Kevin O’Sullivan knew that there would be growing pains this season. Only 15 players of the 32 man roster he’s fielding were on the 2018 team. The Gators also have 12 of those players are freshmen. Two of those freshmen — Nolan Crisp & Jud Fabian — should still be in high school.
Take a look at Florida’s opponent on Wednesday night and the UNF Osprey’s are vastly different with 20 juniors and seniors on its roster. Tuesday night’s opponent USF has 23 juniors and seniors on its roster.
“Kind of looked at the schedule early and knew this would be two difficult ballgames,” Kevin O’Sullivan said after Florida’s 7-1 loss to UNF on Wednesday. “The game kind of sped up on us last night (vs. USF). We struck out 13 times and didn’t handle the road as well as we’d have liked. Going into tonight we knew were going to throw a bunch of freshmen. The thing that’s been hurting us are mistakes that we weren’t making coming into the season.”
The mistakes he’s referencing are a botched double play ball on Wednesday, an error — the fourth of the season — and a missed hit-and-run against UNF.
Wednesday’s game saw a shakeup in the lineup. Freshmen Khris Armstrong and junior transfer Christian Flint started their first games in the field. Freshman Christian Scott earned his first career start. Scott got into trouble in the first inning but shouldn’t have. The Osprey’s started the game with back-to-back singles before Scott got a strikeout. He threw a would be inning-ending double play but Flint’s fielding error at second instead loaded the bases. Scott was able to get out of the inning with another strikeout and fielding a grounder on his own but not before UNF pushed a run across the board.
The Ospreys would add runs in the second and third when Tanner May and Tanner Murphy hit solo home runs extending the lead to 3-0.
O’Sullivan turned to David Leuthje in the fifth inning and the freshman was fantastic in his first career appearance. Leuthje threw three complete innings retiring all nine batters he faced.
“I thought he was great,” O’Sullivan said of Leuthje. “He threw three pitches for strikes, kept his pitch count down and kept the defense engaged. We played really good defense behind him.”
Florida made things close in the sixth inning. Nelson Maldonado singled to start the inning and Wil Dalton’s single gave the Gators runners on the corners with no outs. Freshman Cory Acton drove Maldonado in with a sacrifice fly but a pair of strikeouts ended the threat with the score at 3-1. The Ospreys blew the game open with four runs, including a monster three-run home run in the top of the ninth.
Now the Gators need to find answers. They’re a young team but the season doesn’t get any easier with a good Miami coming to town on Friday.
“I don’t want to use the excuse that we’re young,” senior captain Nelson Maldonado said after the game. “I feel like each and every one of these players are ready to play at this level. It’s evident that we’re struggling right now. We’re just looking for that click.”