Dalton Guthrie was noticeably shaken up but stayed in the game and was forced to bunt. He stayed in the game to play defense during the final half of an inning but didn’t have a ball hit to him. The freshman was out of the lineup for Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship game, but Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan is optimistic he will be back for Friday’s Gainesville Regional opener against Florida A&M at 7 p.m.
“We’ll probably hold him out (Tuesday), kind of see how it feels,” O’Sullivan said. “I would anticipate and hope that he would be ready to go by Friday.”
The SEC Tournament championship game was Guthrie’s first time out of the starting lineup this season. He started the first 59 games, hitting .295 out of the leadoff spot of the lineup. Guthrie’s 14 doubles is tied for the team lead, and he has made just five errors with a .981 fielding percentage this year.
FRIDAY STARTER: The opening game of regional play usually creates difficult decisions for the head coach. While playing the No. 4 seed, some coaches elect to avoid risk and start their ace while others save their ace for later in the weekend and hope a lesser starter can get through the No. 4 seed.
With Florida playing Florida A&M on Friday, O’Sullivan hasn’t made a final decision about who will get the ball to start the game, but he said it would “maybe” be freshman Alex Faedo (4-1, 3.58). The right-hander took over duties as the No. 3 starter during the second half of SEC play. Florida ace Logan Shore is also being heavily considered by the coaching staff.
“We’re still looking at that a little bit,” O’Sullivan said. “Maybe Faedo on Friday, we’ll see. The bottom line is we need a strike thrower to go out there. We’ve got some options and we’ll look at that make the decision here.”
Last season, the No. 4 seed in the Gainesville Regional was College of Charleston, who had the highest RPI of any No. 4 seed despite the Gators being the No. 2 overall seed last season. This year, FAMU brings a 23-23 record to Gainesville and won an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning the MEAC Tournament.
The Gators have built their bullpen depth in recent weeks and should have enough arms to make it through the weekend.
“It should give us a lot of options moving forward,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m really, really pleased with the way Kirby [Snead] threw the ball in the tournament. He looked really good, and a lot of guys have been really good. We have some depth. Poyner, now we’ve got Snead and Danny Young who have been throwing the ball good. Taylor Lewis was outstanding, again. We’ve got some options and we’ve got some depth, we just gotta make sure that when we do go to the pen that it’s the right time.”
SEC TOURNAMENT WIN: O’Sullivan has seen his team get tougher since the middle point of SEC play. Early in the year, the Gators struggled to score and get back into a game once they fell behind. Florida suffered a heartbreaking defeat on Wednesday night, as Arkansas used a two-run homer in the ninth inning to secure a one-run win.
The Gators responded by blowing out Auburn and Arkansas in the next two games before securing a 2-1 win over No. 1 LSU and finishing the weekend by beating Vanderbilt to bring home the trophy. It was the first time Florida won the event since 2011, when the Gators made it to the College World Series championship series, and O’Sullivan expects it to give his team momentum heading into the weekend.
“That never gets old,” O’Sullivan said of bringing home a trophy. “Like I told the team, I’m just really, really proud of the way they battle. To lose the way we lost on Wednesday -- a very difficult loss -- late in the game, you know a quick turnaround and then come back and play Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Vanderbilt in consecutive days and to play as focused as we did -- that’s a heck of an accomplishment. The players know how I feel about that. I’m really, really proud of the way they played and I’m looking forward to carrying some of that momentum into this weekend.”