Following FSU’s win over Florida in the 2016 NCAA Super Regionals, Seminoles manager Mike Martin proved to be prophetic.
“I really wish I could really say that was an important win,” he said after his team shut out the Gators in Game 1 of the three-game series. “It’s not over.”
He was right. It wasn’t over.
In the next two games, the Gators took revenge against the Seminoles, shutting them out twice to advance to the College World Series.
Beating FSU was a common practice for UF a season ago, as Florida took five of six games from its in-state rival. But that was a different team.
That team entered its first matchup with Florida State ranked No. 1 with a record of 17-1, while the Seminoles were ranked No. 11. This season, roles are reversed.
No. 5 Florida will enter its first matchup against FSU of 2017 tonight at 6:30 with a record of 12-5. The No. 2 Seminoles, meanwhile, will arrive in Gainesville with a 13-3 record and their last win being a 13-0 stomping of Boston College on Sunday.
Florida is coming off a rough spring break during which it lost consecutive games to No. 21 Florida Gulf Coast and took two of three from Seton Hall. Entering the series finale with Seton Hall, coach Kevin O’Sullivan, in an unusual display of urgency for such a young season, called it a “must-win game.”
But Florida won that game, and it had its pitching to thank. Sophomore starter Brady Singer allowed two earned runs in six innings before the bullpen — led by freshman Kirby McMullen — shut out Seton Hall to finish the job.
The bullpen was one area O’Sullivan was proud of following the game, and understandably so. The Gators rank second in the SEC with a team ERA of 2.45. However, he was critical of another area.
“I can’t say enough about our freshmen arms out of the pen,” he said in a release. “Garrett Milchin is awesome. Tyler Dyson was great again. Kirby McMullen did a nice job tonight.
“We’ve just got to get our offense going.”
Florida’s offense has been largely ineffective all season. The Gators rank in the SEC’s bottom three in every major offensive category aside from home runs. And against the Seminoles, who sport a 2.50 team ERA, O’Sullivan knows hitting will be even more critical than it usually is, though he remains confident that he can jumpstart UF’s offense.
“We will,” he said. “But it is getting to a point now where we’re going to have to settle in on a lineup. We’ve given a lot of guys different chances and we’ll settle in on the 10-12 guys and we’ll go with it and continue to work at it.”
Contact Ethan Bauer at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ebaueri.
UF head coach Kevin O'Sullivan speaks with an umpire during Florida's 2-0 win against Miami on Feb. 25, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.