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    Kevin O'Sullivan meets with catcher Mike Rivera and starting pitcher Logan Shore during a win over Auburn / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

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Written by Andrew Spivey, February 26, 2016, 1 Comment,
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This GatorCountry podcast previews the Florida Gators softball and baseball teams as they have tough games this weekend on the road.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre also discuss Jim Harbaugh and Michigan having spring ball in Florida, plus we discuss the recent allegations against Butch Jones and Tennessee.

Andrew and Nick preview the Florida Gators basketball game on the road against LSU on Saturday, plus we talk much more on this Gators podcast.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? This is your man, Andrew Spivey, here with my man, Nicholas de la Torre. What’s up, Nicholas?

Nick:                         What is going on? We got a big weekend full of Gator sports, basketball, softball, baseball, and there’s a little golf. We’re not going to be covering that, but the Gator Invitational is this weekend, I believe, too.

Andrew:                 Maybe I can go pick up some lessons out there, little golf lessons. I don’t know. Is the next Billy Horschel out there? Maybe so. What’s up, Billy, if you’re listening. Maybe do well at the Honda Classic this week in Orlando. Baseball and softball for sure. Softball is going to be running late this week. You guys are listening to this on Friday, and on Thursday night the Gators play #10 UCLA and North Carolina State, and then Friday, when you guys are listening to this, they’re going to play Washington, the #8 team in the country, who also received a first place vote this week. With a loss they’ve received a first place vote this week. Don’t ask me how. Then baseball goes down to Coral Gables this weekend. Should be a big series out there in Miami.

Nick:                         Yeah. #1 versus #6. Both teams struggled a little bit on Wednesday. We’ll get into Florida’s struggling a little bit later on, but Miami hosted St. Thomas University. Needed to go 10 innings to come back and get a win there. It’s #1 versus #6. I think Florida probably is more true to that ranking than Miami’s #6. I’m not sure if Miami is the sixth best team in the country. They will be missing some players this week as well, but it’s a rivalry game. We talk about this with football. Kind of throw conventional wisdom out of the window in a rivalry game, because of the emotion and everything else that comes along with it. It should be a good game. It is packed. I know my dad, who lives down in south Florida, had to get tickets for it, and there were only general admission left. So I’m expecting a packed crowd down there at the light.

Andrew:                 Should be a good one. The last game I remember down there was, who was it that hit it out there in the parking garage two years ago?

Nick:                         Two years ago I’m not sure. I was covering the team then, but I can’t remember. That was the lost season.

Andrew:                 It was. It wasn’t Bader. I’m trying to think of who it was that hit it out there in the parking garage. That’s the one I remember. It should be a good weekend for that. Basketball, must win against LSU this weekend. I mean, I don’t want to say if they lose they’re out, but if they lose it’s definitely becoming harder and harder to get into the tournament, and the good thing is LSU is without its second leading scorer. So shutting down Ben Simmons isn’t going to be easy, but if you let Ben Simmons get his maybe you can find a way to come out with a win.

Nick:                         I think Florida really needs to win two of the final three. You’re looking at road games at LSU, at Missouri, and then a home game against Kentucky. I think Florida needs to win two of three to make the tournament. What’s interesting is, if that doesn’t happen, the O’Connell Center renovations start the day after Florida has Senior Night against Kentucky. So they would likely need to, if they were going to get an NIT bid, they likely have to accept as a road team, and my understanding is that Florida would more likely than not accept as a road team, because the University of Florida just can’t afford to go two years. They can’t afford to go two years without playing in the post-season. So it’ll be interesting.

I think the way LSU’s been playing this is a winnable game Saturday. Certainly the way Missouri has played this entire year it’s a winnable game, and then, obviously, Kentucky gave you the business up at their place. You’d like to return the favor, especially on Senior Night, but I think Florida has to win two of three. The way it is now you’ve just got to see what kind of fight do they have left? What are they made of?

Andrew:                 Yeah. You win two out of three, and then you’re probably looking at still probably needing at least one win in the SEC Tournament. You couldn’t go to the SEC Tournament in Nashville and gone one and done up there. You would probably need to at least get one victory up in Nashville. You know, we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. It depends on what team shows up on Saturday. If it’s a team that shows up that plays with high energy on the defensive end then Florida’s likely going to play really good ball. When it shows up with lackadaisical effort like they did against Vandy on Tuesday, then, quite frankly, they’re not going to play well, and that’s kind of where things go. It kind of was a fluke shot at the end of the half on Tuesday against Vanderbilt, but if Kasey Hill plays defense on that play and throws up a hand, or goes for a rebound, you’re looking at really a five point swing there. It’s a lot of things that go into it, and you and I have talked about it before. This team has to play hard, because they’re not talented enough to slouch off and play lazy.

Nick:                         I think for the most part I think that they do play with energy. It’s when the shots aren’t falling that’s when they really struggle, but you can say that about a lot of teams. I don’t really question the energy or the effort that Florida plays with, most of the time. I think 9 times out of 10 they’re going to show up the right way. They really, when you get into them not show up, it’s on the road, and now you’re talking about needing to win two of three, and two of those three are on the road. So that’ll be interesting to see. I think when you look at the roster, and you look at the record, what else did you expect this year from this team? It’s kind of what I expected. I don’t think they’ve really under performed. Maybe even at one point over performed to what their talent level, and to what the schedule is.

Andrew:                 Someone tweeted at me yesterday this. What would this team be with Michael Frasier? This team could be a whole lot different if they had a shooter like Michael Frasier that was able to hit the open three. This team could have been that team that was at the top of the SEC, or close, because at times it just seems like if they could get anyone to make a shot that the paint would open up a little bit more. When someone asked me that I really thought about it, and was like, yeah. This could be a whole lot different.

Nick:                         This team, we’ll see. Again, I think if you lose Saturday then I think that’s pretty much shot. Maybe you’re looking at an NIT bid. We’ll see what they do Saturday against the fighting Ben Simmons.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Let’s talk a little football here. It’s the off season, but you wouldn’t think it was the off season. There’s a lot of stuff going around. Let’s talk about Mr. Jim Harbaugh first off. He’s starting to piss some people off. Let’s just call it what it is. He’s starting to piss a lot of people off. He starts calling the SEC scared when the Commissioner came out and kind of talked about it being not fair. Then you go back to Wednesday, and he tweets at Kirby Smart, and he says, and I quote, “If the Georgia coach is implying any intent on our part to break rules, he’s barking up the wrong tree.”

Nick:                         That’s funny.

Andrew:                 What are you trying to do here, Jim? You’re going down to IMG. Of course you’re looking to break rules. You’re going to IMG for one thing, and one thing only, and that’s for recruiting purposes.

Nick:                         But he’s not breaking a rule. Should there be a rule? That’s kind of what the SEC is arguing, and right now the SEC won’t allow satellite camps in that way, but it’s like where would they want to go? Harbaugh wants to get his team out of the snow and out of Michigan, and then come down and be in the fertile recruiting grounds of the south. If I’m in the south, where am I going to go to run a camp? I’m certainly not going to Ann Arbor, Michigan to run a camp. I’m not going to leave central Florida to go to Michigan to run my spring practices. Maybe I go to California, but then are you going to pull out of California kids across the country? No, but Harbaugh might be able to get a Florida kid, and he has. Might be able to get a Florida kid to come up to Michigan.

Andrew:                 If Nick Saban takes his bandwagon to Louisiana or Texas, people are going to be bitching that they went there. If Nick Saban takes his Alabama program, or Florida takes their program, to Columbus, Ohio, Urban Meyer is going to be bitching. My thing is this, and this is the way I look at it. It’s several different things. It is cheating. It’s not a rule. It should be a rule. It’s cheating.

Nick:                         It’s not cheating, because it’s not breaking a rule.

Andrew:                 Right. But what I’m saying is it’s not fair. It’s not fair in any way, shape, or form. Florida has a resource of the nice weather. That’s a draw for Florida. My thing is this. What are they showing these kids, because they’re showing them their team, but they’re not getting them on campus. They’re not showing campus life. They’re not actually having a kid fly up to Ann Arbor to show that. Then, if I’m a Michigan student or a Michigan reporter, anybody like that, I’m pissed off. I mean, they’re representing the University of Michigan. It should be at Ann Arbor, not at IMG Academy down in Bradenton, Florida. I think it’s bad on both ends, but it is not fair. It is definitely a recruiting advantage, and it’s stupid.

Nick:                         You’ve never been to Ann Arbor in February and March, because if you had been, you would not say that it’s a bad deal for people covering the team, because if you’ve been to Ann Arbor in March you’d love to come down to Tampa. You can’t wait to get out of that snow.

Andrew:                 Some are, and some aren’t.

Nick:                         Here’s the thing. He’s not cheating, because it’s not a rule. Should there be a rule? Maybe. To me, there’s no incentive for teams in the SEC, or there’s no incentive for Florida to go anywhere else. Florida holding a camp in Louisiana is not going to make it easier for them.

Andrew:                 How is it fair for Michigan to bring their satellite camp down to Bradenton, Florida? You know what I’m saying? It’s not fair. The school is not in Bradenton, Florida. The school is in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Recruit up there. Get the kids to come up there. You shouldn’t be allowed to bring your thing. Urban Meyer’s bringing a satellite camp to Jacksonville, and I’m almost okay with that, because he’s working players out. Michigan’s bringing the practice down here just to get kids to come watch their practice. That’s bologna. That’s bull crap. The NCAA shouldn’t allow it. They practice on campus.

Nick:                         They do. The NCAA does allow it.

Andrew:                 They shouldn’t. That’s another thing.

Nick:                         So then your gripe is not with Harbaugh. Your gripe is with the NCAA.

Andrew:                 My gripe is with both. It is.

Nick:                         There should be no gripe with Harbaugh, because Harbaugh is exploiting a system that’s broken. If Jim McElwain was exploiting a system that could play in Florida’s favor, and he did it, I would say good for him. Right now I’m saying, good for Harbaugh. I don’t agree that schools should be able to do it, but because they are allowed to do it, then good for Harbaugh. I don’t know why Mark Dantonio hasn’t done it. I don’t know why more coaches haven’t done it. If Harbaugh’s the first person to see, our weather sucks in February, let’s get out of that nonsense and go down to Florida where it’ll be 60 and sunny, 70 and sunny.

Andrew:                 If Florida does the same, people are bitching and raising hell that they’re taking their practice away.

Nick:                         People are bitching and raising hell about Michigan. To me, they’re not breaking a rule. They’re exploiting something that the NCAA is doing incorrectly, where there probably should be a rule, but they’re not breaking a rule. So to me, good for Harbaugh. Good for Urban. It’s on the NCAA to fix a problem if they see it as a problem.

Andrew:                 Yeah. My gripe is more with the NCAA, because the NCAA should fix that. Again, you’re representing the school. It’s not like it’s the freaking NFL camp where you have fans all over the place that wants to watch their team. Jim Harbaugh is doing this for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s for recruiting purposes. I think we can both agree right now that it should be changed. Are rules going to be followed to a T? No. Come on.

Nick:                         It’s kind of, well you can say when coaches have these summer camps that’s for recruiting. Everything in college football is in some roundabout way for recruiting.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Is Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan going to get an advantage by bringing their program down to IMG, which has kids from all across the country attending there? Four star, five star kids from all across the country. Are they going to get a recruiting advantage? Yeah.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing that makes, and I’m not okay with the camps. I don’t like it at all, but here’s an advantage that I do, here’s the thing. They’re working them out. It’s more about working those guys out, and it does help some underrated players get noticed. So I’m okay with it a little bit there, and they are working them out. Michigan’s bringing their football thing down here just to show off their team in front of everybody, and it’s like, your school’s 12 hours north. Get the kids to come up there, and get the hell out of Florida. That’s my thing.

Nick:                         No. Nope. I agree with Harbaugh.

Andrew:                 No. Here’s the thing. Jim’s doing what Jim has to do. It’s a recruiting advantage, and he’s doing what he has to do. You’re right. My gripe is more with the NCAA than it is with Michigan, because it’s like, what the hell are you doing, NCAA? They want to preach all the time student athlete. What the hell are these kids doing for seven days while they’re in Bradenton, Florida? it ain’t studying like they should be. Get this student athlete crap out of here if that’s what you’re going to come about. Don’t preach something if you’re not going to make people do it. Nick, is the quarterback at Michigan going to be really paying attention to his chemistry class when he’s got Jim Harbaugh looking over him ready for spring football?

Nick:                         No, probably not. Can we stop pretending that these coaches care about the student part of student athlete?

Andrew:                 I’m going back to what you’re saying with the NCAA. The NCAA wants to preach all the time about being a student athlete.

Nick:                         Can we stop pretending like the NCAA cares about the student part of student athlete?

Andrew:                 They bitch about it all the time. There you go.

Nick:                         Because it sounds good.

Andrew:                 Exactly. For a more serious matter though, let’s transition to my good buddy up in Knoxville.

Nick:                         Real quick, Michigan quarterback for next year is Houston transfer, John O’Korn, former St. Thomas Aquinas Raider, proud alum. Go Raiders.

Andrew:                 I was trying to think of his name. Let’s transition to my good buddy up in Knoxville, Butch Jones. He has got himself in a world of hurt right now. If the allegations against him are true, holy cow. It looks bad right now just that you’re getting blamed for that stuff, and Dave Hart, the AD, is doing himself no favors. It’s a mess up in Knoxville.

Nick:                         Yeah. Whenever a Florida player runs into a problem that the police are involved with it’s my job as a reporter to report what’s out there. So I always do that, and then I say, “Listen, this all sounds bad because a police report is one side of the story.” The old saying goes, there’s three stories. There’s his side, my side, and then the truth. That’s probably somewhere in between. Right now the allegations coming out are terrible, reprehensible, unforgivable. It’s only half the story, but if any of these allegations, not like let’s say there’s for allegations, and if the first two are true that’s okay, as long as the second two aren’t true. No. If any of these are true, changes will be and have to be made, and that means people losing jobs. It sounds like there’s a lack of institutional control, not just in the football program, but the entire Athletic Office, and maybe even the culture at the University of Tennessee. This stuff, covering up sexual assaults, covering up sexual harassment, calling a player a traitor for standing up for somebody who’s saying that they were sexually assaulted.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing. Even if it’s not true, what’s going on up there that your players are accusing of that? You know what I’m saying? The culture up there is not good if players are even accusing you of that. That’s not even saying I hate the coach, because he doesn’t like me. You’re basically saying the coach, I mean, you’re calling the coach a bad dude. You’re calling Butch Jones a bad dude that’s breaking the law by saying this. So even if the allegations aren’t true, things aren’t going well up there, because we do know that there was problems with sexual assault against women. I mean, that’s been talked about, proven right now. There’s just so much going on. Then Dave Hart missing a meeting that was called two weeks ago with all of the coaches and reporters, and he says he can’t get out of it, because he’s meeting with an attorney. You knew about it for two weeks. That just doesn’t look good when your AD doesn’t attend the meeting. If I was the basketball coach or anyone else there, I’m kind of upset that my boss isn’t there to handle the talking points and allegations.

Nick:                         It is kind of a mess.

Andrew:                 This is worse than FSU.

Nick:                         And this is coming on the heels of the Peyton Manning allegations. I think this new stuff, coupled with stuff back from the mid to late 90s with Peyton Manning, and now you’re starting to think, how long has this been going on? For me, I want to hear both sides, and then even after I hear both sides it’s such a touchy subject. I understand that fans want to pile on, but we’re talking about very serious allegations and people’s lives. For me, I kind of just defer. Let the legal system play out here, and hopefully the right thing is done. Honestly, I hope that the allegations are either overblown or untrue, because you’d like to think that somebody who is in the position that a college coach is would have better judgement, and that they wouldn’t put, it’s a star player that did this. I can’t afford to not have them play. Let’s cover up something as disturbing and as important as rape. To me, I hope it’s not true, just for the sake of not having to think that somebody that has a job at a public university would do something like this.

Andrew:                 That’s the thing. The victims are the ones that you worry about here. It’s not good on anything. Good grief. That’s not allegations you want to come against your program, no matter what.

Nick:                         No. Not at all. It’s serious, and when you have a press conference with every head coach, women’s and men’s sports, and your AD, you know that something serious is going on at your school.

Andrew:                 Exactly. That’s a little bit of the football news. Real quick, met with Torrian Gray today. Give us a quick rundown of anything that was newsworthy out of that.

Nick:                         Not too much newsworthy. He kind of tiptoed around the question of when Florida started talking to him. Obviously Coach Gray was announced the day after Signing Day, so obviously he kind of danced around that question. I would hope personally that he informed the secondary players that were going to Virginia Tech, “I’m not going to be here the day after Signing Day. I’m going somewhere else.”

Andrew:                 You say he shouldn’t pull a T Rob move and lie to a kid’s face the day before?

Nick:                         Nope. I don’t think he should do that. I keep saying, college football is a business, and the kids, the recruits, the student athletes, find it out at some point. Maybe it’s better to find it out sooner rather than later. I did kind of pull out of him Gray spent 10 years at Virginia Tech recruiting in the ACC, and I asked him, I said, “For a decade you’ve had to recruit in the state of Georgia and in the state of Florida as a coach at Virginia Tech, an ACC coach, and you had to put up with kids and recruit against kids that see the SEC and just want to play in the SEC. I’ll go to Vanderbilt and play, or I’ll go to Kentucky and play, just because they’re in the SEC. Is it nice to have that chip in your pocket now?” He said, “Yeah,” and talked a little bit about the Florida logo and what it means. I think the biggest thing to be said is that he left his alma mater after a decade, and it wasn’t for a promotion. I think that says a lot about how he feels about the University of Florida and the opportunity that he has.

Andrew:                 Exactly. We’ll see. Early reports are prospects are reacting well with him, and he’s working hard there. So far, so good. That’s kind of what I say. The thing a lot of kids say, I know a couple people has already said it, is he’s 100, and for all of you non social media people that means he’s straight up honest with them. When you coach some of the guys he’s coached, you can be honest with these guys. Let’s go to the diamond real quick. It’s a big weekend for softball and for baseball. Let’s start off with #1 baseball. Coral Gables this weekend. Give us a quick rundown. What are we looking at?

Nick:                         We’re looking at #1 versus #6 down in Coral Gables. Florida’s coming into the game. They needed a catcher’s interference to win a game last night against Eastern Michigan, taking that series sweep. Both teams, Miami and Florida, are coming into this game undefeated. So it’s a big game for the fans. I think it’s even more so a bigger game for the fans than it is for the teams themselves. It’s a non-conference game, or three non-conference games. It’s early in the season. Both teams are still figuring things out.

It’s big for momentum any time you’re playing in a rivalry series, but I think the biggest thing is for the fans this is an important series. We don’t get Florida and Miami in football very often, if ever. It’s nice to see any kind of in state rivalry. I love Florida Miami. Growing up down in that area I know that whenever Florida would come down in whatever sport, in tiddlywinks, it was a big talk. I’m excited for it. I’ll be down there at Mark Light. Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light field. Maybe A Rod will be down there, and it should be a good match up with Scott Woodrey, who got a win, left handed pitcher from Miami, got a win last year in Gainesville against Florida.

So it’ll be interesting to see how the Gators do against Miami. They looked a little like they were playing on their heels last night in their first true road game, and that wasn’t even with a hostile crowd. There are a lot of Florida fans down in south Florida, but it will be a much more hostile crowd in Miami than it was in Lakeland last night. Certainly much more hostile than it has been at McKethan Stadium.

Andrew:                 Yeah. It is definitely. A couple of freshmen, it seems like the Diaper Dandies of the diamond, softball and baseball, doing well. Couple come up big on Wednesday night for the Gators.

Nick:                         Deacon Liput is very good at baseball. He came into the game hitting 7 for 12, and then was 0 for 3 to start. Hits a gigantic two run triple in the eighth inning last night. That’s his second triple of the year. He’s leading Florida in average and RBIs and hits, as a freshman. Dalton Guthrie did not play last night, which is kind of significant. He suffered a little bit of an injury. Right now I think Florida expects him to play this weekend. It was kind of a precautionary thing. Get some more guys into the lineup. Right now the freshmen that I’m looking at are Liput, who’s hitting .500 on the year, 8 for 16, and after him it’s Jonathan India, who’s the other every day starter there. He’s only hitting .250, but did have a big hit last night. Nelson Maldonado’s another freshman getting some time. Not starting any, but getting some time. Picked up his first hit last night with a two RBI single to tie the game. Florida’s got freshmen. They’ve got sophomores. They’ve got juniors. They really don’t rely on any one class.

Andrew:                 That’s big. It’s big that they’re separated with that. I think the most surprising thing, we kind of talked about this with softball, is Kelsey Stewart’s struggling and JJ Schwarz, not struggling, but he and Buddy Reed aren’t producing kind of what we thought they would, and team still found a way to be 5-0 heading into a big weekend series.

Nick:                         I’m won’t say that JJ’s struggling quite yet. He’s only hitting .231.

Andrew:                 Struggling to what we thought he would do.

Nick:                         Yeah. Just 3 for 13, but he also has six walks, and really what’s happening is he has to be so patient. He’s not getting fast balls. He’s rarely getting strikes. To me, Buddy Reed is really struggling, and he’s only 5 of 19. Only earned three walks, and he struck out seven times. Not getting on base. Only a .391 on base percentage in the two hole. To me, that’s a problem.

Andrew:                 The strike outs is the biggest issue for me.

Nick:                         Seven strike outs. When you have more strike outs than hits you’re not doing something well. You are driving the struggle bus. Buddy needs to pick it up. He started slow last year. Everyone will remember, probably because I thought it was hilarious and kept mentioning it, Buddy struggled the very beginning of last year, then got glasses, and started hitting well. He’s wearing the glasses now, so that’s not an excuse.

Andrew:                 The thing with Buddy is this. When a guy with his tool set of being a guy that when he puts the ball in play is so fast, you want him to at least, you’d rather him be grounding out to shortstop, second base, third base, anywhere just putting pressure on the defense than striking out seven times. That’s something you’d rather not have.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Well, let’s go to softball. It’s going to be a big weekend out in Cali for the 11-0 Gators, who come in with the nation’s best fielding percentage on the year with .996. Only committed one error so far, and went six straight innings without an error. Good thing for the Gators. Quick look at the weekend, #10 UCLA, North Carolina State, #8 Washington, and then Nebraska and Utah, both teams that are pretty good on the year. Nebraska with just one loss, and that one loss is to NC State. Should be a good weekend for Florida. Freshman Amanda Lorenz, if Liput’s not doing the best for the freshman class in baseball, Lorenz is doing it in softball. .571 batting average. Just 12 RBIs and a team best 18 runs scored. Not too bad.

Nick:                         Not too bad at all. I’m interested to see what Barnhill does.

Andrew:                 Up and down has kind of been that.

Nick:                         It’s kind of a freshman thing. It’s confidence and everything is new. There are so many firsts when you’re a freshman, until the end of the year really.

Andrew:                 We’re saying she’s doing bad. She’s just 3-0.

Nick:                         What a wasted scholarship. What is Walton thinking?

Andrew:                 The thing for me with her is this, and you know if you’re familiar with the game. Overthrowing with somebody like Barnhill, who’s a power velocity pitcher, you can go through times where you’re overthrowing or trying to pinpoint your ball, and that’s where she’s struggling when she gets into trouble. It’s not that people are hitting her hard. It’s walks and wild pitches are really causing it. So that’s more of just a fundamental thing, a mental thing, more so than anything. It’s not like teams are hitting her hard or anything else. It’s just simply, like I say, that she’s overthrowing and allowing some walks, and she’s allowing one walk to lead to two and three walks. That’s something that Walton’s done a good job of not allowing her to get beat up and really torn down. He’s allowed her to kind of get in there and then get out when she’s struggling like that.

Nick:                         That’s an important thing, because in a game, it’s a little more so in baseball than softball, it’s still a game of failure though, and learning how to deal with that. Confidence comes into play, and when you have someone who’s as young as a Barnhill, or any freshman really, you’ve got to toe the line between they need to experience failure, because it’s going to happen, and they need to learn how to deal with it, and is this going to affect his or her confidence going forward? I think there’s a balancing act with that, and Walton is great at juggling that, as well as Sully. Both guys do a very good job of juggling that, because it is kind of a delicate balance.

Andrew:                 Yeah. The thing for Florida is this. You got Barnhill, but Delanie Gourley’s done really well this year. She still hasn’t allowed a run this year, perfect 4-0, including a nice bullpen coming in relief there. Then Aleshia Ocasio is 4-0 and doing really well with a no hitter under her belt. It’s a lot of going in that. The thing for Walt is this. You’ve got three really good ones. When it comes to SEC play, if he really has these three girls that are still pitching really well, that could be really good to have a different girl throw every day. That could be really good for Florida.

When you look at some of these teams they’re playing this weekend, UCLA, #10 in the country, they only throw two girls all year. When you look at Washington, they’re throwing two girls as well. They’re not mixing it up like Florida. Florida has three pitchers that are three different types of pitchers. Gourley from the left side, Ocasio with more of a change up style, and then Barnhill is just a strictly overpowering girl. That’s three difficult pitchers. It’s kind of like in baseball where you have a lefty going, and then you have a side arm guy going, and then you have an off speed pitcher from the right side going.

Nick:                         We’ve talked about it before. It’s not a typical softball team, and obviously they’re better than a lot of softball teams, but I don’t mean it like that. I mean, I think Walton’s baseball background really shows in the way he’s built this team. A lot of softball teams would get a Gourley or would get a Barnhill, and that’s our girl. Unless she’s tired, she’s throwing. The way that Walton has built the team is kind of like a baseball team. Florida this week are going to go down to Miami, and Logan Shore will throw Friday. A.J. Puk will throw Saturday, and Alex Faedo will throw Sunday. In a softball series Gourley might throw Friday, Saturday, and two games on Sunday. To me he’s kind of built his softball team like a baseball program, and it’s something that’s unique and definitely plays in Florida’s favor, a huge advantage.

Andrew:                 For sure. Quick shout out to Kelsey Stewart, 300 hit in her career last weekend. Don’t look now. She’s slowly coming back to form, and that’s really bad news for her opponents when she starts hitting, because she, a lot like Buddy Reed, has had a little of the strike out problems, the rolling over the ball problems. Like I said with Reed, she’s a girl you want to put the ball in play, because she’s going to put pressure on the defense, and she’s going to make the defense make mistakes, and her on base percentage is going to continue to rise as the season goes on. That’s something that I think will only get Florida to be better, and that’ll be more chances for a girl like Amanda Lorenz, who’s knocking the cover off the ball for this Gator team.

Nick:                         Let me put you on the spot.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Four games this weekend?

Andrew:                 They got five games this weekend.

Nick:                         Five games this weekend. What’s the record?

Andrew:                 5-0.

Nick:                         Gators go 5-0 this weekend out in California. Return home, that would make them what?

Andrew:                 16-0.

Nick:                         I’ve completely forgotten how many games they’ve played. I’m in baseball mode now.

Andrew:                 The thing is this. When you look at UCLA, they’re 7-3. They’ve lost to LSU and Texas A&M already. Florida’s better than both those teams. When you look at North Carolina, Florida crushed them in three game series last year. Look at Washington. They’ve already lost to A&M this year. These teams are good, but it’s like if Florida’s playing well, like you just said about the baseball team, if they’re not playing on their heels, if they’re playing their game. There’s a difference in playing not to lose. Nick, you know what I mean when I say that. If this team is going out there and just playing their game it’s going to be very tough to beat them. I don’t think it’s going to be in a one game set. I think it’s going to be one of these three game sets when they start SEC play that they lose a game or two or three, somewhere around in there that they lose it. Washington gives them the best matchup of this weekend, but, again, they lost to A&M, and A&M is a good team, but not a great team.

Nick:                         I am partial to the SEC when it comes to baseball and softball, but it will be a pretty packed week. We had a lot of people in our baseball thread last night, and it makes me happy that this team kind of gets the support, and obviously softball gets the support that they deserve after winning two national championships. It might have taken two national championships for them to get that support, but it makes me happy to see both softball and baseball kind of getting supported, even if it might only be our GC community that is supporting them.

Andrew:                 You need to get your baseball team with some rings, and then we’ll really support them.

Nick:                         I have zero capabilities of getting Kevin O’Sullivan and the baseball team a ring. If they get a ring it will not be because of me, and if they don’t it will also not be because of me.

Andrew:                 It was because of me that the Gators softball team has two. Tim Walton, send my ring on in the mail, because it’s there. Not long, and then we’ll be talking some spring ball. We’ll start diving into it a little bit next week. Shoot us any questions you have, and we’ll get onto that on next Tuesday, and then next Friday. We’ll talk a little of that, because then the next week is football time.

Nick:                         Yup. March 8th we’ll meet with Mac, and then March 9th the team will meet, and we will have great coverage throughout spring. It should be a fun time. Can’t wait to hear the pads start popping again, but until then California. What’s the tournament called again?

Andrew:                 I have no idea.

Nick:                         The California tournament, softball. Five games this weekend.

Andrew:                 The Cali Tourney. That’s what I kept calling it.

Nick:                         That works.

Andrew:                 It’s called the Mary Nutter. I don’t know who that’s named after.

Nick:                         It’s named after Mary Nutter.

Andrew:                 I guess so.

Nick:                         I don’t know who the Mary Nutter Invitational is named after. I think it’s named after Mary Nutter.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean I don’t know who Mary Nutter is. She could walk out in front of me, and I wouldn’t know who she was. Doesn’t ring a bell, but they’ve had three straight tournaments with her name out in Palm Springs, California. Gators are enjoying it. One good thing, Billy Donovan used to do this with his guys in basketball, take his seniors close to home, but Florida has nine players from California, and that’s awesome that Tim Walton’s able to get his girls out there.

Nick:                         That’s pretty cool. That’s not a quick trip. I found it interesting this year seeing some of the parents, players going up and talking to their parents after the baseball games this year, and I think that’s interesting. Then you forget someone like A.J. Puk, someone like Logan Shore, parents might come down for a game, but it’s a long trip. Bringing the kids out there, not only is it a fun trip for them to get out of Gainesville, it was cold in Gainesville on Thursday before I left. So get out of Gainesville, get in some nice California weather. Andrew will have all of your coverage. Nobody covers the team like Andrew. Nobody else is really covering the team. Gator Country is your spot for women’s softball and men’s baseball. Two big weekends for both teams.

Then, like Andrew said, next week we’ll break down what happened over the weekend, and then start getting into some football, because I know everyone is craving that as well. For everything you need this weekend, and always, it’s @NickdelaTorreGC on Twitter, @AndrewSpiveyGC. GatorCountry on Twitter. TheGatorCountry on Instagram, and Gator Country on Facebook. Make sure you’re following us all there. It’s good times right now in Gator land, they’re getting better, because football is coming back soon.

Andrew:                 Lacrosse moved up to #3 in the country after defeating #2 North Carolina. Swimming and diving men’s four straight SEC championships. Things are good. Nick, should I continue to pick on Butch in my closing, or should I take it easy on the guy?

Nick:                         Maybe take it easy. He’s got a lot going on right now.

Andrew:                 It’s alright. I can continue piling on. So, Butch and Mark Richt, you guys know the drill. As always, go Braves. Chomp, chomp.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

Andrew Spivey

About Andrew Spivey

Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.

  1. thedudeabide524February 27, 2016, 6:03 am

    The reason I think Harbaugh is cheating is because he is basically giving these kids a paid vacation to Florida during spring break. What if Florida turned around and set up practices in Cancun,Tahiti,or Cabo and took the whole team on vacation. People would be up in arms. It would help recruiting because they can tell players,”if you come to our school you’ll get to go on vacation every year for spring break. I don’t like this guy at all. Sleep overs with 17 year olds, bending rules to the limit,and he is just so obnoxious and arrogant. He is ruining college football.

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This GatorCountry podcast previews the Florida Gators softball and baseball teams as they have tough games this weekend on the road.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre also discuss Jim Harbaugh and Michigan having spring ball in Florida, plus we discuss the recent allegations against Butch Jones and Tennessee.

Andrew and Nick preview the Florida Gators basketball game on the road against LSU on Saturday, plus we talk much more on this Gators podcast.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? This is your man, Andrew Spivey, here with my man, Nicholas de la Torre. What’s up, Nicholas?

Nick:                         What is going on? We got a big weekend full of Gator sports, basketball, softball, baseball, and there’s a little golf. We’re not going to be covering that, but the Gator Invitational is this weekend, I believe, too.

Andrew:                 Maybe I can go pick up some lessons out there, little golf lessons. I don’t know. Is the next Billy Horschel out there? Maybe so. What’s up, Billy, if you’re listening. Maybe do well at the Honda Classic this week in Orlando. Baseball and softball for sure. Softball is going to be running late this week. You guys are listening to this on Friday, and on Thursday night the Gators play #10 UCLA and North Carolina State, and then Friday, when you guys are listening to this, they’re going to play Washington, the #8 team in the country, who also received a first place vote this week. With a loss they’ve received a first place vote this week. Don’t ask me how. Then baseball goes down to Coral Gables this weekend. Should be a big series out there in Miami.

Nick:                         Yeah. #1 versus #6. Both teams struggled a little bit on Wednesday. We’ll get into Florida’s struggling a little bit later on, but Miami hosted St. Thomas University. Needed to go 10 innings to come back and get a win there. It’s #1 versus #6. I think Florida probably is more true to that ranking than Miami’s #6. I’m not sure if Miami is the sixth best team in the country. They will be missing some players this week as well, but it’s a rivalry game. We talk about this with football. Kind of throw conventional wisdom out of the window in a rivalry game, because of the emotion and everything else that comes along with it. It should be a good game. It is packed. I know my dad, who lives down in south Florida, had to get tickets for it, and there were only general admission left. So I’m expecting a packed crowd down there at the light.

Andrew:                 Should be a good one. The last game I remember down there was, who was it that hit it out there in the parking garage two years ago?

Nick:                         Two years ago I’m not sure. I was covering the team then, but I can’t remember. That was the lost season.

Andrew:                 It was. It wasn’t Bader. I’m trying to think of who it was that hit it out there in the parking garage. That’s the one I remember. It should be a good weekend for that. Basketball, must win against LSU this weekend. I mean, I don’t want to say if they lose they’re out, but if they lose it’s definitely becoming harder and harder to get into the tournament, and the good thing is LSU is without its second leading scorer. So shutting down Ben Simmons isn’t going to be easy, but if you let Ben Simmons get his maybe you can find a way to come out with a win.

Nick:                         I think Florida really needs to win two of the final three. You’re looking at road games at LSU, at Missouri, and then a home game against Kentucky. I think Florida needs to win two of three to make the tournament. What’s interesting is, if that doesn’t happen, the O’Connell Center renovations start the day after Florida has Senior Night against Kentucky. So they would likely need to, if they were going to get an NIT bid, they likely have to accept as a road team, and my understanding is that Florida would more likely than not accept as a road team, because the University of Florida just can’t afford to go two years. They can’t afford to go two years without playing in the post-season. So it’ll be interesting.

I think the way LSU’s been playing this is a winnable game Saturday. Certainly the way Missouri has played this entire year it’s a winnable game, and then, obviously, Kentucky gave you the business up at their place. You’d like to return the favor, especially on Senior Night, but I think Florida has to win two of three. The way it is now you’ve just got to see what kind of fight do they have left? What are they made of?

Andrew:                 Yeah. You win two out of three, and then you’re probably looking at still probably needing at least one win in the SEC Tournament. You couldn’t go to the SEC Tournament in Nashville and gone one and done up there. You would probably need to at least get one victory up in Nashville. You know, we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. It depends on what team shows up on Saturday. If it’s a team that shows up that plays with high energy on the defensive end then Florida’s likely going to play really good ball. When it shows up with lackadaisical effort like they did against Vandy on Tuesday, then, quite frankly, they’re not going to play well, and that’s kind of where things go. It kind of was a fluke shot at the end of the half on Tuesday against Vanderbilt, but if Kasey Hill plays defense on that play and throws up a hand, or goes for a rebound, you’re looking at really a five point swing there. It’s a lot of things that go into it, and you and I have talked about it before. This team has to play hard, because they’re not talented enough to slouch off and play lazy.

Nick:                         I think for the most part I think that they do play with energy. It’s when the shots aren’t falling that’s when they really struggle, but you can say that about a lot of teams. I don’t really question the energy or the effort that Florida plays with, most of the time. I think 9 times out of 10 they’re going to show up the right way. They really, when you get into them not show up, it’s on the road, and now you’re talking about needing to win two of three, and two of those three are on the road. So that’ll be interesting to see. I think when you look at the roster, and you look at the record, what else did you expect this year from this team? It’s kind of what I expected. I don’t think they’ve really under performed. Maybe even at one point over performed to what their talent level, and to what the schedule is.

Andrew:                 Someone tweeted at me yesterday this. What would this team be with Michael Frasier? This team could be a whole lot different if they had a shooter like Michael Frasier that was able to hit the open three. This team could have been that team that was at the top of the SEC, or close, because at times it just seems like if they could get anyone to make a shot that the paint would open up a little bit more. When someone asked me that I really thought about it, and was like, yeah. This could be a whole lot different.

Nick:                         This team, we’ll see. Again, I think if you lose Saturday then I think that’s pretty much shot. Maybe you’re looking at an NIT bid. We’ll see what they do Saturday against the fighting Ben Simmons.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Let’s talk a little football here. It’s the off season, but you wouldn’t think it was the off season. There’s a lot of stuff going around. Let’s talk about Mr. Jim Harbaugh first off. He’s starting to piss some people off. Let’s just call it what it is. He’s starting to piss a lot of people off. He starts calling the SEC scared when the Commissioner came out and kind of talked about it being not fair. Then you go back to Wednesday, and he tweets at Kirby Smart, and he says, and I quote, “If the Georgia coach is implying any intent on our part to break rules, he’s barking up the wrong tree.”

Nick:                         That’s funny.

Andrew:                 What are you trying to do here, Jim? You’re going down to IMG. Of course you’re looking to break rules. You’re going to IMG for one thing, and one thing only, and that’s for recruiting purposes.

Nick:                         But he’s not breaking a rule. Should there be a rule? That’s kind of what the SEC is arguing, and right now the SEC won’t allow satellite camps in that way, but it’s like where would they want to go? Harbaugh wants to get his team out of the snow and out of Michigan, and then come down and be in the fertile recruiting grounds of the south. If I’m in the south, where am I going to go to run a camp? I’m certainly not going to Ann Arbor, Michigan to run a camp. I’m not going to leave central Florida to go to Michigan to run my spring practices. Maybe I go to California, but then are you going to pull out of California kids across the country? No, but Harbaugh might be able to get a Florida kid, and he has. Might be able to get a Florida kid to come up to Michigan.

Andrew:                 If Nick Saban takes his bandwagon to Louisiana or Texas, people are going to be bitching that they went there. If Nick Saban takes his Alabama program, or Florida takes their program, to Columbus, Ohio, Urban Meyer is going to be bitching. My thing is this, and this is the way I look at it. It’s several different things. It is cheating. It’s not a rule. It should be a rule. It’s cheating.

Nick:                         It’s not cheating, because it’s not breaking a rule.

Andrew:                 Right. But what I’m saying is it’s not fair. It’s not fair in any way, shape, or form. Florida has a resource of the nice weather. That’s a draw for Florida. My thing is this. What are they showing these kids, because they’re showing them their team, but they’re not getting them on campus. They’re not showing campus life. They’re not actually having a kid fly up to Ann Arbor to show that. Then, if I’m a Michigan student or a Michigan reporter, anybody like that, I’m pissed off. I mean, they’re representing the University of Michigan. It should be at Ann Arbor, not at IMG Academy down in Bradenton, Florida. I think it’s bad on both ends, but it is not fair. It is definitely a recruiting advantage, and it’s stupid.

Nick:                         You’ve never been to Ann Arbor in February and March, because if you had been, you would not say that it’s a bad deal for people covering the team, because if you’ve been to Ann Arbor in March you’d love to come down to Tampa. You can’t wait to get out of that snow.

Andrew:                 Some are, and some aren’t.

Nick:                         Here’s the thing. He’s not cheating, because it’s not a rule. Should there be a rule? Maybe. To me, there’s no incentive for teams in the SEC, or there’s no incentive for Florida to go anywhere else. Florida holding a camp in Louisiana is not going to make it easier for them.

Andrew:                 How is it fair for Michigan to bring their satellite camp down to Bradenton, Florida? You know what I’m saying? It’s not fair. The school is not in Bradenton, Florida. The school is in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Recruit up there. Get the kids to come up there. You shouldn’t be allowed to bring your thing. Urban Meyer’s bringing a satellite camp to Jacksonville, and I’m almost okay with that, because he’s working players out. Michigan’s bringing the practice down here just to get kids to come watch their practice. That’s bologna. That’s bull crap. The NCAA shouldn’t allow it. They practice on campus.

Nick:                         They do. The NCAA does allow it.

Andrew:                 They shouldn’t. That’s another thing.

Nick:                         So then your gripe is not with Harbaugh. Your gripe is with the NCAA.

Andrew:                 My gripe is with both. It is.

Nick:                         There should be no gripe with Harbaugh, because Harbaugh is exploiting a system that’s broken. If Jim McElwain was exploiting a system that could play in Florida’s favor, and he did it, I would say good for him. Right now I’m saying, good for Harbaugh. I don’t agree that schools should be able to do it, but because they are allowed to do it, then good for Harbaugh. I don’t know why Mark Dantonio hasn’t done it. I don’t know why more coaches haven’t done it. If Harbaugh’s the first person to see, our weather sucks in February, let’s get out of that nonsense and go down to Florida where it’ll be 60 and sunny, 70 and sunny.

Andrew:                 If Florida does the same, people are bitching and raising hell that they’re taking their practice away.

Nick:                         People are bitching and raising hell about Michigan. To me, they’re not breaking a rule. They’re exploiting something that the NCAA is doing incorrectly, where there probably should be a rule, but they’re not breaking a rule. So to me, good for Harbaugh. Good for Urban. It’s on the NCAA to fix a problem if they see it as a problem.

Andrew:                 Yeah. My gripe is more with the NCAA, because the NCAA should fix that. Again, you’re representing the school. It’s not like it’s the freaking NFL camp where you have fans all over the place that wants to watch their team. Jim Harbaugh is doing this for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s for recruiting purposes. I think we can both agree right now that it should be changed. Are rules going to be followed to a T? No. Come on.

Nick:                         It’s kind of, well you can say when coaches have these summer camps that’s for recruiting. Everything in college football is in some roundabout way for recruiting.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Is Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan going to get an advantage by bringing their program down to IMG, which has kids from all across the country attending there? Four star, five star kids from all across the country. Are they going to get a recruiting advantage? Yeah.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing that makes, and I’m not okay with the camps. I don’t like it at all, but here’s an advantage that I do, here’s the thing. They’re working them out. It’s more about working those guys out, and it does help some underrated players get noticed. So I’m okay with it a little bit there, and they are working them out. Michigan’s bringing their football thing down here just to show off their team in front of everybody, and it’s like, your school’s 12 hours north. Get the kids to come up there, and get the hell out of Florida. That’s my thing.

Nick:                         No. Nope. I agree with Harbaugh.

Andrew:                 No. Here’s the thing. Jim’s doing what Jim has to do. It’s a recruiting advantage, and he’s doing what he has to do. You’re right. My gripe is more with the NCAA than it is with Michigan, because it’s like, what the hell are you doing, NCAA? They want to preach all the time student athlete. What the hell are these kids doing for seven days while they’re in Bradenton, Florida? it ain’t studying like they should be. Get this student athlete crap out of here if that’s what you’re going to come about. Don’t preach something if you’re not going to make people do it. Nick, is the quarterback at Michigan going to be really paying attention to his chemistry class when he’s got Jim Harbaugh looking over him ready for spring football?

Nick:                         No, probably not. Can we stop pretending that these coaches care about the student part of student athlete?

Andrew:                 I’m going back to what you’re saying with the NCAA. The NCAA wants to preach all the time about being a student athlete.

Nick:                         Can we stop pretending like the NCAA cares about the student part of student athlete?

Andrew:                 They bitch about it all the time. There you go.

Nick:                         Because it sounds good.

Andrew:                 Exactly. For a more serious matter though, let’s transition to my good buddy up in Knoxville.

Nick:                         Real quick, Michigan quarterback for next year is Houston transfer, John O’Korn, former St. Thomas Aquinas Raider, proud alum. Go Raiders.

Andrew:                 I was trying to think of his name. Let’s transition to my good buddy up in Knoxville, Butch Jones. He has got himself in a world of hurt right now. If the allegations against him are true, holy cow. It looks bad right now just that you’re getting blamed for that stuff, and Dave Hart, the AD, is doing himself no favors. It’s a mess up in Knoxville.

Nick:                         Yeah. Whenever a Florida player runs into a problem that the police are involved with it’s my job as a reporter to report what’s out there. So I always do that, and then I say, “Listen, this all sounds bad because a police report is one side of the story.” The old saying goes, there’s three stories. There’s his side, my side, and then the truth. That’s probably somewhere in between. Right now the allegations coming out are terrible, reprehensible, unforgivable. It’s only half the story, but if any of these allegations, not like let’s say there’s for allegations, and if the first two are true that’s okay, as long as the second two aren’t true. No. If any of these are true, changes will be and have to be made, and that means people losing jobs. It sounds like there’s a lack of institutional control, not just in the football program, but the entire Athletic Office, and maybe even the culture at the University of Tennessee. This stuff, covering up sexual assaults, covering up sexual harassment, calling a player a traitor for standing up for somebody who’s saying that they were sexually assaulted.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing. Even if it’s not true, what’s going on up there that your players are accusing of that? You know what I’m saying? The culture up there is not good if players are even accusing you of that. That’s not even saying I hate the coach, because he doesn’t like me. You’re basically saying the coach, I mean, you’re calling the coach a bad dude. You’re calling Butch Jones a bad dude that’s breaking the law by saying this. So even if the allegations aren’t true, things aren’t going well up there, because we do know that there was problems with sexual assault against women. I mean, that’s been talked about, proven right now. There’s just so much going on. Then Dave Hart missing a meeting that was called two weeks ago with all of the coaches and reporters, and he says he can’t get out of it, because he’s meeting with an attorney. You knew about it for two weeks. That just doesn’t look good when your AD doesn’t attend the meeting. If I was the basketball coach or anyone else there, I’m kind of upset that my boss isn’t there to handle the talking points and allegations.

Nick:                         It is kind of a mess.

Andrew:                 This is worse than FSU.

Nick:                         And this is coming on the heels of the Peyton Manning allegations. I think this new stuff, coupled with stuff back from the mid to late 90s with Peyton Manning, and now you’re starting to think, how long has this been going on? For me, I want to hear both sides, and then even after I hear both sides it’s such a touchy subject. I understand that fans want to pile on, but we’re talking about very serious allegations and people’s lives. For me, I kind of just defer. Let the legal system play out here, and hopefully the right thing is done. Honestly, I hope that the allegations are either overblown or untrue, because you’d like to think that somebody who is in the position that a college coach is would have better judgement, and that they wouldn’t put, it’s a star player that did this. I can’t afford to not have them play. Let’s cover up something as disturbing and as important as rape. To me, I hope it’s not true, just for the sake of not having to think that somebody that has a job at a public university would do something like this.

Andrew:                 That’s the thing. The victims are the ones that you worry about here. It’s not good on anything. Good grief. That’s not allegations you want to come against your program, no matter what.

Nick:                         No. Not at all. It’s serious, and when you have a press conference with every head coach, women’s and men’s sports, and your AD, you know that something serious is going on at your school.

Andrew:                 Exactly. That’s a little bit of the football news. Real quick, met with Torrian Gray today. Give us a quick rundown of anything that was newsworthy out of that.

Nick:                         Not too much newsworthy. He kind of tiptoed around the question of when Florida started talking to him. Obviously Coach Gray was announced the day after Signing Day, so obviously he kind of danced around that question. I would hope personally that he informed the secondary players that were going to Virginia Tech, “I’m not going to be here the day after Signing Day. I’m going somewhere else.”

Andrew:                 You say he shouldn’t pull a T Rob move and lie to a kid’s face the day before?

Nick:                         Nope. I don’t think he should do that. I keep saying, college football is a business, and the kids, the recruits, the student athletes, find it out at some point. Maybe it’s better to find it out sooner rather than later. I did kind of pull out of him Gray spent 10 years at Virginia Tech recruiting in the ACC, and I asked him, I said, “For a decade you’ve had to recruit in the state of Georgia and in the state of Florida as a coach at Virginia Tech, an ACC coach, and you had to put up with kids and recruit against kids that see the SEC and just want to play in the SEC. I’ll go to Vanderbilt and play, or I’ll go to Kentucky and play, just because they’re in the SEC. Is it nice to have that chip in your pocket now?” He said, “Yeah,” and talked a little bit about the Florida logo and what it means. I think the biggest thing to be said is that he left his alma mater after a decade, and it wasn’t for a promotion. I think that says a lot about how he feels about the University of Florida and the opportunity that he has.

Andrew:                 Exactly. We’ll see. Early reports are prospects are reacting well with him, and he’s working hard there. So far, so good. That’s kind of what I say. The thing a lot of kids say, I know a couple people has already said it, is he’s 100, and for all of you non social media people that means he’s straight up honest with them. When you coach some of the guys he’s coached, you can be honest with these guys. Let’s go to the diamond real quick. It’s a big weekend for softball and for baseball. Let’s start off with #1 baseball. Coral Gables this weekend. Give us a quick rundown. What are we looking at?

Nick:                         We’re looking at #1 versus #6 down in Coral Gables. Florida’s coming into the game. They needed a catcher’s interference to win a game last night against Eastern Michigan, taking that series sweep. Both teams, Miami and Florida, are coming into this game undefeated. So it’s a big game for the fans. I think it’s even more so a bigger game for the fans than it is for the teams themselves. It’s a non-conference game, or three non-conference games. It’s early in the season. Both teams are still figuring things out.

It’s big for momentum any time you’re playing in a rivalry series, but I think the biggest thing is for the fans this is an important series. We don’t get Florida and Miami in football very often, if ever. It’s nice to see any kind of in state rivalry. I love Florida Miami. Growing up down in that area I know that whenever Florida would come down in whatever sport, in tiddlywinks, it was a big talk. I’m excited for it. I’ll be down there at Mark Light. Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light field. Maybe A Rod will be down there, and it should be a good match up with Scott Woodrey, who got a win, left handed pitcher from Miami, got a win last year in Gainesville against Florida.

So it’ll be interesting to see how the Gators do against Miami. They looked a little like they were playing on their heels last night in their first true road game, and that wasn’t even with a hostile crowd. There are a lot of Florida fans down in south Florida, but it will be a much more hostile crowd in Miami than it was in Lakeland last night. Certainly much more hostile than it has been at McKethan Stadium.

Andrew:                 Yeah. It is definitely. A couple of freshmen, it seems like the Diaper Dandies of the diamond, softball and baseball, doing well. Couple come up big on Wednesday night for the Gators.

Nick:                         Deacon Liput is very good at baseball. He came into the game hitting 7 for 12, and then was 0 for 3 to start. Hits a gigantic two run triple in the eighth inning last night. That’s his second triple of the year. He’s leading Florida in average and RBIs and hits, as a freshman. Dalton Guthrie did not play last night, which is kind of significant. He suffered a little bit of an injury. Right now I think Florida expects him to play this weekend. It was kind of a precautionary thing. Get some more guys into the lineup. Right now the freshmen that I’m looking at are Liput, who’s hitting .500 on the year, 8 for 16, and after him it’s Jonathan India, who’s the other every day starter there. He’s only hitting .250, but did have a big hit last night. Nelson Maldonado’s another freshman getting some time. Not starting any, but getting some time. Picked up his first hit last night with a two RBI single to tie the game. Florida’s got freshmen. They’ve got sophomores. They’ve got juniors. They really don’t rely on any one class.

Andrew:                 That’s big. It’s big that they’re separated with that. I think the most surprising thing, we kind of talked about this with softball, is Kelsey Stewart’s struggling and JJ Schwarz, not struggling, but he and Buddy Reed aren’t producing kind of what we thought they would, and team still found a way to be 5-0 heading into a big weekend series.

Nick:                         I’m won’t say that JJ’s struggling quite yet. He’s only hitting .231.

Andrew:                 Struggling to what we thought he would do.

Nick:                         Yeah. Just 3 for 13, but he also has six walks, and really what’s happening is he has to be so patient. He’s not getting fast balls. He’s rarely getting strikes. To me, Buddy Reed is really struggling, and he’s only 5 of 19. Only earned three walks, and he struck out seven times. Not getting on base. Only a .391 on base percentage in the two hole. To me, that’s a problem.

Andrew:                 The strike outs is the biggest issue for me.

Nick:                         Seven strike outs. When you have more strike outs than hits you’re not doing something well. You are driving the struggle bus. Buddy needs to pick it up. He started slow last year. Everyone will remember, probably because I thought it was hilarious and kept mentioning it, Buddy struggled the very beginning of last year, then got glasses, and started hitting well. He’s wearing the glasses now, so that’s not an excuse.

Andrew:                 The thing with Buddy is this. When a guy with his tool set of being a guy that when he puts the ball in play is so fast, you want him to at least, you’d rather him be grounding out to shortstop, second base, third base, anywhere just putting pressure on the defense than striking out seven times. That’s something you’d rather not have.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Well, let’s go to softball. It’s going to be a big weekend out in Cali for the 11-0 Gators, who come in with the nation’s best fielding percentage on the year with .996. Only committed one error so far, and went six straight innings without an error. Good thing for the Gators. Quick look at the weekend, #10 UCLA, North Carolina State, #8 Washington, and then Nebraska and Utah, both teams that are pretty good on the year. Nebraska with just one loss, and that one loss is to NC State. Should be a good weekend for Florida. Freshman Amanda Lorenz, if Liput’s not doing the best for the freshman class in baseball, Lorenz is doing it in softball. .571 batting average. Just 12 RBIs and a team best 18 runs scored. Not too bad.

Nick:                         Not too bad at all. I’m interested to see what Barnhill does.

Andrew:                 Up and down has kind of been that.

Nick:                         It’s kind of a freshman thing. It’s confidence and everything is new. There are so many firsts when you’re a freshman, until the end of the year really.

Andrew:                 We’re saying she’s doing bad. She’s just 3-0.

Nick:                         What a wasted scholarship. What is Walton thinking?

Andrew:                 The thing for me with her is this, and you know if you’re familiar with the game. Overthrowing with somebody like Barnhill, who’s a power velocity pitcher, you can go through times where you’re overthrowing or trying to pinpoint your ball, and that’s where she’s struggling when she gets into trouble. It’s not that people are hitting her hard. It’s walks and wild pitches are really causing it. So that’s more of just a fundamental thing, a mental thing, more so than anything. It’s not like teams are hitting her hard or anything else. It’s just simply, like I say, that she’s overthrowing and allowing some walks, and she’s allowing one walk to lead to two and three walks. That’s something that Walton’s done a good job of not allowing her to get beat up and really torn down. He’s allowed her to kind of get in there and then get out when she’s struggling like that.

Nick:                         That’s an important thing, because in a game, it’s a little more so in baseball than softball, it’s still a game of failure though, and learning how to deal with that. Confidence comes into play, and when you have someone who’s as young as a Barnhill, or any freshman really, you’ve got to toe the line between they need to experience failure, because it’s going to happen, and they need to learn how to deal with it, and is this going to affect his or her confidence going forward? I think there’s a balancing act with that, and Walton is great at juggling that, as well as Sully. Both guys do a very good job of juggling that, because it is kind of a delicate balance.

Andrew:                 Yeah. The thing for Florida is this. You got Barnhill, but Delanie Gourley’s done really well this year. She still hasn’t allowed a run this year, perfect 4-0, including a nice bullpen coming in relief there. Then Aleshia Ocasio is 4-0 and doing really well with a no hitter under her belt. It’s a lot of going in that. The thing for Walt is this. You’ve got three really good ones. When it comes to SEC play, if he really has these three girls that are still pitching really well, that could be really good to have a different girl throw every day. That could be really good for Florida.

When you look at some of these teams they’re playing this weekend, UCLA, #10 in the country, they only throw two girls all year. When you look at Washington, they’re throwing two girls as well. They’re not mixing it up like Florida. Florida has three pitchers that are three different types of pitchers. Gourley from the left side, Ocasio with more of a change up style, and then Barnhill is just a strictly overpowering girl. That’s three difficult pitchers. It’s kind of like in baseball where you have a lefty going, and then you have a side arm guy going, and then you have an off speed pitcher from the right side going.

Nick:                         We’ve talked about it before. It’s not a typical softball team, and obviously they’re better than a lot of softball teams, but I don’t mean it like that. I mean, I think Walton’s baseball background really shows in the way he’s built this team. A lot of softball teams would get a Gourley or would get a Barnhill, and that’s our girl. Unless she’s tired, she’s throwing. The way that Walton has built the team is kind of like a baseball team. Florida this week are going to go down to Miami, and Logan Shore will throw Friday. A.J. Puk will throw Saturday, and Alex Faedo will throw Sunday. In a softball series Gourley might throw Friday, Saturday, and two games on Sunday. To me he’s kind of built his softball team like a baseball program, and it’s something that’s unique and definitely plays in Florida’s favor, a huge advantage.

Andrew:                 For sure. Quick shout out to Kelsey Stewart, 300 hit in her career last weekend. Don’t look now. She’s slowly coming back to form, and that’s really bad news for her opponents when she starts hitting, because she, a lot like Buddy Reed, has had a little of the strike out problems, the rolling over the ball problems. Like I said with Reed, she’s a girl you want to put the ball in play, because she’s going to put pressure on the defense, and she’s going to make the defense make mistakes, and her on base percentage is going to continue to rise as the season goes on. That’s something that I think will only get Florida to be better, and that’ll be more chances for a girl like Amanda Lorenz, who’s knocking the cover off the ball for this Gator team.

Nick:                         Let me put you on the spot.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Four games this weekend?

Andrew:                 They got five games this weekend.

Nick:                         Five games this weekend. What’s the record?

Andrew:                 5-0.

Nick:                         Gators go 5-0 this weekend out in California. Return home, that would make them what?

Andrew:                 16-0.

Nick:                         I’ve completely forgotten how many games they’ve played. I’m in baseball mode now.

Andrew:                 The thing is this. When you look at UCLA, they’re 7-3. They’ve lost to LSU and Texas A&M already. Florida’s better than both those teams. When you look at North Carolina, Florida crushed them in three game series last year. Look at Washington. They’ve already lost to A&M this year. These teams are good, but it’s like if Florida’s playing well, like you just said about the baseball team, if they’re not playing on their heels, if they’re playing their game. There’s a difference in playing not to lose. Nick, you know what I mean when I say that. If this team is going out there and just playing their game it’s going to be very tough to beat them. I don’t think it’s going to be in a one game set. I think it’s going to be one of these three game sets when they start SEC play that they lose a game or two or three, somewhere around in there that they lose it. Washington gives them the best matchup of this weekend, but, again, they lost to A&M, and A&M is a good team, but not a great team.

Nick:                         I am partial to the SEC when it comes to baseball and softball, but it will be a pretty packed week. We had a lot of people in our baseball thread last night, and it makes me happy that this team kind of gets the support, and obviously softball gets the support that they deserve after winning two national championships. It might have taken two national championships for them to get that support, but it makes me happy to see both softball and baseball kind of getting supported, even if it might only be our GC community that is supporting them.

Andrew:                 You need to get your baseball team with some rings, and then we’ll really support them.

Nick:                         I have zero capabilities of getting Kevin O’Sullivan and the baseball team a ring. If they get a ring it will not be because of me, and if they don’t it will also not be because of me.

Andrew:                 It was because of me that the Gators softball team has two. Tim Walton, send my ring on in the mail, because it’s there. Not long, and then we’ll be talking some spring ball. We’ll start diving into it a little bit next week. Shoot us any questions you have, and we’ll get onto that on next Tuesday, and then next Friday. We’ll talk a little of that, because then the next week is football time.

Nick:                         Yup. March 8th we’ll meet with Mac, and then March 9th the team will meet, and we will have great coverage throughout spring. It should be a fun time. Can’t wait to hear the pads start popping again, but until then California. What’s the tournament called again?

Andrew:                 I have no idea.

Nick:                         The California tournament, softball. Five games this weekend.

Andrew:                 The Cali Tourney. That’s what I kept calling it.

Nick:                         That works.

Andrew:                 It’s called the Mary Nutter. I don’t know who that’s named after.

Nick:                         It’s named after Mary Nutter.

Andrew:                 I guess so.

Nick:                         I don’t know who the Mary Nutter Invitational is named after. I think it’s named after Mary Nutter.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean I don’t know who Mary Nutter is. She could walk out in front of me, and I wouldn’t know who she was. Doesn’t ring a bell, but they’ve had three straight tournaments with her name out in Palm Springs, California. Gators are enjoying it. One good thing, Billy Donovan used to do this with his guys in basketball, take his seniors close to home, but Florida has nine players from California, and that’s awesome that Tim Walton’s able to get his girls out there.

Nick:                         That’s pretty cool. That’s not a quick trip. I found it interesting this year seeing some of the parents, players going up and talking to their parents after the baseball games this year, and I think that’s interesting. Then you forget someone like A.J. Puk, someone like Logan Shore, parents might come down for a game, but it’s a long trip. Bringing the kids out there, not only is it a fun trip for them to get out of Gainesville, it was cold in Gainesville on Thursday before I left. So get out of Gainesville, get in some nice California weather. Andrew will have all of your coverage. Nobody covers the team like Andrew. Nobody else is really covering the team. Gator Country is your spot for women’s softball and men’s baseball. Two big weekends for both teams.

Then, like Andrew said, next week we’ll break down what happened over the weekend, and then start getting into some football, because I know everyone is craving that as well. For everything you need this weekend, and always, it’s @NickdelaTorreGC on Twitter, @AndrewSpiveyGC. GatorCountry on Twitter. TheGatorCountry on Instagram, and Gator Country on Facebook. Make sure you’re following us all there. It’s good times right now in Gator land, they’re getting better, because football is coming back soon.

Andrew:                 Lacrosse moved up to #3 in the country after defeating #2 North Carolina. Swimming and diving men’s four straight SEC championships. Things are good. Nick, should I continue to pick on Butch in my closing, or should I take it easy on the guy?

Nick:                         Maybe take it easy. He’s got a lot going on right now.

Andrew:                 It’s alright. I can continue piling on. So, Butch and Mark Richt, you guys know the drill. As always, go Braves. Chomp, chomp.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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