If Thursday at the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Alabama were a magic show, we would be raving about how Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan kept pulling rabbits out of his hat. That’s what it seemed like as O’Sullivan made one strategic move after another pay off in Florida’s 5-4 win over Alabama in an elimination bracket game.
It started when SEC Pitcher of the Year Logan Shore couldn’t go because of a stomach virus. No problem. O’Sullivan simply sent Brady Singer to the mound and the freshman went 6 innings, the longest outing of his UF career. Over the course of the next 3 innings, O’Sullivan split the pitching duties among 5 different pitchers with closer Shaun Anderson coming on to strike out two in a scoreless 9th to preserve the win.
Because the Gators (45-12) played until nearly 3 a.m. Thursday when they lost to LSU, 5-3, O’Sullivan had some more shuffling to do with his lineup. He moved Buddy Reed to the leadoff spot and it paid off with a pair of walks that were converted into runs. Jonathan India was moved to cleanup and he produced a run-scoring ground out in the first and an RBI single in the third. Mike Rivera, who caught all 14 innings the night before, went to DH and delivered 3 hits. J.J. Schwarz, who was the DH the previous game, went behind the plate and delivered two hits, an RBI and gunned down a Bama baserunner trying to steal second.
Maybe the move of the game was playing freshman Danny Reyes the entire game in left field. Reyes, who had all of two hits the entire season, matched that total with a pair of doubles including the one in the top of the 8th that drove home Rivera with the game-winning run.
It wasn’t your normal conventional strategy to win a baseball game, but it worked and it kept the Gators alive in the tournament. Next up is the loser of Thursday night’s Mississippi State-LSU game at 7:30 p.m. tonight (SEC Network). The Gators will send Alex Faedo (11-1, 3.58) to the mound.
Alabama (32-26), which has the #58 RPI, was eliminated from the tournament. The Crimson Tide can only hope to squeeze into the NCAA Tournament but that might take a miracle of Moses parting the Red Sea proportions.
Other SEC Tournament action: South Carolina’s chances of earning a top eight seed and hosting all the way through to Omaha took a serious hit when the Gamecocks (42-15) were eliminated by Texas A&M (42-14), 4-1, Thursday morning. By doing a 2-and-through, the Gamecocks extended their losing streak in the SEC Tournament to 10 games. The Gamecocks will no doubt host an NCAA Regional but their inability to win in Hoover could cost them. The Aggies got 7 of their 8 hits and all 4 of their RBI from the bottom four players in their lineup to back up a strong starting performance from righty Brigham Hill, who gave up 5 hits and struck out 8 in 7 innings. The Aggies advanced in the loser’s bracket to face Vanderbilt (43-16), which lost to Ole Miss (43-16), 12-8.
GEORGIA TAKES 1-0 LEAD IN GAINESVILLE NCAA SUPER REGIONAL
The first thought after watching Georgia knock off Florida, 3-0, in game one of the Gainesville NCAA Super Regional, is that aliens must have abducted the Gators. How else can you explain that UF gave up its first runs in an NCAA Super Regional since 2014? How else can you explain why Florida couldn’t hit Georgia pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson while the Bulldogs not only touched up Delanie Gourley for 7 hits, but they pushed across 3 earned runs? And how else can you explain Florida committed an error and wasn’t really all that sharp in the field?
However you choose to explain it, the Gators find themselves with their backs to the wall, needing to beat Georgia twice today if they intend to make it to a fourth straight Women’s College World Series and take home the big trophy for the third straight year.
The Gators will send Aleshia Ocasio (22-1, 0.65 ERA) against Georgia today at 5 and if they win, Tim Walton will have to make a decision about coming back with Gourley or sending freshman Kelly Barnhill to clinch.
Men’s Golf: The Gators begin play in the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon today. UF is seeded 16th.
Track and Field: The Florida men and women are in Jacksonville participating in the NCAA East Preliminary. Six Gators qualified for the NCAA championships in Eugene, Oregon on Thursday and another 14 advanced to the finals of their events.
BAYLOR WILL FIRE ART BRILES
Art Briles is about to be fired as the football coach at Baylor as part of a sweeping move by the university that will reassign president Ken Starr to a new position and sanction athletic director Ian McCaw. A 13-page report by the Pepper Hamilton law firm makes you wonder why it took this long for Baylor to act.
The report concludes that Baylor’s football coaches covered up numerous sexual assault complaints even to the point of “retaliation” against one woman who complained. The report reads, “In some cases, football coaches and staff had inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters or engaged in improper conduct that reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules, and that there was no culture of accountability for misconduct.” Baylor coaches “investigated” sexual violence complaints against their players and did not report player misconduct to any administrator outside the athletic department. This causes us to ask the obvious question – what were Baylor’s coaches doing investigating something this serious and why didn’t they report an ongoing problem of sexual violence? These are serious enough matters to turn over to professionals without hesitation.
What makes the report all the more disgusting is that the higher ups in Baylor’s athletic administration knew what was going on all along. And, if Ken Starr didn’t know all the details, then he should have.
As sad as the situation is at Baylor, the sobering fact is that this isn’t exactly an isolated situation. Football cultures exist in college towns nationwide where widespread sexual misconduct and violence against women is only part of the problem. You would be shocked and amazed at the trouble football players get away with both on and off campuses nationwide. Just because you aren’t reading about it or hearing about it on ESPN doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. In far too many college towns the police departments do their Pontius Pilate imitation by simply turn over football players who violate the law to their coaches on campus.
A few months ago, Florida State paid out a 6-figure settlement to tap the brakes on a Title IX investigation into how it handled sexual violence complaints that included former Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston. That settlement might stop the bleeding for the moment, but remember, this is FSU. Do you recall when Bobby Bowden said he was “praying for a misdemeanor” when it came to Peter Warrick or when he played Julian Pittman during the 1997 season even after he spent the first 30 days of the season in jail?
There has been no settlement in a Title IX lawsuit in Knoxville regarding UT football players. Apparently settlement is the last thing on the mind of the women who lodged complaints about a longstanding history of sexual violence against women by Tennessee football players. The folks in the Tennessee athletic department should be shaking like a cold, wet dog on a night when the wind chill factor is below freezing.
It’s sad to say but it might take a few more lawsuits like this for the football culture wakes up and realizes it has a huge problem on its hands that can no longer be covered up.
THE SPIN CYCLE
The Golden State Warriors handled the Oklahoma City Thunder, 120-111, at home in game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in Oakland Thursday night. If you are an Okie City fan then you aren’t panicking since the Thunder have a 3-2 advantage. Nope, you aren’t the least bit worried. If anything you’re spinning the loss like this: “Now we can wrap up this series at home in front of our own fans.”
The Thunder better win at home. If this goes back to Oakland, they’re in deepest and darkest.
BEST I’VE EVER SEEN: COLLEGE BASKETBALL
When Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor (he wasn’t Kareem until his second or third year in the NBA) was a senior, UCLA faced Purdue and its super shooter Rick Mount in the NCAA championship game. In the semifinal against North Carolina, Mount couldn’t miss. If they’d had a 3-point shot in those days he probably would have scored 50 points. In the first minute against UCLA, Mount got his feet set and loaded up a shot when Alcindor showed up a good 30 feet from the basket and blocked it. Mount finished the game hitting 12-36 from the field and UCLA went on to win by 20 points. After his sophomore year, the NCAA banned the dunk and that was probably the best thing that ever happened to Alcindor because he developed the skyhook, his patented shot for the rest of his basketball career. Yes, he had the advantage of being 7-4 but he had the coordination and skills of someone much smaller. He changed the game. Nobody else I’ve ever seen was so good that rules were made specifically to hold them back.
Today’s list is the 10 best college basketball players I’ve ever seen in person or on TV.
1. Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, UCLA
2. “Pistol” Pete Maravich, LSU
3. Bill Walton, UCLA
4. David Thompson, North Carolina State
5. Phil Ford, North Carolina
6. Earvin Johnson, Michigan State
7. Michael Jordan, North Carolina
8. Larry Bird, Indiana State
9. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
10. Christian Laettner, Duke
SPECIAL MENTION: Although he doesn’t make my top 10 list, Al Horford has to be mentioned here. Billy Donovan said on more than one occasion that Horford had the highest basketball IQ of any player he ever coached. It was like having an assistant coach on the floor. At the 2007 Nike Peach Jam, I was sitting by then UF assistant Larry Shyatt when a Texas assistant asked about Horford. For the next three minutes I listened while Shyatt talked about how Horford would tell coaches in the huddle how opponents were defending and where the holes were in the defense. Amazing stuff … I’ve never seen a player more capable of lifting an entire team emotionally more than Joakim Noah … It’s really difficult to have a best 10 list and leave off guys like Jamal Mashburn (Kentucky), Lenny Elmore (Maryland), Sidney Wicks (UCLA), Kent Benson (Indiana), Walter Davis (North Carolina), Ralph Sampson (Virginia), Quinn Buckner (Indiana) and Danny Manning (Kansas) … In 1970 at Florida Gym, Pete Maravich scored 52 points. If there had been a 3-point shot, he would have easily scored 70. In that game, Maravich stole the ball, drove in for the layup, flipped the ball up in the air and then headed the ball into the basket. Also in that game he made a pass on the fast break that went behind his back and through the legs of the Florida defender into the hands of Al Sanders for a layup. That wasn’t an accident. Pete intended to make that pass. He actually practiced it every single day.
Will the Orlando Magic roll the free agent dice and reunited Joakim Noah and Al Horford? Those two would add toughness to a very soft Magic team and there is no doubting their burning desire to win games.
Pete Rose says he would quit gambling if baseball would let him in the Hall of Fame. For years Pete has been living on the Disney property. It’s called Never Never Land.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s hit streak ended at 29 games when he went 0-4 against the Colorado Rockies Thursday night.
The Braves lost. Again. They’re 12-34. I predict they will hit the 100-loss mark before Labor Day.
Tony Romo says playing another 4-5 years in the NFL is realistic. It’s only slightly more realistic than the New England Patriots grooming me to take over when Tom Brady retires. Romo hasn’t played a full NFL season since 2012 and he’s 6 years old.
Is it just my imagination or are there people doing hard time in Raiford for less than what Draymond Green gets away with on the basketball court?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Who is the best college basketball player you ever saw live or in person?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
It’s amazing some of the things I remember at the oddest moments. In January of 1966 as my McComb Junior High basketball team returned home from Natchez the song “Norwegian Wood” was played on the radio in the station wagon where Tommy Daughdrill, Danny Wells and I rode in the rumble seat in the back. When we heard that line “We talked until two, and then she said, “It’s time for bed.” Time for bed! Our 14-year-old imaginations went into overdrive. That was racy stuff for 1966. Having recalled that, today’s music is The Beatles “Rubber Soul” album which features “Norwegian Wood” as the second track.