Gators Get Their 'Swag' Back

After splitting their last 16 games, the No. 5 Gators knew they needed to change something. Coaches and players weren't sure what was missing, but the team didn't play with the presence of a top-five team. Friday night, Florida found it.

It took a frustrating road trip and a return home for the Gators to come up with the word to describe the mental mindset necessary, but they did just that on Friday.

"Our word is ‘swag,'" Florida second baseman Josh Adams said with a grin. "We came out with a little bit of swag tonight. Everybody is feeling good and ready to be back home. We wanted to play with a little bit of swag, and that's what we're going to start doing."

The word came from multiple conversations head coach Kevin O'Sullivan had with his team between Wednesday's loss to UCF and Friday's game.

"They wanted me to use the word ‘swag' tonight. I don't know what it is," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said in between laughs. "I just felt like we'd been playing on our heels the last couple of weeks. We've just been missing something. We've got good players, but we've got to play with confidence and play loose."

Whether it's ‘swag,' ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder,' or ‘playing with an edge,' the possible clichés are endless. Whatever it took, O'Sullivan wanted his team to play loose and confident on the field. The way they've played in recent weeks was reminiscent of a team trying not to lose, instead of being aggressive and trying to win.

Friday's starting pitcher Hudson Randall, the soft-spoken, witty member of the pitching staff, suggested the word ‘swag' in a team meeting and it stuck.

"Hudson actually brought up the word. I didn't know what word to use, but he used the word ‘swag,' so we'll go with it," O'Sullivan joked.

For Randall, it was more about the team playing together as a unit. He saw a team with too much talent and ability to be struggling the way it was in recent weeks. There were a few team meetings, most notably in Orlando after the loss to UCF on Wednesday, about the direction of the team.

In a long baseball season, there will always be ups where a team looks unbeatable and downs where it looks like it will never live up to expectations. The truth was somewhere in the middle. The Gators weren't as bad as the team that went 8-8 in the last 16 games, and it came down to finding something to focus them.

"We came together some more this week," Randall said. "Sully was talking to us and said we were missing an edge that a lot of good teams have. Tonight we came out with a little edge under our belt and it worked for us."

As the season is now past the halfway point of the conference season, the Gators looked like a complete team on Friday. They're now hoping to push that into the second half of the conference schedule.

"We've always played well near the end of the season for some reason," Adams said.

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