When the Gators broke from their team huddle and trudged back to the locker room after a 3-2 loss to Miami on Friday night, the prevailing thought was “how much worse will it get for this team?”
Losers of six straight, Florida looked like a team who would struggle all season to replace the power and experience from last year’s roster.
However, after taking the Miami series with a hard fought 6-3 victory on Sunday afternoon, a more appropriate query may be if this weekend was a turning point for the young group of Gators.
“I hope so,” O’Sullivan replied when asked if this weekend could potentially redirect the Gators’ season trajectory.
“People always say you learn from mistakes, but as far as we’re concerned, winning feels a lot better than losing.”
The Gators used a four-run third inning to effectively put the game away. With the game tied at one, Richie Martin led off the inning with a double to left field, and eventually scored on an errant pick-off attempt by UM pitcher Andrew Suarez.
With Casey Turgeon and Zack Powers on base after drawing walks, Taylor Gushue would notch his fourth RBI of the series, bringing Turgeon home on a sac fly. A Vickash Ramjit single would bring home Powers, while Ramjit himself would score from first after a Harrison Bader triple.
With a moderately sized lead, the Gators turned to their bullpen to keep the Hurricanes at bay.
Eric Hanhold had a solid start, going 4.1 innings, but it was Jay Carmichael who would earn the win out of the pen.
Carmichael had an excellent outing on Friday, but a run given up in the ninth netted him his first loss of the season. Intent to avenge the outing, Carmichael threw two scoreless innings, retiring six of nine batters faced.
While Florida’s bats had been quiet prior to this weekend, the Gators showed signs of life on Saturday and Sunday, scoring a combined 12 runs. Both Martin and Justin Shafer are presently riding 10-game hitting streaks, with Shafer notching three hits on Sunday.
Martin left the game during his third at bat, after enduring a ball to his hand. O’Sullivan said after the game that the team is unsure of Martin’s status, and that he will be reevaluated on Monday.
The upcoming week is a busy one for the Gators, as they will play five games in seven days. While the Gators’ collective bats have been more active, it was the Florida bullpen that really stood out over the weekend. While Florida will need all arms on deck this week, the pressure will be on those who haven’t thrown as much this season to produce.
“We’ve used our bullpen pretty extensively,” O’Sullivan said. “Harris and Carmichael; we need some other guys to step up … Danny Young, [Parker] Danciu, Corey Stump, Mike Vinson, [Justin] Shafer … we got 18 innings in front of us on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they need to step up. We can’t be throwing the same guys over and over.”
O’Sullivan said he’s not sure who will be starting on Tuesday, laughingly saying he just wants to “enjoy this one.”
What the series win will ultimately do for Florida is to be determined, but Shafer said the back-to-back wins are definitely a confidence boost.
“Those were a great two wins,” Shafer said. “To take the series against a great Miami team; they hadn’t lost all year, so that’s big for us.
“Just like losing is contagious, so is winning … we got five games this week, so hopefully we can keep it rolling.”