These are down days in Gainesville
The Florida Gators are awful. There is just no way to deny it. They are 3-6 and have lost five game in a row, all at home, to Georgia Southern, Florida Gulf Coast (three straight) and North Florida. If the Gators were in the A-Sun Conference, they would be 0-4.
Three of Florida's losses during the five-game losing streak have been in extra innings. So they could easily be 6-3 right now instead of 3-6. But that's the nature of baseball isn't it? Good teams come up with ways to win close games while bad teams figure out ways to lose them.
Many times when a team is in transition with a lot of new players, losing is due to a lack of experience in how to win. Hopefully losses now will translate into wins later. Saturday was a good case in point. With the bases loaded and one out, Christian Dicks came in to pinch hit. The FGCU pitcher snapped off a curve that broke down and hit the dirt right in between his two feet. Had he moved into the pitch and gotten hit, the Gators win.
If he had the presence of mind to groan and hop around like he had gotten hit, the ump may have bought it and awarded him first base which would have been a Gators win. But he did neither and the next pitch lined a sharp one hopper to the first baseman who threw home for the force. The next batter flew out to end the inning. An Eagles three-run homer in the top of the next inning sent the Gators home losers again.
Baseball is not like football or basketball. The big state flagship universities with the huge budgets do not necessarily have a huge advantage over the small, lesser known schools. That is because even at Florida or Florida State, the bulk of that money is spent on football and basketball. Baseball is pretty much left to fend for themselves.
Florida and FSU have two advantages over schools such as Florida Gulf Coast or North Florida. One is that they play in a nicer ballpark. Two is that they have the name. Other than that, the small schools are on fairly equal footing.
But even with the name and nicer facilities, the big schools have a burden the smaller ones do not: fan expectations are through the roof. Florida fans are an impatient lot. They are used to winning. They are used to winning national championships.
Florida football has won three national titles since 1996. Florida basketball has won two since 2006. Florida Track and Field has won three indoor national championships in a row and won outdoor last year as well. The baseball team has been to three College World Series in a row and the softball team has gone to three of the last four.
With all that winning comes a spoiled fan base. In fact, the Gator fans are a bit disgruntled about the fact that they have been to the final two teams twice since 2005 in the College World Series and left with runner-ups. They also went to last year's CWS as the top seed and went 0-2.
So with that backdrop, a total disaster of a season this year could be a problem. Florida has been quick to pull the trigger in past years, getting rid of the coach. They see the Florida State Seminoles with Mike Martin go to CWS after CWS and leave without a trophy. They do not want to be that team.
But Florida cut Andy Lopez loose only to watch him win it all with the Arizona Wildcats last season. They don't want to do that again either.
After 2005, the Gators came off of a trip the Final Series of the CWS only to play .500 ball for the next two seasons. They fired coach Pat McMahon to hire Kevin O'Sullivan, who got them going back in the right direction immediately.
For three years, the Gators did better than the previous year. First they went to the Super Regionals, then to the CWS where they were out early. Then they went to the Final Series where they lost in two games to South Carolina. The only thing left to do was win it all last season.
They were ranked No. 1 for virtually the entire year last year and went into the College World Series at No. 1. But they fizzled out there in two games. Now this year, they appear to headed for a disaster. So how will the fans and athletic director Jeremy Foley react?
O'Sullivan will surely get at least one more year, but it may be one spent on the "hot seat." Hopefully, the Gators won't make another Andy Lopez-type mistake. It would not be fun to watch O'Sullivan celebrate a national championship in Omaha wearing another school's uniform.