Sophomore Alex Faedo (L 13-2, 3.30) got the call in game one, in a surprising move from Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. Nonetheless, Faedo (4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 7 K, 3 BB) was ready and started the game in scintillating form, with his fastball reaching as high as 96 mph. Florida State did a good job of putting their leadoff hitter on base, which paid off in the run-scoring innings of the 4th and 5th. The Florida starter was chased before he could record an out in the latter, making way for Dane Dunning (2.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 K), the first of four relief pitchers for the home team. Faedo was well aware where it went wrong for him tonight.
“I threw too many pitches,” said Faedo, whose final pitch count was 82 through four innings plus. “I was behind in the count and put my team in a bad situation.”
The Gators were unable to duplicate their rival’s productivity at the leadoff spot, making it difficult for the home team to establish any momentum.
“I don’t think we got a leadoff man on the entire night, so we weren’t really able to get anything going offensively. We just didn’t hit.”
The rest of the game was painful to watch. Many times this year, the postgame story read in a similar fashion. The Gators struggled at the plate, but the pitching was simply too much to overcome and Florida swept aside an overmatched opponent. It was clear that the top team in the land had a major deficiency, but it was one that could conveniently be put to the side. Florida’s pitching staff is that good and over the course of a long regular season, they compiled the best record in the country heading into the conference tournaments. Two weeks later, the Gators are one loss in this potentially historic season from being over. In the most important game of the season, the #2 ranked Gators produced their worst offensive output of the season.
While Carlton (CG, 2 H, 5 K) was good tonight, he is not in the same class as many of the starters that the Gators faced this season. Despite that, he retired the final 19 batters he faced in what the box score would show as a Randy-Johnson-like performance. It wasn’t. The Gators made decent contact on his pitches throughout the evening, but their efforts were placed directly at a fielder. The Gators were as much unlucky as they were poor, but in a game this important, neither is acceptable. O’Sullivan believes he got a good week of practice out of his club and that their heads are in the right place. It was simply a matter of not getting any breaks.
“I thought we were in a good frame of mind coming out,” O’Sullivan said. “We had a good week of practice. Drew Carlton was just too great. It’s just that simple. We made some mistakes – we walked in a run, we had a lot of deep counts, we dropped the ball at first on a bunt play that cost us a run. We weren’t as sharp as we have been. We’ve got to regroup and get back tomorrow.”
The Gators send SEC Pitcher of the Year Logan Shore to the mound on Sunday (6 p.m. ESPN2). While he has been tremendous, it would likely not have been enough tonight. The Gators have to decide if their season is going to end in Nebraska with glory, or in Gainesville, watching a hated rival live out their dream season.