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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

'You lose, you’re done': UF baseball begins NCAAs

<p>Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie hits during UF's 4-2 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 19, 2016, at McKethan Stadium.&nbsp;</p>

Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie hits during UF's 4-2 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 19, 2016, at McKethan Stadium. 

Before he found a shaded spot in Florida’s first-base dugout, his hands resting on his knees while fielding questions from a ring of reporters, Dalton Guthrie had a word of advice for his freshman second baseman.

Omaha is worth it.

“I kind of talked to him about how cool it really is to play there and how bad he really should want it,” Guthrie said he told teammate Deacon Liput. “It’s an experience as a baseball player that you never forget.”

Guthrie remembers last year, when Florida won eight of its 10 NCAA Tournament games and reached the semifinals of the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Junior Logan Shore remembers the year before that, when the Gators lost two-straight games to begin the Gainesville Regional and were eliminated from postseason contention.

Shore’s word of advice?

“Every practice could be your last,” he said.

That’s how the No. 1-seed Gators are approaching their matchup with Bethune-Cookman in the first round of the Gainesville Regional on Friday, holding a team-wide mantra that permeates through veterans like Shore and every member of UF’s freshmen class: Be hungry.

“You lose, you’re done,” Shore said.

Florida (47-13) is coming off of a May 29 loss to Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship, a 12-5 defeat that ended an impressive tournament run in which the Gators won three straight after losing their opener.

The Gators are ready to start winning again.

UF will get a much-needed jolt to its offense when Peter Alonso, who coach Kevin O’Sullivan said will play this weekend, returns to the lineup.

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The junior suffered a fracture in his left hand against Vanderbilt on May 13 and has been sidelined since.

Before Alonso went out, he was the team leader in batting average (.352), RBIs (47) and home runs (9). He led a UF offense that averaged 6.4 runs per game through the season’s first 50 games.

In the 10 games without him, Florida’s scoring average dipped to 4.9 runs per game.

“It’s been tough for us all season to put the hitting and the pitching together in the same game,” sophomore JJ Schwarz said.

“But now that we have Pete back, I think it’s gonna help us a lot.”

Florida also hopes that the return of Alonso, who was part of Florida’s semifinal run in the CWS last year, delivers more postseason experience to a young team.

While the Gators have a significant veteran presence, with players like juniors Alonso, Shore, A.J. Puk and Buddy Reed all having CWS experience, UF will also have to rely on its freshmen, three of whom are regular starters.

But to O’Sullivan, that’s no excuse.

“These guys that are freshmen, they’re not freshmen anymore,” the coach said.

“They’ve been through 60-plus games now, so they should be beyond the freshmen stuff right now, experience-wise.”

And Guthrie is determined to make sure they’re getting the proper motivation.

“It’s something along the way that you have to check off your list: Go to Omaha,” Guthrie said.

“I think we’ll do whatever we can to get there.”

Contact Ian Cohen at icohen@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter at @icohenb.

 

 

Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie hits during UF's 4-2 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 19, 2016, at McKethan Stadium. 

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