O'Sullivan Thinks Gators Have Improved

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan starts every year with the same three goals—win the SEC regular season title, earn a national seed and have the team playing its best baseball when the postseason begins. The Gators fell one game short of the conference title but look secure in earning the national seed. It's the third goal that has O'Sullivan the most excited.

The Florida head coach thinks his team is coming together at the right time.

"I feel like we're playing probably the best baseball we have all year," O'Sullivan said. "We're starting to get healthy. We've been through some difficult injuries throughout the year, but our strength staff has done a nice job of getting our players healthy."

On paper, it might not jump out immediately. The Gators are 3-3 in their last six games, but it's more about the way Florida played this weekend at Auburn. After averaging 2.8 runs in its previous six SEC games, the Gators scored 20 runs in three games at Auburn.

O'Sullivan said throughout the slumps that he expected his team to turn it around, especially the veteran players that were struggling, and they answered in a big way over the weekend.

Nolan Fontana, Preston Tucker and Mike Zunino exited the series win over Mississippi State after going 2-31 at the plate. The trio rebounded to go 17-38 at Auburn with seven RBI and nine runs scored. It's no secret that the Florida offense will go as their veterans lead it.

Ending the season at Auburn provided an opportunity for Florida to go on a two-week road trip. The Gators left on May 14 to prepare for the game at Samford the next day. Florida then played at Auburn over the weekend and stayed in Hoover to start play at the SEC Tournament on Tuesday against Auburn at 5:30 EST.

He wanted the team to bond as they spent the road trip together and believes that has happened.

"This road trip has been really good," O'Sullivan said. "We've had some good practices and played well at Auburn. I know they're anxious to hopefully make a run here in the postseason."

Florida will open the SEC Tournament by throwing sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (4-2, 3.67) against Auburn senior right-hander Jon Luke Jacobs (5-3, 3.75).

With the tournament starting one day earlier this year, O'Sullivan didn't want to rush one of his starting pitchers back on short rest to start the opening game of the series.

Hudson Randall opened the series at Auburn on Thursday, while Brian Johnson and Karsten Whitson followed the next two days.

The rotation will remain the same this week after Crawford starts Tuesday's game. The outcome of the game against Auburn will determine whether Florida plays on Wednesday or Thursday in Hoover.

"We'll keep a close eye on our pitchers and pitch counts, but they need to get back out there before Regionals," O'Sullivan said. "We don't want to extend them too far, but hopefully we can stay in the tournament long enough to get them all out there."

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