Gator baseball team prepares to take final step toward reaching season-long goal
On the eve of playing in its first NCAA Super Regional since 2005, the Florida baseball team is taking a simple, tried-and-true approach: stay focused on the task at hand and just keep doing what they've done all season to get to this point.
"It's not easy to get there and the focus for us when we get this close is we've got to have even better practices than we had last week, we can't take anything for granted,'' UF second-year coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I thought the mindset going into the regional was good, and we can't let up a bit. Regardless of who you play, you've got to play good, sound baseball and be ready to go.''
No. 10 Florida (42-20) will host Southern Miss (38-24) Saturday at 3 p.m, then on Sunday at 7 p.m. If necessary, game three will be held on Monday. The winner will advance to the College World Series in Omaha.
"That was our ultimate goal when we set out this year, to put ourselves in a position to host a Super Regional and give us a chance to hopefully get to Omaha,'' O'Sullivan said. "We're right there and hopefully we'll play sound, fundamental baseball and punch the ticket.
Although Southern Miss was considered a bubble team when the field of 64 was first announced, the Golden Eagles' upset of Regional host Georgia Tech has the Gators taking notice.
"They are very fundamentally sound, hard-nosed and scrappy,'' O'Sullivan said. "They play the game the right way. We're going to have our hands full this weekend, there's no question.''
Only two players on the Gators' roster have ever played in a Super Regional or advanced to the College World Series - Seffner sixth-year senior Brandon McArthur (seen in photo) and former Tampa King standout Stephen Locke. The Gators will have Locke on the mound as the starting pitcher either on Saturday or Sunday.
"It doesn't matter which day he starts, he's going to have to win a game for us to advance,'' O'Sullivan said.
[Photo: University of Florida]