Florida baseball, softball rosters in flux

Florida softball coach Tim Walton at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

It could be busy at Florida softball practices next season.

On Tuesday, Tim Walton met via Facetime with his six seniors to talk about their options after the NCAA decided that all spring sports seniors will get another season of eligibility because of the COVID-19 virus that canceled their seasons.

If all of Walton’s freshman signees show up for the 2021 season, he’ll have 28 players.

“Everybody is going to have roster issues,” Walton said. “There are a lot of dynamics in this.”

In the other spring sport played with bats and balls, coach Kevin O’Sullivan is trying to figure things out because — while he has two starters who are seniors and could come back — he has the Major League draft to worry about.

“Frankly, I don’t have all the answers right now,” he said. “I haven’t talked to those guys yet. I really don’t know what the draft is going to look like.

“There are a lot of moving parts on my end because of the draft.”

That includes, of course, incoming freshmen. And even though the draft is going to be shortened to five rounds, all college baseball rosters are fluid until players make decisions. 

Never more than now.

In addition to left fielder Austin Langworthy and infielder Kirby McMullen, O’Sullivan has a senior in reserve infielder Nick Blassuci and grad transfer pitcher Trey Van Der Weide, who hasn’t pitched yet because of an injury.

(Langworthy on The Tailgate radio show on WRUF Thursday said “I really don’t know” when asked what he will do, while McMullen told The Sun he would return.)

In both cases, the coaches are trying to deal with the abrupt endings to promising seasons. 

Florida baseball was 16-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country.

“I really enjoyed coaching that group,” O’Sullivan said. “It was fun to see them have more confidence in themselves. 

“It’s hard any time a season ends because it almost always ends with a loss unless you win it all. But the hardest part now is not working. I don’t know what to do with my time, other than home-schooling Finn.”

Walton’s softball team was 23-4 and had just beaten FSU when all hell broke loose.

“It was crushing to go from, OK, we’re going to play (a weekend series against Baylor), to, we’re going to play with no fans, to, well, this series is canceled to, the whole season is canceled,” Walton said.

And it certainly sets up a potentially full roster for next season.

“When I met with them, I kind of went over their options and the rules,” Walton said. “I told them they all had tough decisions to make, but at least they have options. I told them that they had time to figure it out, but the only urgency is if they are not coming back, I’d like to know.”

The NCAA left it up to the schools to decide whether players are to be given their scholarships, all of which are partial scholarships in both sports. Scott Stricklin, the Florida athletic director, told The Sun he expects that all of them would be honored in all the spring sports.

Spring sports will also get an exemption from roster limitations, but it remains to be seen if that will apply to travel rosters. Postseason rosters, for example, in softball are limited to 20 players.