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.
Game 3 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser
Game 4 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner
Game 5 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser
Game 6 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner
Game 7 if necessary — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner