It was a busy week on the first for the University of Florida and the Florida Gators. First, the Florida Gators softball team won their Super Regional, earning a berth to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series where they will look to defend their National Championship from a season ago.
After losing their opening game in Hoover, Alabama in the SEC Tournament, the Florida Gators baseball team won four straight on their way to the seventh SEC Tournament Championship in school history. The tournament championship helped the Gators earn a National Seed in the NCAA Tournament — the only school in the country to be named a National Seed in six of the last seven seasons. The University of Florida is also the only school in the country to have both their baseball and softball teams earn National Seeds in the NCAA Tournament two seasons in a row.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre recap last week’s action on the diamond as well as preview the Women’s College World Series and the Gainesville Regional, where Florida will host FAMU, FAU and USF this weekend.
Click play above to listen to the podcast and enjoy the transcript below.
* * * TRANSCRIPT:
Andrew: Gator Country, your man, Andrew Spivey back ready for action again this week, and it’s kind of an exciting time for Gator Country. Nick, baseball, SEC Champions after a long week. Gators are headed to Oklahoma City for softball, and for you and I, we’ve done our job. We got our team to the post season. We’ve done our job. We got them to post season ball. So too bad you and I can’t put a little bling on our fingers, but we’ll just put it on our resumes.
Nick: It was a good week on the dirt.
Andrew: It was a good week on the dirt. You kind of went into the SEC Championship, and I thought that Florida had a good shot, but after seeing them lose to Arkansas on Game 1 and being, what was it? 2:00 in the morning, 1:00 in the morning. I kind of wondered. I was like, do they get bounced early, or do they go? I know I sent you a text one night, and I was like, dang. Did Sully just have 95 mile an hour fast balls stacked in the arm? You were like, yeah. That’s pretty much it.
Nick: Yeah. You know, you see Friday, or it was Wednesday night. It’s kind of rough. There’s about a 90 minute delay before LSU’s game, which is before Florida. So Florida and Arkansas don’t even take the field until about 10:30 at night Central time, so like 11:30 my time. That game just dragged on and on and on. Florida loses on a home run in the 9th inning. Bobby Poyner gives one up, and then a quick turnaround. You lose. You’re the first game up, but I think that probably played into Florida’s advantage. There was no time to sit there and feel bad about yourself. You kind of went home, slept as much as you could, and then they had team meal at 9:00AM, so they probably get back to the hotel at 2:00, and in seven hours they have team meal, and they’re at the field at 11:00 ready to go.
Starting from that game against Auburn you get a great start from Logan Shore. You get a rematch with Arkansas. AJ Puk striking everybody out. I think he struck Andrew out. Then from there you kind of just piece it together. You get a huge win over LSU. Taylor Lewis comes up huge in a huge spot. Alex Faedo falters a little bit. Taylor Lewis is able to come in and keep the score at 1 nothing, giving the Gators a chance to tie the game in the 8th. Mike Rivera hits a go ahead home run in the 9th, and Lewis shuts the game out.
Go into Sunday, and Florida just has so much momentum rolling. Harrison Bader leads off the game with a home run, and it was just easy after that. Florida was playing with all the momentum. Bader gives them a quick lead. No pressure after that, and 2015 SEC champs. A little redemption after losing in the championship game last year to LSU, which kind of derailed Florida, who had a great season up until that point. Derailed them into their 0-2 regional.
Andrew: Yeah. Here’s my take. You covered baseball a lot more than I, and you watch it a lot more than I do. For me watching bits and pieces all season, this year and last year. Last year I thought this was a team that overachieved. It was almost like the Florida 2013 football team, where they overachieved. Then you start to look at this team, and it’s like they underachieved. Yes they’re the four seed, could they have been the one seed? When you start to look at this team, AJ Puk is a dynamite pitcher, but he struggled. Bader is one of the best hitters in the country when he’s on, but he struggled some. You had the injury to Alonso, who knows what that man puts up this year had he been there.
To me Florida is a better baseball team now, this year, than they were last year, and I think that they have the poise, they have the talent, to make a run in this tournament. Poor Florida, they didn’t get the terrible draw they got last year in the regionals, and I think that’s a blessing in disguise. I know it’s no easy regional, but it’s not the regional they were dealt last year.
Nick: Yeah. First off, Kevin O’Sullivan kind of touched on what you did. I asked him, the team’s playing with an edge, did that start in the Vanderbilt series a couple weeks back? That was a heated series, guys going back and forth. It was for a lot. It was for Florida’s trying to play to win the SEC regular season. Vanderbilt’s trying to hold on to win the SEC regular season title. So when you have two teams that are that talented they both know they have to bring that level of play up, and then when you add on that they’re playing for something it kind of just builds that heated, rivalry, kind of sense. It takes it to another level. So I think that’s where this edge kind of started for Florida, because Sully came out and said it and said that he thought for a good portion of this season they were just sputtering along for most of the year.
You’d have a guy like AJ Puk. He’d go out and strike out 10, throw seven innings. Then he’d come out the next weekend, and he would last three innings, walk six guys and hit a guy and be taken out of the game. You’d have Logan Shore went a month, four or five starts in a row, where he didn’t get more than one run and run support. So the inconsistency where Florida would look like the number one team in the country one weekend, and then look like what is going on with these guys? They can’t pitch. They can’t hit. Granted, they are the best fielding team in the country. That’s never changed, but I think last week you kind of started to see what Florida is capable of when they’re hitting on all cylinders, offensively and pitching.
Andrew: Yeah. I think for me I kind of relate last year’s team and this year’s team to kind of the Braves a little bit. Let me finish my thought real quick before you get me, Nick. In that last year it was like you didn’t have anybody to take the lead on the team. This year it’s like, I’m sorry to say, but JJ Schwarz and Mike Rivera, two freshmen, are two guys that you’ve seen in the Vanderbilt game that were ready to take charge. Harrison Bader’s kind of been that guy, even Buddy Love a little bit in that guy. I think that maybe some leadership, whether it be that freshman in Rivera and Schwarz or a guy like Bader who’s a junior. I just kind of see there’s a little bit more leadership this year. My thing is can we lock Vandy and Florida in a cage and let them duke it out? I wanted to see something. It was getting intense on Sunday.
Nick: Call Dana White. See if he can book them for UFC 188, but yeah. It all starts, Carson Fulmer is a fantastic pitcher. He’s going to be a great pitcher, a great professional pitcher. He’s animated. He’s loud. He uses it not so much in a disrespectful way, but if he gets a strike out he’s pumped. He’s going to yell. He’s going to pump his fist, and it’s not something that, you know when you strike out, whether you think the pitcher’s a bum or you know that he’s great, you don’t want to feel like you’re being shown up.
So while I don’t think Fulmer’s trying to show kids up, it’s just what pumps him up so that he can pitcher, and Florida took exception to that. So they started, they would get a single. They would get a hit, and they yelled. Then it kind of just built from there, but it’s great to see two baseball teams who are probably two of the best in the country, and they generally just don’t like each other. It’s nice to see. You get that a lot in football or in contact sports, but it’s nice to see that kind of edge, that kind of rivalry on the diamond.
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t know who it was in the Vandy dugout, but somebody yelled something at Schwarz when he struck out, and then Rivera doubled, and he basically told them to shut up. He gave them the shush sign. I don’t want to say that you have to play the game. I don’t ever want to say you have to play the game hating your opponent. That’s not my thing, but when you play with that little pissed off edge a little bit it definitely gets things going. You and I talked about it.
Nick: Baseball is a game where you’re constantly managing emotion, and by that I mean it’s a game where if you’re a hitter failing 7 times out of 10 is considered very successful at what you’re doing. Those are hall of fame numbers. You’re always trying to stay on even keel. So it can be bad in a sense where you can get too pumped up, not be able to control your emotions, and then it affects your game, but I think it had that transverse reaction for both teams. I think both teams were able to take that emotion and kind of elevate their play because of it.
Andrew: Yeah. I agree. Again though, I think when you start to look at this batting order, Bader started to come on a little bit. I told you before I thought Buddy Reed’s starting to play a little bit better. Then when you look at, Florida almost has a lineup that is backwards, and I say that in 1, 2, 3 in Guthrie, Reed, and Martin are not power hitters. Then you start to go, 4, Tobias, 5, Alonso, 6, Schwarz, 7, Bader. It’s like bam, bam, bam, bang. It could be four straight home run guys coming up to the plate, and you’re not even talking about a guy like Vasquez who has power, a guy like Rivera who has power. So again I just think that this team has all of the pieces to go, but again Shore and Puk in my opinion just have to be consistent. When Shore and Puk are on they’re unhittable. They’re unhittable.
Nick: Touch on the lineup real quick. Obviously Sunday in the championship game you get a little different lineup, because Dalton Guthrie’s wrist injury they held him out of the game Sunday. They held him out of practice today, but Sully expects that he’ll be back in the lineup. Credit to him, he played in every single game save for the SEC tournament and led off as a freshman. I think the lineup that you’ll see is Guthrie, Reed, Martin, Tobias, and right there Richie has some pop, but you’re not going to get a lot of home run production from Guthrie and Reed. From Guthrie and Reed you are getting speed. You also have speed from Martin. Tobias gives you some power, more speed.
Then you get into Pete Alonso, JJ Schwarz, Harrison Bader. You’ve got 27 home runs between Schwarz and Bader. That’s more than the team had last year combined. Then like you said, Mike Rivera. It just seems like there is no situation too big for Rivera. Almost so that he hits better with two outs, or he hits better with runners in scoring position and two outs than he does if he were to lead off an inning. He’s hitting ninth, so you have your nine hole hitter hits a home run off the number one team in the country in the SEC tournament semi-final game in the 9th inning, to put you into Sunday. So that’s your ninth hitter.
There’s really no easy out. The thing with there being no easy out, the key to that is like you said, is Harrison Bader. Harrison Bader is hitting under 100 against SEC teams on the road. He is almost 380. Hitting 379 against SEC teams at home. To put Bader into the middle of that lineup, he’s hit everywhere from first to seventh in the lineup, but to put him in the middle of the lineup and let him, and Florida’s national seed, so the next time they won’t play at McKethan would be if they get to Omaha. To put someone who’s hitting 380 back in the middle of that lineup after Florida watched him kind of struggle on the road, to put him back into there, pick your poison if you’re an opposing pitcher, you know. I don’t know if you’re intentionally walking anybody to try to pitch to somebody else.
Then like you said, Shore and Puk have been light’s out. Shore’s record doesn’t reflect that, how well he’s pitched, because of the run support he’s gotten, or lack of run support that he’s gotten, but those two guys have been light’s out. If they pitch the way they did in the SEC tournament and the way they’ve pitched this past month, Florida’s going to be a very tough team to beat, and part of the draw that you mentioned earlier that they got, last year was like Murderer’s Row. College of Charleston was a four seed, are you kidding me? Florida State struggled with College of Charleston this year.
So Florida get FAMU, a game that they were supposed to play I think back in April, it was rained out. FAMU is not very good. They’re under 500. They’re in here because they won the MEAC tournament. Having them as your opening game is going to allow you to throw an Alex Faedo or a Dane Dunning or an Eric Hanhold on Friday night, and then you only have to win two more games. So you’ve got Shore and Puk to throw on the weekend, throw Friday, Saturday, or Sunday if you need you have somebody else throw. Then that sets you up for a super-regional. So Florida has a much better draw this year than they did last year. They don’t have to really throw their ace on Friday like they had to last year.
Andrew: Yeah. The only thing that I’ll say is Florida and Florida State both were terribly cheated in the super-regional, and I say that because those two schools played each other three times. I mean, let’s mix it up a little.
Nick: That’s the NCAA tournament people.
Andrew: It is the NCAA.
Nick: If Miami wasn’t a national seed and Florida State was a national seed, Florida and Miami would be racked up. They always try to keep all these, and you look at Florida’s regional. You’ve got three teams in the regional that were all on Florida’s schedule. They didn’t play FAMU because of the rain out, but they played USF twice, and they played FAU already. So a lot of familiarity.
Andrew: I’m just, I’m all for mixing it up. I’m not going to say that Florida State is a team that is going to kill Florida. I’m not going to say that at all. I just think that how nice would it have been to have three Florida schools go to the World Series? It is what it is.
To kind of change a little bit here. Girls are headed to the World Series.
Andrew: My lucky charm, two straight years. They’re rolling. I told you the other day. Florida’s the only team in the country that has not given up a run in post season ball. Five games, Florida’s given up zero. Absolutely nothing.
Nick: You know, for me, I don’t watch a ton of softball, but to me watching their reaction after they won the super-regional was kind of just like it looked like they had just won the second game in a season. It was kind of like, all right, good job. Did what we were supposed to do. Now let’s go start our real season. It seems to me, from an outside perspective, and not covering the games like you do, that Florida was kind of just biding time. We’re going to get through our regular season. We’re going to pile up a bunch of wins, and then when we get to Oklahoma City that is when our real season starts. They seemed almost unaffected, not even very happy about the win. Of course you get your girl, Lauren Haeger, gets the ice bath on camera, but other than that it seemed kind of just like another win, just another notch on their belt.
Andrew: I think that’s a credit to Tim Walton in that, you know, you never want to say Oklahoma City it’s Oklahoma City or bust. You never want to say that, but when you and I talked about it was Oklahoma City or bust. I’m sure the girls knew it was Oklahoma City or bust. So I think getting back there was that, but to me what is cool is Florida’s already in Oklahoma City. Walton put them on a charter yesterday morning and took them to Oklahoma City and said, it’s business time. That goes back to your point of it’s Oklahoma City now, and it’s time to go out there, and it’s time to make or break your season.
Florida will have, I don’t want to say an easier draw, but they have three SEC teams on their side of the bracket, so they maybe can go back to some scouting reports. They have Tennessee this weekend, who eliminated them from the SEC championship game. That’s their first game, and then potentially a matchup with LSU. LSU a school that took 2 out of 3 from Florida in Gainesville. So it’ll be tough, but I think that right now the team is hitting its strides, and Lauren Haeger is dominating. Ocasio’s dominating. The pitching staff is doing really well.
Hitting’s coming along. You hear people say they’re not putting up 10 runs a game. Well, yeah, they’re not putting up 10 runs a game, but they’re putting up 4, and they’re not giving up any. I’ll take that any day of the week.
Nick: Yeah. I think we were both talking about it during the LSU baseball game, which by the way that was, regardless of the outcome, I know we’re all Gator fans here, and we’re happy that Florida won. Even if Florida had lost that game, I texted Andrew. I said, what a game. That’s how baseball should be played, and it was a pitcher’s duel. Part of what, I’ll bring this back into Florida softball, is great pitching beats great hitting every time. So if you have someone like Lauren Haeger on the mound throwing up zeros, the offense can afford to score only one or only two runs. It does put a little bit more pressure on the pitcher, but Florida’s pitching staff has really shown. They have a bunch of girls that have really shown that they can handle that pressure, and they can put zeros up on the board consistently.
Andrew: Yeah. It kind of goes back to baseball a little bit. This girls’ softball team plays great defense, and we all know don’t give extra outs in post season ball, you like your chances. That’s where this team is. Again, you’re going to go against some teams that are very good, but here’s the thing. Florida’s going against LSU. They’ve played them. Against Tennessee. They’ve played them. Auburn, they have not played Auburn yet.
Nick: Is this the Women’s College World Series, or is the SEC tournament part two? It seems like it’s just an extension of the SEC tournament with a couple other teams thrown in.
Andrew: Exactly. You start to look at the eight teams that are there. It’s Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, and UCLA. Florida has played everybody except for UCLA and put a W against everybody except, excuse me, except for Auburn and UCLA. So if you’re Florida you go in there kind of licking your chops a little bit, like okay. Oregon’s number two. We’ve got two wins against them. Michigan’s number three. We got two wins against them. LSU’s number four, okay. So you start to go in there with that little bit of momentum.
I don’t want to say that I think Florida goes in there and dominates, but I do really think that Florida goes in there, takes care of business first couple of games, and then I really want to see a Florida, Auburn or a Florida, LSU matchup in the College World Series Championship Finale, just because I think it’s the best two teams in the country. I don’t think Oregon and Michigan are the best two teams in the country. The best two teams in the country are coming from the SEC.
Nick: I love the approach, you just mentioned how all of those out of conference teams that a softball team has played. I love the approach that Tim Walton and Kevin O’Sullivan, an approachability Donovan had in the past as well. It’s like, we’re going to play as touch an out of conference schedule as we can, because if we want to accomplish our goals, and every year the goal for these teams is to win a championship. If we want to accomplish our goals these are the teams we’re going to have to play. We might as well play them. Get it out of the way. Feel these other teams out. So I think when you get to this point in the season it really starts to pay benefits.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean you’re not scared. You’re not shocked at it at all. Even with baseball, going back to baseball a little bit as we finish this up. You go through the SEC tournament, and you do take that first lost, but if you’re Kevin O’Sullivan you got to sit here and think back, and you’re like I got a team that doesn’t quit. I got arms that don’t quit. I got hitters that don’t quit. You’ve got to like that approach, and that’s even with Tim Walton and the softball team. It’s tough to be number one at the pre-season and finish the season number one heading into the World Series. So I give props to both of those guys. Yeah. I think it’s good.
Before we finish this, Nick, we got a little bit of football news to touch on a little bit. Daniel, I’m a baby, is supposed…
Nick: You’re terrible with names. Daniel Imatorbhebhe.
Andrew: I call him I’m a baby. Anyway, so Imatorbhebhe, whatever you want to call him. As Coach Mac says, Bhebhe, is transferring out of Florida. I guess I’m a little shocked that he left so soon, but at the same time I’m not exactly shocked. I think that once he game down, noticed his brother was going west coast. They’re from the west coast. He kind of got on campus a little bit, seen that there’s some guys that can play ball at Florida. So I’m not exactly shocked. Nick.
Nick: From seeing the brief parts of spring that we were able to see, I would put, obviously, Jake McGee as your number one guy. I think C’yontai Lewis falls in maybe a little bit ahead of DeAndre Goolsby. Of the other guys, I think Imatorbhebhe that had a chance to be that second, third guy. He was much faster, much bigger, than I expected him to be. Really received the ball well. Had good hands, and obviously needed to work on blocking, but all of Florida’s tight ends need to work on blocking. I think if you look at the other guys like [Nuchie] or Camrin Knight, Moral Stephens, I think Imatorbhebhe’s already better than them. They’ve had a year on campus.
It’s surprising to me. If someone tries to say it’s from a depth chart perspective, if it’s because he didn’t see playing time, I don’t buy that. I think it might have been something family ties. His brother deciding to go to USC last week, something along those lines. I know he and his brother are very close. I’m not buying the playing time, because I think that his skill set was something that McElwain could have used, and I feel like he would have jumped ahead of at least two of those five guys, and then Jake McGee’s gone. So then he’s then competing for a starting spot as either a redshirt freshman or a sophomore.
Andrew: Yeah. Let me start by saying that I’m not trying to bash Daniel. I don’t know all the details that went into this, but for me it’s a little disheartening to hear it, because I had interviewed Daniel. We’ve all heard Daniel talk, and I don’t want to say Daniel talked a big game, but he definitely said, I’m committed to Florida. Once I commit somewhere I’m there. He recruits all these guys to come to Florida, and then boom, he’s gone. I don’t want to say that Florida’s better off without Daniel, don’t get me wrong on saying that, but to me I start to see some character issues there. Again, is Florida going to die from having him transfer? No. It’s a position they could have lost somebody at, but for me it starts to boil over a little bit on character. Maybe Florida does get the better end of this deal. If a guy is willing to quit this easy, then it’s maybe not a guy that can fit Mac’s terms.
Nick: I don’t put him in the same category as I put Leon Orr, who quite literally quit in the middle of the season. There’s so many factors that could go into it, so you definitely have more of a relationship with him than I did. He’s a freshman, so I don’t get to talk to him and really didn’t cover his recruitment. There’s so many factors that could go into it, being homesick. I went to college, and I transferred. I wasn’t a great athlete, so nobody really paid attention to it, but there’s so many reasons why a kid as a freshman can go, and you forget, he’s already been here for basically a full semester. A full semester plus, because he’s an early enrollee, so he did the spring. He’s been here for most of the summer. Maybe he just got here, and it wasn’t like the visit. When you’re on a recruiting visit you’re walking on a red carpet, and everyone is catering to your every need. Once you sign the letter of intent you’re just another student athlete.
Andrew: Agreed. We don’t know all the deals. Again, it’s a position that if Florida was going to lose somebody it’s better that it was at tight end position than it was the offensive line position.
Nick: How about that? We can actually say that though.
Andrew: Yeah. We actually can say that. Thank goodness. Nick, we’re kind of running out of time here. Oklahoma City is coming up. The road to Omaha starts on Friday. So I think you and I might have some good things to talk about here next week. Any final thoughts before we sign this bad boy off?
Nick: No. Looking forward to some post season. Oh, real quick note, Mike Slive, the last trophy he handed out, because he will be retiring. The last trophy he handed out was to the Florida Gators baseball team.
Andrew: I read on Twitter that Florida was the first he gave out to the volleyball team in 2003. That’s pretty interesting as well. I think I speak for you, Nick, as well. We’ve both had the opportunity to shake hands with Mike Slive. Great guy. Very good to the media, and wish him the best in his recovery and his retirement life.
Nick: Absolutely. Wish him the best of health and enjoy some time off.
Andrew: That’s all for myself. Nick, say your magic words, and we’ll sign this boy off.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.
Andrew: Stay tuned, Gator Country.