They weren’t supposed to be in this situation. Wrecked by 20 departures via the MLB Rule 5 Amateur draft the previous two seasons, the 2013 Florida Gators baseball team finished under .500 after a quick exit from the Indiana regional.
With no true seniors on the team, this season was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Kevin O’Sullivan’s ball club. Back-to-back top-rated recruiting classes ensured fans and the manager that the team would be talented, sure, but very young.
No one could have predicted just how quickly that youth would adjust to this level. Nowhere is this more evident than in freshman right-hander Logan Shore. A pitcher from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, Shore worked his way into the rotation and eventually into the Friday night starter role.
“I’m not going to say that I knew he was going to pitch this well, but it’s not surprising,” O’Sullivan said early on in the season. “He’s been really good and has shown why he was recruited so heavily by so many people.”
Shore was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 29th round of the draft last year but chose to attend Florida instead of truing pro out of high school. Shore’s dominating start has Gator baseball historians comparing him to former pitcher Hudson Randall.
Randall was named to several Freshman All-American teams — a distinction that Shore is destined to earn this season — after starting a team-high 17 contests in 2010 and posting an 8-4 record (4 wins in SEC play). Shore has already appeared in 14 games (13 starts) and leads all SEC pitchers with seven wins in conference. Shore’s season numbers are all currently better than or on pace to be better than Randall’s freshman campaign and most his the Minnesota native’s innings have come against SEC competition (60-of-85 innings).
Shore leads the Florida pitching staff that has exceeded all expectations this season. Without a set starting three for the entire season, it has been a rotation and bullpen by committee for Florida with nine pitchers tallying more than 30 innings of work this season.
Managing the pitching staff has been Florida’s true leader this season, junior catcher Taylor Gushue. Gushue is leading the team in batting average (.335), hits (67) and RBI (46). Gushue, who has started every single game this season, also leads Florida in slugging percentage (.505), doubles (16) home runs (6) and sacrifice flies (11).
This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Gators but don’t tell them that. With another SEC series win in the books, Florida will travel to Hoover, Alabama as the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament and the outright SEC Champions in the regular season.
Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game predicts that Florida is essentially a lock to be a national seed, hosting a regional and a Super Regional should they make it.
It’s been a long, unexpected season for the young Florida ball club but the ride isn’t over yet. In fact, behind the bat of Gushue and the arm of Shore, the ride could very well just be getting started.