Baseball Lets Golden Opportunity Get Away

Two weeks ago I wrote that if the Gator baseball team made it to postseason play they would look back on their series win over Georgia as the biggest factor in making it happen. Well now I have to view it from the other perspective.

If Kevin O'Sullivan's first Gator squad does not advance they will look at their failure in one-run games as the biggest culprit.

The Gators dropped two of three at Alabama over the weekend, letting late leads get away in losses Friday (7-6) and Sunday (8-7). The losses dropped the Gators to 30-and-20 on the year and 14-13 in the SEC. Florida has played seven one-run games in conference play and have lost every one of them.

That stat is particularly significant because overall the Gators have outplayed their SEC counterparts. Florida has outscored SEC opponents by 37 runs over 27 games. That sort of run differential should have the Gators with a much better SEC record than a single game over the .500 mark. Florida's pitching staff has made great strides this season, but the Gators do not have a guy to close out games. Four different guys have two or three saves, and that bullpen-by-committee hasn't been reliable enough.

This weekend's losses were particularly frustrating for the guys in Orange and Blue. Friday, Florida scored twice with two outs in the ninth inning to take the lead only to give it back with two in the bottom of the ninth. Then on Sunday with the game seemingly in hand, a 7-2 lead disappeared in the eighth inning and ‘Bama won it in the ninth when a man scored from second on a sacrifice fly. That should never happen.

A win on Sunday would have left the Gators alone in fourth in the SEC and in excellent position for both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. Instead Florida will enter the final series of the season against Vanderbilt in a four-way tie for fourth place in the conference and just one game ahead of ninth-place South Carolina. That leaves the Gators virtually no margin for error. We'll break down the weekend in a few days, but one thing is certain, Florida will be under a lot of pressure to have a good series against the Commodores. And the pressure they'll be under can be traced directly to their failures in close games.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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