Midweek struggles continue for Florida

After their six-game winning streak was snapped by Jacksonville on Tuesday, the Gators couldn't get back on track against another instate school. The bats continued to stay quiet as Florida's midweek struggles against smaller schools continued, pushing the Gators to a 4-2 loss to Florida A&M on Wednesday.

It was the first time Florida lost to Florida A&M in 19 meetings, and the first time the Rattlers beat a ranked opponent since 1980.

In 18 innings on Tuesday and Wednesday, Florida has managed just 10 hits and four runs. After Tuesday's loss to Jacksonville, Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan was concerned about his team's mindset heading into games against smaller schools from the state of Florida. It crept up against on Wednesday.

O'Sullivan thought the attitude before the game was better on Wednesday than it was on Tuesday, but he understands the criticism that the Gators might not have gone into midweek games against smaller instate schools with the same mentality as conference games.

"From the outside looking in, that's what probably frustrates a lot of people. The answer is no," O'Sullivan said. "We talk about it all the time about how important it is to be ready to play these non-conference games. We talk about the RPI, we talk about he importance of playing well in front of our fans. We touch every angle. At the end of the day, the players have to go play. What else can you do?"

Florida A&M took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on a two-run home run by third baseman Ryan Kennedy. The Gators tied the game in the sixth inning on a two-out single by Harrison Bader, but in the following inning, a two-run homer for Florida A&M catcher Jeremy Barlow put the Rattlers back on top 4-2.

They didn't give up the lead.

Bader led off the eighth inning with a solo home run to cut the deficit to 4-3, but the Gators went down in order during the ninth inning without posing a threat.

"(The hitters) just got frustrated with the lower angles," O'Sullivan said about the side-armed pitchers on the mound for Florida A&M. "It's our job to make adjustments. We just couldn't generate any offense tonight. It's as simple as that."

The frustration was evident with the players on Tuesday, and it was the same case on Wednesday. After collecting just six hits -- and three of them coming from Harrison Bader the team knows it has to regroup to face Missouri this weekend.

"Whether it's Florida State or a smaller school, you have to play your absolute best," Bader said. "We didn't play our best tonight. It's unfortunate. Every time we take the field, you have to take it like you're playing in the World Series. We've got to bounce back. It's rough right now, but it's in the past."

Thursday's practice offers an opportunity for Florida to move on. And O'Sullivan knows exactly the message to meet his team with as they show up to the practice field.

"The message I'll have for our guys tomorrow is quite simple. We're in first place in the SEC. Everything is in front of us," O'Sullivan said. "We didn't play good, but all of our goals are still in front of us. We can't lose sight of that. We can't let these last two games creep into Friday. We're playing so good, I just can't believe that quickly it's going to turn around. I just don't believe that."

Florida will open the series against Missouri on Friday at 7 p.m.

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