O'Sullivan Has Gators Progressing Perfectly

As the Gator baseball team packs for its trip to Omaha and the College World Series, it's time to appreciate what a tremendous job Kevin O'Sullivan has done in his four seasons on the job. Sully has the Gators making their second straight trip to the CWS something that has never happened before.

When Jeremy Foley decided to take a chance on Clemson's pitching coach it was his latest effort to find the right guy to end the roller-coaster like performances of a program that had been maddeningly inconsistent. By all indications, he got the right guy.

Let's look at the almost text book progression the Gators have made over the past four campaigns.

2008 --- 34-24, NCAA Tournament --- In his first season, O'Sullivan's Gators were picked to finish 11th in the SEC. Florida had missed two straight NCAA Tournaments after reaching the finals of the CWS in 2005. Florida's recruiting had been substandard and the talent on hand was less than ideal. Still Florida managed to post a winning record in the SEC (17-13), finished second in the Eastern Division and earned an NCAA bid.

2009 --- 42–22, NCAA Super Regional --- In year two, Sully guided the Gators to an SEC Eastern Division Title, finishing just one game behind conference co-champs Ole Miss and LSU. His ability to handle pitching was put to a test as the Gators had to rely heavily on freshmen Anthony DeSclafani (6-3), Alex Panteliodis (6-5) and Nick Maronde (3-1). If those three guys weren't enough proof of Sully's recruiting prowess, add in the slugging of rookie first baseman Preston Tucker (.364 15 HR, 85 RBI). The Gators won the NCAA Regional, beating traditional power Miami twice before losing in the Super Regional to Southern Miss.

2010 --- 47–17, College World Series --- Year three would turn out to be one of the best in school history. The season was highlighted by Florida winning the SEC title by taking a series at South Carolina to end the regular season. Once again the Gators raced through the Regional in three games and then took out those same Miami Hurricanes in the Super Regional to earn Florida's sixth trip to the College World Series. The Gators lost two straight in Omaha, including one to Florida State.

2011 --- 50–17, College World Series --- This season isn't finished yet, but it is already a step beyond last year. The Gators earned a three-way share of the SEC Title in an epic pennant race that featured three of the top six seeds in the NCAA tournament (Florida No. 2, South Carolina No. 4, Vanderbilt No. 6). The Gators then ended a 20-year drought by winning the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama. The Gators again cruised through the Regional, taking Miami out of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. This weekend the Gators survived a gut wrenching series with Mississippi State to return to Omaha for the Gators. The 2011 Gators are the third to win 50 games in a season and they're not done yet.

A year ago I was interviewing Foley and asked him if he finally found his "Billy Donovan" for the baseball program and his response was surprisingly muted. "I hope so", he responded, "but it's just three years and we've had three good years before."

Granted, the Florida athletic director sets the bar high, but I suspect his answer might be a bit different this year. Florida has never had a better four-year stretch than the one the Gators are enjoying right now. With most of the starting lineup and the weekend pitching rotation returning for 2012; there's no reason to expect things to change any time soon.


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