The proximate cause of Florida's 5-4 loss to Tennessee on Saturday was a run allowed by Johnny Magliozzi in the fifth inning, early in his five stellar innings of relief. But Magliozzi came in after Karsten Whitson allowed the first four Vols runs of the day in three innings of work, and his good work as the firefighter couldn't cover for Florida's rotation's biggest weakness right now: Its most talented pitcher is nowhere near his best.
Whitson began the game much more promisingly than he did his Saturday start against LSU last week, conceding just one hit on eight pitches. His second and third innings were ugly, comparatively: He hit the first batters of each inning, gave up two runs on two doubles and threw a wild pitch in the second, and allowed three straight singles and two runs in the third. Whitson faced 17 batters in three innings, striking out just one; Magliozzi faced 17 batters in five innings, and fanned two. On its own, it's worrisome that Whitson isn't anywhere near midseason form after an injury that cost him about a month of playing time, but with Gators ace Hudson Randall also dealing with a tired arm, Whitson finding his stride is even more crucial to Florida.
Florida's offense could do more than it has, too, with only a few of the usual names coming through right now. Brian Johnson had three hits and a windshield-shattering two-run homer on the day, and Preston Tucker claimed Florida's all-time record for doubles with his 62nd, which tied the game in the top of the fourth, but Mike Zunino and Casey Turgeon both went 0-for-4 while reaching base thanks to errors, and Vickash Ramjit and Taylor Gushue went a combined 0-for-5 from the first base slot.
Combine all that, and you get a baseball team that isn't clicking like it was in running off a school-record 18 straight victories heading into SEC play, one that may have the best talent in the country but is certainly not playing up to its own standards. Florida will send Johnson to the mound on Sunday at 2 p.m. in its rubber match against the Vols in the hopes of finding that form.