couple of days,” O’Sullivan said. “I think that’s good for us. This team needs to be challenged. We saw some of their better arms.
“That’s good. It’s a good thing for us. We need to see better arms like that. It will help us become a better team.”
Note: Deacon Liput returned from a season-opening suspension and started at shortstop. He went 0-for-2 with two walks and played errorless ball on the field.
This team is nowhere near #1!
What team do you think has a better starting set of weekend pitchers? It’s baseball, you can’t win em all. Notice that UCF used one of their normal weekend pitchers….Probably because winning that single game is a lot more important to them. Gators are still playing at a higher level than they were a year ago at this point. It’s a long season.
Define nowhere near?
Also, might have been a different game if Sully gives Smith a take sign with a 3-1 count, and a runner on and no outs, in the 9th. And, with his best hitter, Dalton on deck, who incidently doubled after the double play. Pitching was good enough tonight, no hitting. Pitching horrible last night and hitting was ok.
Going to have to get better for SEC play. Beating Rhode Island 3 straight won’t make up for losing to instate UCF.
Funny I said the same thing as the coach when i read the headline, then I saw the coach said it too. Every good or great team needs a good loss to wake them up, especially early in the season when it wont matter later. If they are realy worth the #1 rank they will get back to it later. its better to not be at #1 at this point in the season anyway!
Not surprising to me. Our Gators will get everyone’s best. Congrats to UCF. Ranking doesn’t matter at this point in the year. It’s improving every game as this season is just starting. Go Gators!
UCF just ordered a banner for the 2017 national championship in baseball. If UF wins the 2018 championship, then UCF will order another banner for back to back titles! It’s annoying, yes, but the key is that UCF is using weekend starters and treating this like a weekend game, while UF is treating it like what it is. We could’ve used Brady Singer tonight too, b/c UCF is better than Rhode Island, but need for us to get our starters out of rotations, when this game means nothing to our tourney hopes. Not to mention, UCF is a very realistic 2-3 seed in our regional, so why show them one of the likely starters they’d see?
And there it is….
One byproduct of last year’s National Championship is that fans do not seem to be having giant meltdowns over midweek losses like prior years. Finally.
I don’t know man…I hope so.
Great observation Cody S. This is a talented blend of upper class and freshmen with the deepest 1 thru 3 starters in the land. Getting his freshmen pitcher against top competition like UCF show’s Sully is as always focused on the big picture, prepping for SEC play and the tournaments at the end. We will see how deep we are when SEC play starts.
Very frustrating. What’s going to happen when we play the big boys?
Please read what Cody S wrote.
Well for starters, UF will trot out one of their 3 weekend starters when the stakes are higher.
Tim…you do realize that this is baseball and they play approximately 60 games. There are no “big boys” in baseball…it’s not Football. You have teams like Rice, Dallas Baptist, Missouri State….Fresno State won the World Series not long ago. Coastal Carolina won it 2 years ago. Stonybrook Went to the CWS maybe 3 -4 years ago.
He trotted out inexperience against an in state team who has talent, and we will be better for it.
Ok, I feel a little better but remain concerned about stranding 9 on base. Still think it will be a solid year for us.
Oh, no doubt about it. I just wouldn’t lose too much faith in what Sully and the guys. You have to suit up and play whoever is in front for they are gunning for you. Big time feather in the cap when you beat the defending National Champ and #1 team.
Brace yourselves … there will be more losses. Last year’s team lost 19 games and won the CWS. Nobody’s gonna go 60-0. It’ll be o.k. This ain’t football, where there’s still a reasonable opportunity for an undefeated season. By the way, it’s not likely that any college basketball team is gonna go 40-0 any time soon, so you might want to give the basketball team and Mike White a break, too.