Think of that kid trying to make a full revolution on a swing at the playground. They gain enough momentum to reach the apex — the point of no return where they either swing all the way around or fall back down to square one. Florida has been stuck at square one.
Tonight’s matchup in Tallahassee at 6 features two teams in the midst of two very different seasons. The No. 7 Seminoles (27-5) are continuing their ascension with a veteran starting rotation. The Gators (15-18) are struggling to keep their heads above water with a collection of young talent. Yet, three games under .500 doesn’t do the Gators justice.
NFL Hall of Famer Bill Parcells said, “You are what your record says you are.” ESPN has a show nobody watches called “Numbers Never Lie.” The numbers don’t tell the story for Florida.
In a game where miscues are magnified, the Gators have drowned in their own blunders. Six losses stand out.
Florida lost to Georgia Southern 8-7 in extra innings on Feb. 20, Florida Gulf Coast 7-4 on Feb. 24 in extra innings, North Florida 7-6 on Feb. 26 in 10 innings and Ole Miss 4-3 on March 29 in 11 frames. The Gators dropped the series finale against Vanderbilt 5-4 in seven innings on March 24 while losing to Florida State 2-1 late on March 26.
All these games should’ve ended with the Gators slapping hands in the infield instead of wondering what went wrong.
Florida suffered a six-game losing streak earlier in the year that catcher Taylor Gushue called the Gators’ lowest point this season. Since dropping its sixth straight contest on March 1 — dropping UF to 3-7 — Florida is 12-11.
The Gators’ losses to the Rebels, the Commodores and the Seminoles mirrored those during their six-game losing streak.
If Florida could eliminate its issues in close contests, reaching the NCAA Regional again this year is a real possibility.
But an inconsistent season is expected from this ravaged roster. For three years, Florida fielded one of college baseball’s most talented squads — ever.
Five players from the 2012 team spent time in Major League spring training. Left-hander Steven Rodriguez became the first player from the 2012 MLB Draft to reach the majors. He’s pitched two scoreless innings for the Dodgers this year. Catcher Mike Zunino has a .417 average for the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate. The Gators of yesteryear were really good.
Take into account key signees never reaching school, and it’s clear why Florida isn’t Florida this year. A down year comes with a mass exodus to The Show. This team is growing, albeit slowly.
Freshman shortstop Richie Martin looks like a budding star up the middle. I’ll take a middle infield of Martin and second baseman Casey Turgeon any day. Gushue at catcher — although he needs work defensively — is carrying Florida’s offense. Doubles machine Justin Shafer has been a consistent run producer. Florida’s pitching has improved since several early-season hiccups.
It’s time to see the silver lining. I described Florida on Feb. 27 as a “talented team yet to find answers.” The answers may never come this year.
Is the 2013 season disappointing? Yeah.
But in an adverse season riddled with injuries and departures, these young guns are giving a glimpse of a bright future. Remember that when two very different teams square off at Dick Howser Field tonight.
Contact Adam Pincus at [email protected].