Gators need more from starting pitchers

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was happy to sneak out of the weekend with a series win over Duke, and considering what he got from his starting pitchers, he should have been. He always begins the season with his starting pitchers on pitch counts between 65-70, but they didn't make those pitches count over the weekend. The starting pitchers combined to throw 10.1 innings against Duke.

"I wasn't real pleased with how our starters threw this weekend," Kevin O'Sullivan said after Sunday's series finale. "They've got to get better. You can't be going to the bullpen in the third or fourth inning. I know we're on a pitch count, but they've got to get better.

"To be honest with you, our starting pitching was fair at best this weekend."

The total line for the Florida starters isn't pretty. Jonathon Crawford, Tucker Simpson and Justin Shafer combined to throw 10.1 innings, allowing eight hits, five walks, six runs (all earned) and striking out seven. Simpson, the freshman, went four innings in his first career start on Saturday to secure the longest outing for a Florida pitcher over the weekend.

The Florida starters slowed themselves most of the time. They'd get ahead by attacking the strike zone to take the advantage in the count. After that, they would start to nibble at the strike zone instead of continuing to attack.

"We just nibbled," said an obviously frustrated O'Sullivan. "Friday night we got to a bunch of two-strike counts, and next thing you know, it's 3-2 or 2-2. We've got a really good defense. I know we didn't play great defense this weekend, but I'm very confident that our team defensively is going to be really, really good. We were just not in sync."

If there's anything that drives O'Sullivan crazy, it's that. He wants his pitchers to pound the strike zone, pitch to contact and help the defense stay on its toes. The Gators made eight errors over the weekend, and while that can't be blamed entirely on the pitching staff, the slow pace and long at-bats allowed by the Florida staff didn't help.

"It's hard to get in a rhythm (defensively)," O'Sullivan said of the way his pitchers were pitching. "You're in three-ball counts and running deep counts. That does affect your defense. It's part of the reason we played such great defense over the years — we've been strike throwers that trusted our defense.

"We've tried to pitch away from bats this weekend. At times, it was frustrating. To get into a flow and your defense to play as well as it can, you've got to throw more quality strikes."

O'Sullivan wasn't shy with his distaste for the starting pitching. He complimented the way the freshmen came out of the bullpen and threw. Jason Carmichael, Parker Danciu, Eric Hanhold, Mike Vinson and Danny Young all came out of the bullpen and combined to allow zero earned runs in six innings.

As this season continues, they could get a shot in the rotation.

"We're going to get together as a staff, but I'm not going to be settled on this weekend rotation the way it is," O"Sullivan said. "If guys aren't going to get ahead and do the things we taught them, we've got other options. It's as simple as that."

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