Coming off an emotional and electric road sweep of then top-ranked Miami, playing in their first game as the nation’s No. 1 college baseball team this season, the Florida Gators came out flat Friday night against Troy.
Really, really flat.
And that really, really, really ticked off their coach, Kevin O’Sullivan.
“We weren’t ready to play,” O’Sullivan said. “In the top of the first, we’re taking ground balls to the first baseman and one of our infielders short hops it and the ball kicks off his glove. A couple of throws later we kick a ball. I’ve only seen that one other time in my career where an infielder has kicked a ball.
“These rankings mean nothing this time of year. If we think we’re just going to roll the ball out there and throw our gloves out there (and win) because we’re the Gators, that’s nonsense.
“We had a good weekend down in Miami, but that has nothing to do with tonight and this weekend. It has nothing to do with when we start conference play against Georgia. We’ve got to be mature about where we’re at because we’re not a finished product.”
Fortunately for the Gators, despite being flat, they managed not to fall. Thanks to a three-run seventh inning, UF (9-0) managed to squeeze out a 3-2 victory after falling behind 2-0 early after starter Tommy Mace gave up single runs in the first and third innings.
“We were very fortunate to win the game,” O’Sullivan said. “If we’re on the losing end of things, it’s easy to sit here and get upset with your team. It’s actually easier when you win because it’s a learning experience. I hope we don’t have to learn the lesson the hard way. We’ve got a long way to go.
“Offensively, we’re not where we were when we started the season. Pitching-wise, we still have a lot of question marks. Defensively, we have some mental lapses. That’s on me. I’ve got to get those guys ready to play night in and night out.
“We have a chance to be good, but we’re certainly not there yet. We’re not. We have to continue to try and get better and eliminate these mistakes.”
Just when it looked like the Gators were going to fall Friday night, they came to life against Troy reliever Lance Johnson with two outs in the seventh inning. After senior Austin Langworthy had a run-scoring single, Kirby McMullen followed with a two-run single to push the tying and winning runs across the plate.
Before the seventh, the Gator hitters could not touch Troy starter Levi Thomas, who scattered five hits and struck out six. O’Sullivan had to watch some weak at-bats by his lineup in those first six innings.
“No one really made adjustments in the box,” he said. “We kind of played to his strength. He threw the ball away from our right-handers. He threw off speed on fastball counts to our lefties. Our right-handers kept reaching wide all night and hitting fly balls.
“We have to do a better job of making adjustments. We can’t let a guy go 100-plus pitches and not make any adjustments.”
The best thing the UF hitters did is drive Thomas’ pitch count up to the point that he was pulled after the sixth inning. Then in the seventh, the Gators manage to stage their winning rally.
It was an uneven performance that clearly left O’Sullivan frustrated. But UF managed to escape with the win to remain perfect on the young season.
“We started off a little slow. That guy (Thomas) was pretty good,” Langworthy said. “We had a few two-out hits that kind of helped us through there. We’re happy. We’ve still got a lot to move forward on.”
Florida goes for the series sweep against Troy (8-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday.