Gators, Noles Match Up in Tampa

Since Kevin O'Sullivan took over the Florida job over three years ago, he has helped the program eliminate its issue against Miami. However, there is still one instate school left for him to deal with. The Gators have lost seven of 12 matchups with Florida State under O'Sullivan, including losing four of five games last season.

None of the losses were more heart wrenching than at the College World Series last year. The Seminoles ended Florida's season in Omaha, Neb., to complete a frustrating showing for the Gators.

Ever since that game ended, Florida just wanted another shot at Florida State. It comes Tuesday night at Tampa's Steinbrenner Field at 7 p.m.

The additional motivation Florida has is tough to count. Last season's struggles against Florida State are difficult to ignore. The issues with Florida State since O'Sullivan took the job only make it even more bitter.

Then there is Florida's performance against the Seminoles last season at Steinbrenner Field. Florida State used a seven-run first inning to cruise to a 10-5 victory in a game that never seemed as close as the final score. The Gators scored four runs in the ninth inning to make it look closer, but the truth is Florida State dominated the game from start to finish.

"Florida State got the best of us last year," O'Sullivan said. "We're looking forward to hopefully having better results this year. If you can't get excited for Florida-Florida State, then you're probably in the wrong program."

O'Sullivan talked some about the Florida State game on Sunday after Florida swept Boston College. His comments about beating the Eagles were like always, but when the topic of Tuesday's game came up, it was different. He stood up a little straighter and spoke with more urgency.

The difference wasn't hard to notice. He knows that his team got embarrassed by the Seminoles four times last season, and the opportunity to rectify that couldn't have come sooner.

"Absolutely, there's a lot more incentive," O'Sullivan said. "They got the best of us last year and beat us four out of five. Our players know that. We're certainly going to use it as motivation."

The Seminoles are a different team than last season. Their offense was able to outscore opponents last year but the losses of center fielder Tyler Holt and shortstop Stephen Cardullo have hurt the lineup. They can still score runs, but they aren't as deep from the top to bottom of the order.

Florida State does return a veteran pitching staff to ease the drop in offense. Their team is built around pitching and defense.

"We know they're a really good ball club," Florida catcher Mike Zunino said. "We have to bring our A game and pitching has to be on point. After one year of it, I know it's pretty bitter after losing four of five to them. I know we're looking forward to it and excited to play them."

Florida State head coach Mike Martin elected to hold Sunday starting pitcher Scott Sitz (1-0, 0.00) out from pitching in the Seminoles' weekend series against Hofstra. He will get the start on the mound against the Gators. In his only start this season, Sitz threw six scoreless innings against VMI two weekends ago.

Florida will counter with redshirt junior Tommy Toledo (0-0, 0.00), who will make the start on the mound in his hometown. The Alonso High School product has pitched four innings this season, allowing two runs and no runs while striking out four hitters.

The Gators also have Alex Panteliodis (0-0, 9.00), Anthony DeSclafani (1-0, 0.00) and Paco Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00, 1 save) available to pitch behind him.


Fightin Gators Top Stories