Gators Believe Best Baseball is Ahead

The opinion of Florida from fans, media and others has been the same all season—the Gators haven't played their best baseball yet. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan thinks the time is coming soon. Despite inconsistent points in the season, the Gators were still awarded as the No. 1 overall seed by the committee when the NCAA Tournament bracket came out on Monday.

"We're sitting here as the No. 1 national seed—it doesn't get any better than that," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said after the bracket was released. "It gets no better than that, but the perception is we haven't played our best. But it has been pretty darn good.

"We're just like everybody else and have things to get better at, but I feel good where we're at. I feel really good. The thing for us was getting the bats going, and we've swung the bat really well."

The Gators left for a road trip on May 14, exactly two weeks before the brackets were revealed on Monday. O'Sullivan wanted his team to grow together as a team and show reason to believe the best was yet to come from his team.

He feels his team did that. Despite a loss at Samford to open the tournament, the Florida offense bounced out of its funk.

The road trip lasted eight games and Florida scored a total of 47 runs (5.9 runs per game). In the ten games before the Gators hit the road, they totaled 26 (2.6 runs per game).

"We're swinging the bats a lot better," O'Sullivan said. "That's the biggest thing I pulled from being on the road for that long."

The Florida pitching had a strong road trip, too. It started with the younger pitchers combining to allow 12 runs against Samford in the first game. In the seven games that followed the Florida pitching staff gave up just 19 runs (2.7 runs per game).

"We're swinging the bats a little bit better in the past couple games, but our pitching did a good job, too," Florida right fielder Preston Tucker said. "If we can put that all together in a Regional, we should be pretty good, but I don't think we've put together a stretch where we have played our best."

Despite the general positives of the road trip, there is still an opportunity for Florida to work on things. The ninth inning catastrophe in Saturday's SEC Tournament semifinal loss to Vanderbilt is at the top of the list. The Commodores, who are the two-seed in the Raleigh Regional that is matched with the Gainesville Regional, stole six bases off closer Austin Maddox.

Preparations have already started to make changes to help speed up Maddox's delivery to the plate.

"We got exposed a little bit against Vandy in the ninth—better on Saturday night than this weekend," O'Sullivan said. "We've already tried to start to clean up some of those things. We'll be much better team because of the tournament we just finished up".

The benefit for the Gators is that the regular season doesn't matter anymore. The inconsistent tendencies that have come from the second half of the season, despite Florida being the top-ranked team in the NCAA Tournament, don't mean anything for the rest of the year.

The team has turned its focus towards the new season that begins when the Gators host Bethune-Cookman at 7 p.m. on Friday.

"We've played very mediocre all year," senior reliever Greg Larson said. "We're looking forward to starting a new season coming up Friday."

Regardless of what teams were placed in the Gainesville Regional, O'Sullivan trusts that his veteran team's play will improve in the postseason.

"I would agree with everybody that I don't think we've played our best yet, which is encouraging," O'Sullivan said. "The whole focus is have a great week of practice and clean up some things we need to. I like this team moving forward."

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