Something had to give when the SEC’s top defense met with the top offense. With all of the pitchers used throughout the week, it made sense that hitting would win out, and it did. The Gators carried a 5-3 lead through the top of the seventh inning, but in the bottom of the seventh the Aggies scored four to take a 7-5 lead.
The SEC’s top slugging team, top batting average team, etc. would add five more in the 8th inning to make the final score 12-5 and end the Gators chance at repeating as SEC Baseball Tournament Champions.
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan actually started All-American Logan Shore, who missed starts earlier in the tournament due to a stomach virus. Shore didn’t have command of all of his pitches and that was quite apparent. After one inning and one earned run, O’Sullivan elected to go with Frank Rubio. Rubio would throw three solid innings giving up two runs to the dynamic Aggie offense.
After that, it was a conglomeration of Michael Byrne, Kirby Snead, Eddy Demurias, and Nick Horvath to finish things off. Six pitchers were entered in the game and all gave up at least one run in a contest that just got away in the seventh inning.
This is the way it goes in a tournament that goes for five days and includes one outing that went 14 innings. Things may have been a little easier if Florida had Shore on schedule, but that wasn’t in the cards. O’Sullivan wasn’t going to let him do anything he shouldn’t on Sunday as the team prepares for to host an NCAA Regional next weekend.
“He’s fine,” O’Sullivan said of Shore shortly after the game. “I just decided to take him out at that point, but he’ll be ready to go Saturday or Friday of next week. He’ll be fine.”
The Florida head coach was very proud of the way his team fought through the week after the 14 inning affair and 5-3 loss to LSU on Wednesday evening that went on until 3 a.m. eastern time Thursday morning.
“I think it says everything about the character of our team,” he said. “Probably coming in I don’t know what more wins would have done for us on our resume, but they came back and battled and that was a tough night because there were a lot of opportunities we had to score the winning run and it was a little frustrating.
“They were tired and without much sleep. They battled through it and got through that game and I think they had a heck of a week.”
The SEC did help O’Sullivan learn some things about his team or maybe just provided some trust in some players that might not have been there before.
One was freshman outfielder Danny Reyes who turned in four doubles in six hits and four RBI in the five games. Seldom used during the season, Reyes even turned in a nice defensive play late in the game Sunday on a deep fly ball to left field.
“I think he’s played his way into some more playing time,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s had a very good week. I’m looking forward to getting Pete Alonso back too. Getting him back will help us out quite a bit.”
The bats have been relatively quiet since Alonso went down three weeks ago. The junior first baseman broke a bone in his left hand while at bat against Vanderbilt and has missed ever since. He is expected to practice this week and return next week for the regional. Adding Reyes’ bat along with Alonso could be a nice shot in the arm for a team that has been middle of the pack conference wise on offense.
Saturday O’Sullivan saw enough out of pitcher Scott Moss, who started and threw six shutout innings in the 1-0 win over LSU, to know he can help this team as they continue through post season. Moss made the SEC’s All-Tournament Team named at the end of the contest. Byrne threw a couple of good innings Sunday before running into trouble against the buzz saw Aggie offense.
Sophomore catcher Mike Rivera, who had an excellent tournament at the plate, sees a lot to take away from the tournament, even without winning the whole thing.
“There are a lot of positives to this,” Rivera said. “We lost the first game, but I like the way we came back. We also got a lot of young players in today. They showed what they can do. We’re going to take that along to the next step and see what happens from there.”
Sophomore J.J. Schwarz also seems to have found his bat in the last couple of weeks. Schwarz was named to the All-Tournament Team after playing catcher, designated hitter, and first base for the first time in his career, but really because he went 7-for-18 with two doubles a triple and six RBI in the tournament.
Schwarz likes how the bats seem to be coming around a little.
“Losing sucks,” Schwarz said. “Today wasn’t our brightest moment, but the whole week I thought we played really well. I thought it was good for us to swing the bats the way we did this week going into regionals.”
Now Florida awaits the NCAA Selection show which will air Monday, Noon Eastern Time, on ESPNU. Florida is expected to be a one of the top eight national seed who would host both a Regional and Super Regional weekend if they keep winning, and we will find all of that out for sure on Monday.