Gators commit six errors in loss

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was optimistic about his team's defense this season. He liked the athleticism and range that the Gators could put on the field. It hasn't played out that way during the first week of the season. Through five games, Florida has made 15 errors. The Gators made six errors on Wednesday night in an 8-7 midweek loss to Georgia Southern in 12 innings.

"That's probably the most surprising thing at this point," Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We felt like our defense was going to be one of the strong points of our team, and it will be. If I had the answer, I'd attack it tomorrow. It's unexpected.

"You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. We make six errors, balls are getting under gloves of infielders. To be honest with you, it was remarkable we were able to be in it."

The inexperience is an issue. The two freshmen in the every day lineup — left fielder Harrison Bader and shortstop Richie Martin — are still playing somewhat tentative, while other routine plays have become an adventure for the returning players. Catcher Taylor Gushue leads the Gators with five errors, while Martin, Vickash Ramjit and Casey Turgeon each have two.

It's a problem that has plagued the Gators in the early part of the season. The 15 errors in five games is a tough number to miss. Last year's team didn't make its 15th error until the 22nd game of the season.

"It's not Gator baseball," Turgeon said. "No one likes it. We've got some work to do. The younger guys are getting comfortable. Give it a couple more games and you'll see a big difference."

The errors were costly on Wednesday. After a leadoff single for Georgia Southern in the 12th, sophomore right-hander Ryan Harris had a throwing error on a bunt that made the inning longer and helped the Eagles score one run. That's all they would need to secure the 8-7 win.

The other errors were big, too. During Georgia Southern's three-run fifth inning, Josh Tobias and Martin had errors on back-to-back plays, allowing all three of the runs to score on those plays. They were routine balls that just hit off the side of the infielder's gloves.

The one positive the coaching staff will take away is the fight the Gators showed during the game. After that three-run fifth for the Eagles, Florida faced a 6-1 defecit but fought back to score all five back in the bottom of the fifth. Turgeon had a two-run single and Justin Shafer followed with a three-run home run. It was part of a string of five straight hits with two outs in the fifth inning.

When the Gators return to practice on Thursday, that's what they will be hearing about. O'Sullivan and his staff want to reinforce the positives to start rebuilding the team's confidence.

"There's nothing else to do. You have to be a realist. We know we have to clean up our defense and other things we need to do a better job of, but you've got to keep them upbeat. We're going to build on that.

"Many teams would fold the tent and give in, but these guys fought back. You've got to pull something out of it. Everyone in the locker room is disappointed."

The heartbreak for Florida was made worse because they were one strike from getting out with a win. Closer Johnny Magliozzi came into the game with one out in the eighth inning and got out of a jam with back-to-back strikeouts.

He allowed a one-out infield single in the ninth inning to Ben Morgan, and while getting a strikeout of Chase Griffin, Morgan stole second. With two outs, Magliozzi jumped ahead of T.D. Davis in an 0-2 count. He got a weak ground ball off the bat, but it snuck between shortstop and third base for a base hit to tie the game.

The outcome didn't change what O'Sullivan saw out of Magliozzi on the mound.

"Mags threw the ball really good tonight," O'Sullivan said. "I was very pleased with the way he threw the ball. That's the life of a closer."

The play of Florida wasn't encouraging on Wednesday, but it happened 24 hours after an encouraging road win at UCF in Orlando. Those are the inconsistencies that come with a young team.

"We obviously didn't play very well," O'Sullivan said. "That's pretty indicative of where we are as a team right now with our youth. We played so well last night. Tonight, we did not play well at all."

The Gators host Florida Gulf Coast this weekend for a three-game series, starting at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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