The collective eye of the sports world has gone mad. It’s March, so the NCAA Tournament is in full swing and the Florida men’s basketball team is in the midst of a magical run comprising of 31-consecutive wins and a berth in the Final Four.
The four Florida seniors finally breaking through their Elite Eight wall has captivated not just Gator fans, but the entire country. The national media has woken up to the senior laden team from Gainesville that bucks the trend of one-and-done in college basketball and are just two games away from the ultimate goal.
Quietly — other than a benches clearing brawl involving the Heisman trophy winner — Kevin O’Sullivan and the Gators baseball team (19-9, 6-3 SEC) have been putting together a run of their own. The baseball team has won 13 of their last 16 games, including a 4-0 week against No. 1 FSU and No. 4 LSU.
“I’m pleased by how we played. It was a great weekend for us, a great week for us,” O’Sullivan said Sunday afternoon. “I thought Tuesday [vs. FSU] was another game, a whole new game with a totally different story to it. We’re pleased with how we played this weekend, [we] want them to enjoy it, but I’m hoping that we’re professional enough and mature enough to handle this weekend.”
The win vaulted Florida back into the Perfect Game top-25 (coming in at No. 24), a place where they hadn’t been since the first week of March.
Florida and LSU were rained out on Friday night, forcing the teams to play a double-header on Saturday. It’s far from ideal conditions to play a SEC series but baseball is subject to Mother Nature and the teams made the best of the situation.
Florida ripped off two wins on Saturday to take the series behind two stellar starting pitching performances. Eric Hanhold threw 7.1 innings of one-run baseball to lead Florida past LSU ace Aaron Nola. Justin Shafer’s solo blast in the bottom of the ninth with two outs walked the Gators off in style.
The fun was just getting started, however, and freshman Logan Shore took the mound for game two. Shore would not be outdone, hurling 8.2 innings of two-run baseball, giving way to Bobby Poyner with just one out left in the game to earn the save.
After pitching duels on Saturday, the bats would take over for the series finale. Florida took the game by a score of 11-7 and are now riding high with Florida Atlantic coming in the week before a trip to No. 20 Kentucky.
Player of the Week
Shafer threw four shutout innings against No. 1 FSU on Tuesday night to start his week. Shafer struggled on the mound in his second start of the week on Sunday against LSU but his bat made up for it.
Shafer — who has been struggling at the dish, broke out this week. He finished the week batting 4-9 (.444) while leading the team with six runs and six walks. His first homerun of the year came off of the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year in Aaron Nola and clinched the first win of the series.
Pitchers of the Week
Eric Hanhold, (7.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)
Hanhold was tasked with facing the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year and he didn’t disappoint. Hanhold threw a gem, working into the eighth inning and held LSU to just one run. Hanhold is new to the rotation but performances like this will ensure he finds a home in the weekend rotation.
Logan Shore, (8.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)
The freshman from Coon Rapids, Minnesota continues to amaze. Shore’s near-complete game against LSU might be the most impressive outing of his young career. He’s cemented his place in the weekend rotation.
Batter of the Week
John Sternagel, (4-12 (.333) 5 RBI)
Sternagel got a chance to start this week and the freshman did not disappoint. He led the team in batting, while driving in the first RBI of his career against FSU and finished the week with five runs batted in. Sternagel played a perfect third base and his play this week will likely garner him more playing time as he continues to platoon with Josh Tobias.