Kevin O’Sullivan has been around the block long enough to know that anything can happen in the game of baseball.
The coach in his 10th season at Florida and 25th overall in the college ranks has seen everything from one of his players hitting two grand slams on the same day to an opponent scoring double-digit runs in one inning.
Nothing surprises O’Sullivan anymore. He’s witnessed it all.
However, when his No. 7 Gators lost to the No. 23 South Florida Bulls on Tuesday night, O’Sullivancouldn’t help but scratch his head at the lack of command his pitchers displayed on the mound.
UF threw only three more strikes (109) than it did balls (106) in the midweek contest and walked a season-high 17 batters in the eventual 15-10 victory for USF.
The blowout abruptly ended the best stretch of baseball Florida has played all year – a 17-day span featuring sweeps over Georgia and Ole Miss that culminated in a nine-game winning streak.
While Tuesday’s loss was highly deflating for a team that was beginning to flourish at just the right time, O’Sullivan emphasized the importance of his players keeping their spirits up with just a week and a half left before the regular season ends.
“I think we’ve won 15 of our last 17 coming into (Tuesday),” O’Sullivan said after the contest. “We can’t let this one game affect our psyche or how we’re feeling about ourselves because we’ve been playing for so long.”
UF (35-14, 16-8 SEC) won’t have to do much waiting before it receives its first opportunity to rebound from Tuesday’s loss, as it’ll travel to Tuscaloosa this weekend for a three-game series against Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (19-29, 5-19 SEC) sit dead last in the SEC standings have the third worst ERA in the conference at 4.40.
However, ‘Bama has won four straight games straight games including a series sweep over Auburn last weekend, leading sophomore infielder Blake Reese to note that the Crimson Tide can’t be taken for granted.
“They’re playing spoiler right now,” he said. “They’d like nothing more than to try and knock us out of the SEC just to say they did it. They’re fighting for some pride right there, and they’re not going to lay down and let us come through and just roll over by any means.”
Junior Alex Faedo, sporting a 7-1 record and 2.42 ERA, will make his 13th start of the year on Friday for the Gators, while sophomores Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar will get the nod on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Contact Dylan Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.
Alex Faedo (left), Kevin O'Sullivan (center) and Mike Rivera convene at the mound during Florida's 1-0 win against LSU on March 24, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.