Gators Change Focus With Draft Behind Them

The stressful part is out of the way. With a team full of juniors and seniors, the MLB Draft was always looming. Whether or not the late season struggles were because of the draft is now irrelevant. It's behind the players, most know whether they'll head to professional ball or not, and the focus has turned to this weekend against North Carolina State.

"We've had a really good week of practice," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said on Friday morning. "We've got the draft behind, and I think our team is in a really good place right now. I'm really pleased with the practices we've had this week."

The Gators had light workouts on Monday afternoon, allowing players to spend the night with their families watching the draft. There was another light workout on Tuesday before the Gators went back to the normal practice schedule on Wednesday.

The emphasis didn't take long to switch from the future to this weekend, when North Carolina State makes its way to Gainesville with a berth in the College World Series on the line.

"If there was going to be any pressure, it would've been last weekend before the draft, and we played as well as we have all season," Florida right fielder Preston Tucker said.

"This is the right time to where we've got a combination of things."

The Gators didn't have any problems with pressure last weekend. Florida breezed through the Gainesville Regional and pounded Georgia Tech in the Regional final to clinch a berth in the Super Regionals.

It won't come easy against a talented NC State team, but the attitude of the team makes the Gators optimistic. The usual Florida press conference shows a team with a business-like approach that is optimistic about the games to come.

Something felt different on Friday morning at McKethan Stadium. The team felt looser than normal—confident but still focused on the task at hand.

"Up to this point, there is always a little bit of pressure, but now the draft is done and the accolades are out there—the whole team is ready to change the mindset and the focus on getting to Omaha," Florida catcher Mike Zunino said.

"We had a lot of fun at practice. We're really excited to play this week."

The draft is behind the Gators, but O'Sullivan is proud of how his team handled it. Florida had eight players taken in the first nine rounds of the draft. Instead of dwelling on it, O'Sullivan thinks his players thrived in the circumstances.

Ever since the current junior class showed up on campus, it was common knowledge that this day would come. It's the way his players handled it for the entire season before Monday that impressed O'Sullivan the most.

"We've handled this whole draft thing as well as we could have this year," O'Sullivan said. "The players have been mature about it. The expectations—they've handled it great."

Last weekend's play his him optimistic going forward. The Gators outscored the competition 25-5 in three games last weekend, and O'Sullivan doesn't think that's a coincidence.

"I'm of the belief like a lot of you guys that they've been waiting for the postseason," he said. "I think they're excited for this weekend."

That doesn't mean the team's mindset has been on winning the national championship all season. They went through the lengthy SEC season with some bumps along the way, but they're starting to play their best baseball now.

"We haven't said that we've got to get back to Omaha and win it because we blew the opportunity last year," O'Sullivan said. "(The players) been able to stay in the moment."

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