Jack Leftwich

Jack Leftwich

The Florida baseball team didn’t live up to expectations last season.

It struggled to find its footing on the mound, and that cost the team some big games at key moments during the year. UF failed to make it past the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2014.

Junior pitcher Jack Leftwich wants to rid himself of anything associated with the 2019 season.

“I think everyone’s kind of pissed off about last year on the pitching end, because the hitters did really good, but it was kind of on our shoulders,” he said.

The Gators finished with a cumulative 5.37 ERA last season, which finished second-to-last in the SEC.

In Leftwich’s 13 starts last year, he went 6-5 with a 5.31 ERA.

Leftwich understands that’s not good enough if Florida is to win the College World Series for the first time since 2017. He and the rest of the team put in extra work in the offseason to prepare for this season’s challenges.

Fellow junior pitcher Tommy Mace had a nearly identical 5.32 ERA with an 8-5 record in a team-high 16 starts.

The hurler matched Leftwich’s work ethic this past offseason, hitting the weight room and preparing for a season with a slew of new catchers on the team.

He said he’s pitched to all four of Florida’s catchers in-game or in bullpen sessions.

In the batter’s box, UF looks to continue its strong offensive presence from last season.

As a team, the Gators hit at a .284 clip with a .370 OBP, 77 home runs and 364 RBIs.

By comparison, even with their shaky pitching last year, the Gators surrendered a .270 batting average with a .353 OBP, 65 home runs and 324 RBIs.

Sophomore center fielder Jud Fabian is excited to see how much the Gators can emulate last season’s performance at the plate. He believes team confidence will play a major role in that, calling it the most important thing in baseball.

One player Fabian and the rest of the team have the utmost confidence in is redshirt junior Garrett Milchin.

Milchin, a member of the Gators 2017 CWS championship team, hasn’t played in two years. Fabian praised Milchin for fighting back from two separate Tommy John surgeries. However, Milchin only mentioned one Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entirety of the 2018 season.

When asked about the specifics as to why he missed the 2019 season, he said that a setback forced him to miss entire year.

The 6-foot-5 right-hander has finally finished rehabbing his injuries and is ready to put toe to rubber in 2020.

“It’s been tough just pretty much living in the training room and with physical therapists,” Milchin said. “But you’ve got to make the best of what you’re dealt.”

Milchin and the Gators have a long way to go to push themselves toward another trip to Omaha. For now, he’s keeping everything in perspective and is looking to enjoy the ride.

“You really never know when you’re going to be done for the last time,” he said.

Florida’s season begins Feb. 14 at home against Marshall at 6:30 p.m.

Follow Dylan on Twitter @dylanoshea24 and contact him at [email protected]

Editor's note: this article was updated to reflect that Milchin's two Tommy John surgeries were attributed to Jud Fabian during Thursday's media availability. Milchin only mentioned one and a "setback."

Dylan O'Shea is a third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. He currently covers the Florida Gators baseball team, and has past experience covering the UF men's and women's swimming and diving teams.