This season has been a bit of a roller coaster for UF. Starting off high by playing Miami tough and smacking around Florida State, they were in a funk with a stretch of five consecutive losses followed by losses in five of six games. After winning two of three at Ole Miss in March, UF never won another road SEC series. However, the Gators (34-20, 17-13) have won six of eight including a sweep of Vanderbilt to roll into the SEC Tournament as the three seed.
The Gators will start strong this afternoon against Vandy (37-18, 15-14), putting Patrick Keating (8-0, 3.15) on the mound. Give Kevin O’Sullivan credit. Pitching coaches don’t usually make great managers. But not only has O’Sullivan molded a team who hits line drives (4th in team batting, .307) and steals bases (104, LSU is closest with 77), he’s also rebuilt the Gators pitching staff (4th in team ERA, 4.03) and Keating is the perfect example.
UF lacks the power numbers that college teams ride into Omaha on, but in the new world of College Baseball, pitching is the thing. And it seems like UF has been able to handle the new compressed schedule, keeping their staff together. Plus, good pitching always beats good hitting. UF’s “National League” style ball also can cause problems for a team with good pitching. Maybe they can’t get the walk-bloop-blast 3-run homer, but if they can draw walks, they will make every pitcher worry about their speed. That creates more fastballs and that equals more line drives.
The Gators have an outside shot at hosting a regional, but if they end up as a two in the NCAAs, they will be dangerous.