It’s never good to overreact to one game for Florida baseball. A fluke hit here or a tight call can swing any game’s outcome. There is a reason baseball/softball plays the most games of any sport fielding by the Florida Gators.
But 39 games into the season there is a clear trend for Florida that continues to pop up repeatedly. And even though the Gators are among the top squads in the nation, one can’t help but think there might be a ceiling for this team come NCAA tournament time.
Florida Baseball: Just throw strikes
The Gators lost to South Carolina in mercy rule fashion last night, 13-3 in seven innings. The Gamecocks are a legit squad, ranked 6th in the nation heading into this series.
A simple glance at the score wouldn’t indicate that with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the score was tied 3-3.
But after Brandon Sporat had his night ended following a two-out double, Philip Abner walked three straight guys before he had the plug pulled. Then Nick Ficarrotta walked two more before giving up a two-run single, and suddenly, the score was 8-3.
Tyler Nesbitt came in to open the seventh and proceeded with the following:
- Fly out
- Hit by pitch
- Sac bunt that resulted in an error
- Stike out
- Hit by pitch
- Double to end the game
If you are keeping track here, the three relievers for Florida gave up nine runs off four hits, six walks, two hit pitches, and an error.
If this was a one-off meltdown, we could chalk it up to “one of those games.”
But Florida had this same meltdown vs Georgia. And USF. And Jacksonville. And Tennessee. And Florida Atlantic, though they did win that one.
Also lost in the narrative this week was that Florida surrendered seven runs against Florida A&M, with three different guys all surrendering at least two runs.
Even though the Gators are ranked third in the nation, a number of the projections for the NCAA tournament have Florida pegged as the sixth or seventh seed in the tournament. As long as Florida finishes as a top-eight seed, it really doesn’t matter, but it also indicates that the margin for error isn’t that large.
And the repeated meltdowns point to a deeper concern that once tournament play begins, Florida will be prone to meltdown at the most inopportune time, and it will end their season. Part of what it takes to go all the way in the NCAA tournament is a bevy of arms out of the bullpen that can hold things down, and Florida right now doesn’t have the consistency in that area.
Kevin O’Sullivan has Florida baseball positioned to do great things this upcoming postseason. But if the Gators can’t throw strikes when needed in high-leverage situations, this year’s postseason might be another frustrating one.