Keating Finishing Strongly

The Gator Baseball team is getting key contributions from a key pitcher as it heads into the Super Regional with Southern Mississippi and it couldn't come at a better time. Back in February when the season began about the only thing certain about the pitching staff for the Gator Baseball team was senior starter Patrick Keating.

The eight-game winner from 2008 was to be the top starter this season while others fought to establish themselves either in the rotation or the bullpen.

So much for Coach Kevin O'Sullivan's original plan. After pitching pretty well in his first five outings (4.01 ERA) Keating struggled for several outings, and after getting smacked around by Bethune-Cookman on April 7, his season ERA stood at a robust 6.20. One start later Keating went to the bullpen and he has regained the form of his junior season.

In his last 11 appearances Keating is 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA, and over his last nine outings that ERA is a microscopic 0.59. Last weekend he appeared in two games during the NCAA Regional and pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings. I spoke with Keating earlier this week about his senior season and the way that it's played out for him.

LV: Patrick, it's been an odd senior year for you, but it seems to be ending on a high note. What's it been like for you this year?

PK: In the beginning it was kind of up and down. I'd have a good start here and a bad start there. I just sat out there for a while and tried to figure stuff out. Sully (Coach O'Sullivan) never gave up on me and kept working with me and I'm starting to help the team.

LV: Was it frustrating for you considering the success you had last year?

PK: Yeah, it was frustrating but I think at some point everybody goes through something like that. I think how you handle it is what makes you the kind of player you are. I just kept battling and came through it and I feel like I'm throwing the ball pretty well right now.

LV: Is there one thing you can point to that's really made the difference?

PK: A lot of it comes down to location of pitches. At the beginning of the year the location wasn't where it was last year and wasn't where it is now. That's really been the main difference along with throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes.

LV: What adjustments have you made to being a reliever after all those starts?

PK: Well you don't have to save anything. You can go out there and let it all go from the first pitch.

LV: How gratifying has it been to you go get back on track and be able to contribute to the team's success?

PK: Being able to help the team has made it easier for me to sleep at night to be honest with you. It was pretty tough during the month in the middle of the season, but I feel like I've been a big part of our success lately with my role out of the bullpen and it feels really good.

LV: How exciting is it to be two wins from Omaha?

PK: It's really exciting. We're going to come out here and practice as hard as we can to be ready. Every year our goal is to get to Omaha. It's one of our focus points and it would mean everything, especially to me, Avery (Barnes) and the other guys who have been here for four years.

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Coach O'Sullivan on the keys to Keating's contributions...

"Part of it is confidence. The other thing is his fastball is back now. He went through a lull where he didn't quite have the same fast ball he had (last year), but it's back. The other night against Miami that was the old Patrick Keating we remember seeing. His fast ball was low-90s (MPH) and was sinking, his breaking ball was crisp and his change was improved. That's the best he's thrown all year."

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The Gators host Southern Miss in a Super Regional beginning Saturday at 3:00. Game two will be Sunday at 7:00 and if a third game is needed it will be Monday at either 1:00 or 7:00.


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