What caused Florida baseball’s decrease in offensive production?

Florida’s magical postseason run came to an end on Wednesday night after a 6-0 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies in an elimination game of the College World Series. The Gators were shutout for the first time since May 26th of 2022, a streak that lasted an impressive 144 games.

The Gators finished the 2024 season with a 36-30 (13-17 SEC) record and were one of four college baseball teams still standing in Omaha. Even with a heroic postseason run, the Gators had many weaknesses throughout the year, which is indicated by a 30-loss season, the most since Florida went 29-30 in 2013.

From 2023 to 2024, Florida baseball saw a 20-point decrease in batting average and scored 1.04 fewer runs per game. The Gators ranked T-192nd in batting average among D1 baseball teams this season.

What caused Florida’s decrease in offensive production? I break it down here.

The sophomore slump

A large part of the optimism surrounding Florida’s high expectations was their talented sophomore class. The duo of Cade Kurland and Colby Shelton were named Freshman All-American’s for their efforts in 2023 while Luke Heyman was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team.

Kurland and Heyman played a critical role in Florida’s CWS Finals appearance a year ago, where Florida was just one win away from claiming the program’s second National Championship. However, the Gators’ second year players suffered a sophomore slump, which proved costly in Florida’s lackluster regular season.

Comparing stats from their freshman to sophomore year.

Kurland’s 2023 stats: .297 BA, .404 OBP, .555 SLG%, 17 HR, 50 RBI, 64 SO

Kurland’s 2024 stats: .245 BA, .346 OBP, .457 SLG%, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 73 SO

The Tampa, Florida native played through a fractured hand for a chunk of the season, which could explain the dip in offensive numbers. Kurland’s strikeout percentage increased by nearly 6% and his walk numbers were down. The 5’11 infielder posted 17 doubles in 2023 and just eight in 2024. Kurland served as Florida’s leadoff batter for a majority of the 2024 season.

Shelton’s 2023 stats (at Alabama): .301 BA, .419 OBP .729 SLG%, 25 HR, 61 SO

Shelton’s 2024 stats (at Florida): .254 BA, .374 OBP, .551 SLG%, 20 HR, 82 SO

Florida added one of the top transfers last cycle in Alabama’s Colby Shelton. While 20 home runs is a welcomed addition to any roster, it’s fair to say the North Carolina native didn’t meet expectations. Shelton hit five more home runs in 2023 on 53 fewer at bats with the Crimson Tide, while his batting average dipped 47 points and his slugging percentage 178.

Heyman’s 2023 stats: .314 BA, .366 OBP, .555 SLG%, 12 HR, 53 SO

Heyman’s 2024 stats: .246 BA, .342 OBP, .481 SLG%, 16 HR, 74 SO

Luke Heyman took over Florida’s catching duties in 2024 which made a direct impact on his lack of success at the plate this season. His strikeout percentage stayed about the same relative to the number of at bats he had each season, but his batting average and slugging percentage noticeably declined.

On average, the trio of Kurland, Shelton, and Heyman saw a 55-point decrease in batting average, a 42-point decrease in on base percentage, and a 117-point decrease in slugging percentage in year two of college baseball.

The circumstances were different for each of these three players, so I’m certainly not advocating that the trio was not worthy of the preseason buzz they received. Kurland played on a fractured hand and Luke Heyman became Florida’s every day starter behind the plate after primarily starting at DH in 2023. After all, baseball players have down years all the time at every level.

These three players were critical in Florida’s plan at the plate this year. The Gators needed someone to protect one of the Nation’s best hitters in Jac Caglianone, and for most of the season, Florida couldn’t find anyone to fill that role.

Kevin O’Sullivan said it best during the regular season; at some point your best players have to step up.

Too many strikeouts in key situations 

For the second year in a row Florida has lived by the home run ball, which at this point is a proven method to success in the SEC. However, situational baseball still exists, and this was an area Florida was incredibly inconsistent at in 2024.

In 2023, Florida led the nation in home runs but posted a .290 batting average to go along with it. The Gators ranked 4th in home runs in 2024 but held a .270 batting average. When you hit the long ball but struggle with situational hitting or the ability to hit for average, you create a feast or famine offense, which is what Florida dealt with this season.

I’m not someone who continually harps on strikeouts in a game because I recognize it’s just a part of baseball in the SEC and in the MLB. Power hitting and power pitching. However, Florida’s inability to put the ball in play in key situations proved costly time and time again, including in the Gators’ postseason losses to Texas A&M. Florida was a combined 2-23 with runners in scoring position across two games vs the Aggies in the CWS. They also struck out a combined 30 times against Texas A&M, many of which were with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.

For the last three seasons prior to 2024, Florida’s strikeout percentage hovered between 24-25%. This season the Gators struck out on 30.5% of their at bats, the most in the Kevin O’Sullivan era and likely the most in Florida’s program history.

I’m all for swinging for the fences, but there’s a time and a place for it. Florida struggled with situational hitting in 2024 and it made a direct impact on their decreased offensive production in 2024.


















Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.