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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Despite snapping six-game losing streak, Florida baseball’s season hanging by a thread

The Gators defeated South Carolina Sunday for their first win since April 3

Florida baseball head coach Kevin O'Sullivan talks to his team during a mound visit in the Gators' loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday, April 12, 2024.
Florida baseball head coach Kevin O'Sullivan talks to his team during a mound visit in the Gators' loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday, April 12, 2024.

As each word left the mouth of Florida Gators baseball head coach Kevin O’Sullivan Saturday, his disappointment became ever more apparent. 

Just after the Gators (18-17, 7-8 SEC) lost their sixth game in a row, O’Sullivan recounted the handful of mistakes his team made during its 9-8 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday. His dismay grew as he listed them off.

Florida’s pitchers missed two pitches over the plate to Gamecocks right fielder Ethan Petry and catcher Cole Messina, leading to three runs. It walked in a run with the bases loaded. There were two separate times when UF surrendered two avoidable walks, once when a hitter was attempting to bunt and another after starting with an 0-2 count. 

O’Sullivan said he didn’t want to get any further into detail but wanted to make one thing clear.

“When you start adding all this stuff up, it’s the difference between winning and losing one-run games,” he said. “This thing, it did not sneak up on us overnight.”

These issues have been a problem for the Gators for more than a month. O’Sullivan revealed there was a team meeting to go over the mistakes March 6. Since then, nothing has changed. 

“The very things that I talked about on March 6 are the very things that are still going on now,” he said. “Everything from the hitting, down to the pitching, down to everything.”

O’Sullivan even mentioned there was an instance his pitchers were “messing around” in the bullpen when the Gators trailed by four runs to Florida State.

“We’re trying everything to motivate them and get them going,” the 17-year head coach said. “But we haven’t found that thing yet.”

All of Florida’s issues culminated during its last week of play, resulting in a six-game losing streak, which was snapped when it defeated the Gamecocks (25-11, 8-7 SEC) 11-9 Sunday at Condron Family Ballpark.

The skid began when the Gators were swept by the Missouri Tigers April 5-7 who were 1-8 in the SEC when the series began. 

It continued with a midweek, 19-4 loss to the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles and finally came to an end when Florida defeated the Gamecocks in the third game of its series. However, South Carolina had already won the series by that point.

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There was a sigh of relief when the Gators broke their longest losing streak since 2013. But, there were still plenty of imperfections in their performance.

For starters, Florida’s bullpen surrendered six runs across four innings. It increased their staggering 6.49 ERA, which ranked worst in the SEC as of Sunday. 

Gators sophomore reliever Cade Fisher came in and couldn’t record an out before allowing all three batters he faced to get on base. Two eventually scored.

“Obviously, we still have work to do,” said Gators senior right fielder Ty Evans. “I felt like today was just a team-win for sure, and it was just something that all the players and the coaches just needed.”

Evans has been one of the lone positives in Florida’s struggling offense, which ranks nearly last in almost every hitting category in its conference.

The senior hit leadoff in the final two games of the weekend and finished the series 6-for-12 with two home runs and five RBI. 

“I felt more like myself,” Evans said. “We had a rough go for a few weeks offensively… I feel like everyone was just trying to do so much in one swing, just trying to make stuff happen every single pitch instead of just battling and having good at-bats.”

There was a sense Florida connected all the pieces on offense in its final game of the weekend. It was a drastic change from the mistakes O’Sullivan said did not sneak up on his team.

“At some point we were going to snap the losing streak, and today was obviously the day we did it,” he said. “We had some really good approaches at the plate... Things are starting to piece together for us.”

The sense of urgency in the locker room is at its highest now that the Gators are in the middle of the season, according to O’Sullivan.

Florida is about to enter its toughest stretch in its schedule. The Gators head to Nashville to play the No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores April 18-20. Then, Florida will continue its road schedule with a weekend series against No. 1 Arkansas April 26-28.

“We knew that the tough times won’t last,” UF two-way player Jac Caglianone said. “I'm just glad that our offense stayed the course and trusted what we've been working on to get the results we wanted today. And hopefully, we'll take that into this week and head to Nashville.”

Before then, the Gators will face the Jacksonville Dolphins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Condron Family Ballpark. The two teams competed against one another March 19, and Jacksonville won 7-6.

“We lost, but at the same time, we know we’re 10 times better than them,” Caglianone said. “So that’s just how we’re going to go about it.”

The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.

Contact Luke Adragna at Follow him on X @lukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.

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