O’Sullivan sounds off

Saturday, March 8th, 2008. It was an awful day for Florida baseball. Their worst yet under first year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. They couldn’t hit the baseball.

Even the most routine plays were an adventure at times defensively. And the pitching was disastrous. Making matters worse was that Florida’s collapse was not a single game head scratcher. No, it was through 15 miserable innings of a wintery weekend double header.

There were two positives about this day- it didn’t occur during conference play and they finally found a way to rally and win the finale 8-7 over a Brown team that the Gators made look like the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

Not to totally take anything away from Brown University. They effectively did what they wanted to do.  The Bears pitching staff located their pitches well and did a pretty good job of keeping the ball down. The problem was that just as they have the past two years, Florida didn’t adjust.

How can you not get up for a doubleheader after just ten games into the season?  Is there any pride in your clubhouse? Is there any pride in your school? Where was the leadership on this squad?

Perhaps the Gators were preparing for their break after the Southeastern Conference Tournament. You know, the one when the nation’s best baseball teams are preparing for NCAA Regional play.

If this becomes an occasional outing, this team would be doing well to make the conference tourney.

Gators, your lack of effort was embarrassing. Embarrassing to the support staff who work to make the Florida baseball experience a positive one. Embarrassing to their coaches, who these very players have told us have been there for them from morning until night. Embarrassing to the fans who braved the windy, frigid temperatures after paying for the ticket to support them.

If the team leaders don’t get off their collective behinds- Florida will once again be an afterthought in college baseball. 

“We came out in the first game and just weren’t ourselves, came out tired and lazy,” freshman Josh Adams said. “We went into the clubhouse and got a little fired up in there with some good words from the coaches. We came out and played the second game with a little bit of heart and showed what we’re made of and we’ll come out tomorrow and see if we can close the series out…It’s one of those games that we didn’t swing the bats well.”

O’Sullivan wasn’t as forgiving.

“Today wasn’t good,” O’Sullivan said in his post game commentary. “I’m disappointed. We addressed the kids right after batting practice. We took a poor round of BP. We looked like we were dragging. We talked to them, tried to motivate them to get them going and then we took a bad round of infield/outfield and it carried right into the game. We’re going to address a few things, but the way that we played today, that’s not acceptable.”

“It’s not acceptable,” he added. “Intensity wise, honestly their kids (Brown) deserved to win both ballgames. We didn’t deserve to win that one at the end. Luckily for us, Clint (Franklin) came in and did a nice job for us.  But, we had poor at bats all day, we didn’t make adjustments. They threw balls all day on the outer half an we kept trying to pull balls. Every time we’d get a little momentum we’d fall behind on the leadoff hitter, pitching wise. Today was not a good day. We’re lucky to get out of here with a win to be honest with you.”

He’s right. Florida slept-walked through the doubleheader, only bothering to lift their heads up when the scoreboard displayed the seventh inning of game two. I suppose that a winning percentage of fifty percent is perfectly acceptable for team that has failed to make the NCAA Regionals the past two years and is more focused on wishing they were partying with their frinds and classmates during spring break in Key West, Daytona Beach, Clearwater, or Panama City Beach.

The Brown hitters pounded out 24 hits and scored 18 runs on the day. The Bears hit .307 on the day. The only positive was the performance of reliever Clint Franklin, who threw four scoreless innings in the nightcap, allowing only three hits and walked none. 

“We didn’t pitch good today,” O’Sullivan stated. “We pitched from behind. (Patrick) Keating was dropping his elbow. He does that against left-handers. He’s got to learn to keep his elbow up. That’s why we went to Locke so quick. Then (Stephen) Locke wasn’t sharp. He was sharp down in Miami, then he wasn’t sharp today. We have to find a level of consistency. If you don’t have consistent guys out of the pen and your pitchers aren’t consistent, it’s really hard to make pitching decisions on when to go to the pen. He comes out like I said off a great outing against Miami and then threw really well mid-week, and he needed to throw the ball well today, but it just wasn’t his day. But, for everybody, we need to find a level of consistency. How do you make pitching changes when your kids aren’t consistent?”

O’Sullivan was asked if the Gators perhaps merely overlooked Brown?

“This team will not overlook anybody,” he said. “We’re not that good. We’re not going to overlook anybody. Quite frankly, they (Brown) did something that we didn’t last year- they went to a regional. This team did not go to a regional and that was brought up. These kids were ready to go. And it’s our job as coaches to make sure they’re ready to go every day. We did that. We addressed (them) after BP. I don’t know. We’ll have to find another way to get them going, but we’ll find that way. Trust me, we’ll find that way.”

Offensively, Florida was awful. Collectively, they hit .264 on the day. That’s Bernie Carbo good. Who’s that some may ask? Exactly. The Gators looked like a team full of George Castanzas taking a few hacks while blindfolded.

The lone bright spots were few. Avery Barnes, who was the only hitter to hit better than .428 (3 for 5) on the day. Designated hitter Bryson Barber went 2 for 3 in the second game. He did not play in the opener. Adams and shortstop Cole Figueroa went 3 for 7 on the day. The only other positive watching struggling third baseman Jon Townsend pick things up in game two and go 2 for 3 in the game. Everybody else stunk. 

“The whole thing is the game is played on the outer half of the plate,” O’Sullivan explained. “It is in college baseball. If you can’t handle the outer half of the plate as a hitter, you’re going to struggle. You can’t keep trying to pull. That’s just the way it is. And they did that for eighteen innings today. Away, away, away, away, away, away. There wasn’t a single fastball on the inner half of the plate, but yet we’re still trying to pull. We’ve got to be better in making adjustments. It’s as simple as that. Simple. You can’t wait until the seventh or eighth inning, by that time it’s too late. You have to make it sooner than that, so you have a chance to get back into the ballgame.”

Defensively, the Gators committed seven errors. Many of those were on balls that should have been routine. Uncharacteristically, Figueroa committed three of those in the first game. Senior Brandon McArthur committed two in the nightcap. 

Remember these words by Josh Adams:

“To say the least, we got fired up after our conversation in the clubhouse…There were a lot of errors. We just tired and weren’t focused on what we needed to do today. We were all just lazy and weren’t ready to be out here.”

Sully and his staff sensed it and despite trying to right the wrong, the players didn’t receive the message. How pathetic. With the University of Florida celebrating spring break, the Gators coaches will have unlimited availability with the players. And they need it.

“We addressed them (after BP),” O’Sullivan stated once more. “We took them off the field, went into the dugout, and we talked to them. But, for some reason it just didn’t register. I don’t know why? We’ll find another way though. That’s a coach’s job, to sense when their club is not ready to go and they’re a little sluggish and to address it.  How you get your point across, that’s the magic question? That one didn’t work today. We’ll find another way. We’ll figure it out.”

The Florida baseball team went through the motions on Saturday- pretending they are a competitive Southeastern Conference team excited to for the opportunity to play for an Eastern Division title, SEC Tournament berth, and NCAA Tournament berth. Please. That’s hardly the case. Don’t lay this one at the coaches’ feet. Just as I mentioned in my Friday column, the Florida coaches have done what they’re supposed to do and are working to put these kids in a position to win. But, how do you accomplish that when they foolishly, stubbornly refuse to listen? No, Saturday, March 8th belongs squarely on the shoulders of the players with poor leadership and a misguided concept of “team” who were too preoccupied to give a damn.