Florida Pitching Staff Staying Hot

The recent offensive struggles for No. 5 Florida have stolen the focus from the success of the pitching staff. The Gators got their entire weekend rotation back and healthy over the weekend at Kentucky for the first time since the February 24-26 series against William & Mary. The results on the mound were positive for Florida and continued into Tuesday night's win against North Florida.

"We've got to continue to pitch well," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We've been throwing the ball extremely well, probably as good as we have since I've been here from top to bottom."

It's strong praise for a team that has been based on pitching since O'Sullivan took over the program. The Gators have allowed more than three runs just once in the last eight games.

Part of it is health, as Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson are both back in the weekend rotations after nursing tired arms earlier in the year. Not only are they just back and pitching, but they're starting to show signs of the success they both experienced in 2011.

"I'm very pleased with how we've been throwing the ball," O'Sullivan said.

Randall and Whitson returning to the rotation pushes sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (4-1, 3.61) out and into the bullpen after being the most consistent starting pitcher on the staff.

It also gives O'Sullivan some flexibility.

Crawford came out of the bullpen during Saturday's game at Kentucky and threw the final three innings without allowing an earned run. He also has the experience from starting all season.

In the postseason, the Gators would prefer to have four starting pitchers. When Brian Johnson went down with his concussion during the postseason last year, it was Alex Panteliodis that stepped into the role and was huge down the stretch.

"I just know that we're going to need all four of those guys going into postseason," O'Sullivan said. "At this point, he gives us a very valuable option out of the pen. We're going to need all four of those guys going forward into Regional play."

While Crawford joins Greg Larson, Austin Maddox and Steven Rodriguez as the top four arms out of the bullpen, there's another arm that's making a bid for more mound time.

Sophomore right-hander Keenan Kish tossed four shutout innings against UNF on Tuesday, allowing four hits and recording three strikeouts. Kish lowered his season ERA to 1.06 in 17 innings this season, recording 17 strikeouts and allowing just two walks.

"Every outing can add on to the next one in a positive way," Kish said. "It definitely helps to go out and make the most of your opportunity and pitch well. It carries into the next outing. It's kind of contagious—same thing with hitting. One good game of hitting can change everything around. I've just got to keep it going."

Kish threw 14.1 innings as a freshman last season and walked seven hitters. His control wasn't good, whether he was pitching in games or in team scrimmages. That limited his time on the mound.

After averaging one walk allowed every two innings as a freshman, Kish is walking one hitter every 8.5 innings this year.

"It's just bearing down in the zone and seeing the glove—that's all I'm seeing," Kish said. "I've got good enough stuff. I've just got to throw it down the middle and it'll end up there. I'm just concentrating and having a better focus out there to make pitches."

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