OMAHA—Florida's trademark all season has been its fundamentally rock-solid play. One of the best defensive teams in the nation (.978 fielding percentage, No. 6 in Division I), Florida succeeds by doing the extra little things and seldom beats itself.
On Saturday, the Gators didn't do the extra little things. They didn't even do the basic things. And they didn't succeed, of course. Florida was clobbered, 11-3, by UCLA in the College World Series opener for both teams.
Florida made only one error Saturday, but it was costly. Austin Maddox misplayed a grounder in the third, leading to two runs and giving UCLA the lead for good. But that was far from the most glaring example of Florida's sloppiness.
Over the course of 62 games, Florida pitchers have averaged .74 wild pitches per game. On Saturday, they threw four of them—two with a runner on third base, leading to two runs. They averaged about one hit batsman per game. On Saturday, they plunked four UCLA hitters, and two of them went on to score.
In 62 games, Florida catchers committed just 10 passed balls. On Saturday, they had one—with a runner on third base, leading to a run.
Despite catcher Mike Zunino's difficulty blocking balls in the dirt and his passed ball, Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan (a former backstop himself) expressed no frustration with his catching.
"They weren't fastballs, they were breaking balls, a few changeups," O'Sullivan said. "I thought Mike did a nice job behind the plate, but you started throwing an awful lot of pitches in the dirt, it gets a little sloppy, and then balls kind of get away from them. We've just got to do a better job of locating pitches—it's as simple as that."
And the Gators must do a better job putting themselves in advantage situations. Florida allowed the leadoff man to reach base in six out of nine innings. In all six cases, the runner wound up scoring.
"We just could not manage to get the leadoff hitter the majority of the time," O'Sullivan said. "It just felt like we were struggling to play from behind every inning."
Of course, the Bruins scored in eight out of nine innings and banged out 18 hits, and certainly their relentless offense deserves loads of credit for scoring against a stingy Florida pitching staff. But the fact remains that Florida was uncharacteristically, painfully sloppy.
"We just could not get into the flow of the game," O'Sullivan said of the 3-hour, 46-minute affair. "It seemed like a really slow-paced game, almost agonizing to watch . . . It just seemed like every time we closed the gap a little bit, they had runners on first and second and nobody out. It was just one of those types of games."
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog