Coach Kevin O’Sullivan hasn’t been impressed with his team lately.
Though Florida’s talented baseball team is ranked No. 1 in all the preseason polls, O’Sullivan said Wednesday that the last couple practices haven’t been special.
"They weren’t for whatever reason," he said. "It’s hard for a coach to leave practice and feel good about both offensively and defensively because either pitching dominates or the hitting gets the best of the pitching."
It could be the preseason jitters many players may have with less than 10 days until first pitch.
It could be the enormous expectations placed on his team.
Either way, O’Sullivan said he couldn’t pinpoint the reason for the mediocre practices.
He has, however, sent a message to his team.
"I keep harping to them the idea of ‘win or bust’ or ‘win at all costs’ is ridiculous," O’Sullivan said. "You can’t go into anything with that type of mentality. If you do, obviously you’re going to end up on the losing side of things."
Despite the negative sentiment, O’Sullivan said one side of the ball that has stayed consistent throughout practices has been the Gators’ defense, especially in the outfield.
"I think it all starts in the middle of the field with obviously Buddy Reed," O’Sullivan said.
It’s hard not to mention Reed when taking a look at Florida’s outfielders.
The 6-foot-4 speedster has the length to run down balls in the gap, over his head or in front of him in center field.
Highlight reel plays became standard last year for the junior from Finksburg, Maryland.
Reed’s abilities also made life in the outfield easier for UF’s corner outfielders last season. Just ask junior Ryan Larson, who started in right field for most of the year.
"I kind of say, ‘Buddy, you take what you want. If you’re feeling tired I’ll grab the other stuff,’" he said.
But while Larson doesn’t have the defensive gifts Reed has, he’s no slouch.
O’Sullivan said he trusts the experienced Larson — who will play in left field this season — to read fly balls and handle some of the problems that come with playing in left, like the way the sun sets over McKethan Stadium.
"It’s a tough angle, but having him there, it makes you feel good," O’Sullivan said.
In right field, O’Sullivan has options.
Sophomore lefty Jeremy Vasquez figures to see a bulk of the action early, and O’Sullivan said freshmen Danny Reyes and Nelson Maldonado have swung the bat well in scrimmages.
For Vasquez, who hit .339 in 2015, defense has been his biggest focus heading into the season.
"Obviously in right field, just try to get my arm stronger, take (the) best routes that I can and that’s basically what I’ve been working on this whole year," he said.
Vasquez, along with UF’s other outfielders, know this outfield has a chance to be a solid and consistent group this year, just as O’Sullivan has witnessed thus far.
"I don’t want to say that we’re going to be the best in the nation, but I think we’re gonna be a pretty good outfield," Vasquez said.