Until recently Florida could not find that consistency on the ball field, whether it's baseball or softball. The softball program had some success under Larry Ray and Karen Johns, but it was more roller coaster ride than rocket ship. The same is true of baseball where Joe Arnold, Andy Lopez and Pat McMahon each guided the Gators to the College World Series, but each also had significant down seasons.
Those days appear to be as distant as the coast line on a cruise ship now. Tim Walton has guided the Gators to three consecutive College World Series and two trips to the finals and Kevin O'Sullivan has just returned from his second consecutive journey to Omaha. Under their guidance Florida is the first school in the nation to reach the finals of the Softball CWS and the Baseball CWS in the same season.
The similarities don't stop there. Walton and O'Sullivan both apprenticed at elite programs at Oklahoma and Clemson respectively. Both have had remarkable success on the recruiting trail, which is the key to consistency year in and year out. There's one more thing the tandem shares.
Walton has twice had his team within two wins of the NCAA Title and O'Sullivan joined him in getting the Gators there this season. Yet a school record for wins, SEC Regular Season and Tournament Titles and Florida's first back-to-back trips to Omaha won't ease the sting of this week's losses to South Carolina. Sully can lean on Walton to help him get over it and focus on getting back on that ultimate stage.
Both coaches can take solace in knowing that both Steve Spurrier and Billy Donovan experienced SEC and National title game losses before claiming those prizes. Mike Holloway and Roland Thornqvist have been there too as had Buddy Alexander.
The Gators did not win the NCAA Title in baseball or softball this year, but both programs are poised to have many more chances to get it done. I wouldn't suggest betting against either one of them.
Baseball, Softball on Similar Paths
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