The Florida baseball team dropped a heartbreaker on Tuesday morning in Game 1 of the SEC Tournament against Texas A&M.
The Gators and Aggies went back and forth for most of the game, but a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th by A&M sealed the 8-7 victory and blew the opportunity for UF to secure itself a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Now Florida will leave its fate in the hands of the NCAA selection committee and hope to hear its name called during the NCAA Selection Show on Monday afternoon.
Sitting at 33-24 with a conference record four games under .500, UF is firmly on the bubble, currently projected as one of the “last five in” in D1baseball.com’s projected NCAA Tournament field.
The team is 60th out of 64 teams, ahead of Missouri (34-22-1), Michigan (38-17), Virginia (32-22) and UCF (34-21). It’s projected to be placed in the Coral Gables Regional with Miami, Florida Atlantic and Florida Gulf Coast.
The Gators faced all three teams during the regular season, winning a series in Gainesville against the Hurricanes back in February, splitting a two-game set with FGCU in March and dropping the only matchup with FAU in April.
A high RPI ranking (28) and the fourth-toughest schedule in the country has many believing Florida is safely in the field.
Those numbers, along with 13 RPI-top 50 wins, enhance UF’s chances of being selected.
However, the team’s ugly conference record and 24 total losses are keeping them near the cutline as the NCAAs draw closer.
If Florida does miss the tournament, it can look towards the inconsistencies on the mound as a main reason.
Tuesday’s late-game collapse is a microcosm of the many missed opportunities the team has had throughout the season.
Six losses this year have come by two runs or less, including back-to-back one-run losses to Tennessee in Gainesville earlier this month.
The bats have been consistent for the Gators, but back-breaking rebound runs given up by the pitching staff have squandered some games they should’ve won.
With those wins, Florida’s NCAA outlook wouldn’t be as uncertain. Instead, coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his team will be nervously watching as the 64-team field is unveiled.
O’Sullivan hasn’t missed the tournament as coach of Florida since he took over in 2008.
Eleven-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including four-straight College World Series visits, would be two streaks snapped if the committee decides to leave UF out.
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak and contact him at [email protected].