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June 4, 2013
"Two and barbecue" feels a little different in 2013 than it did in 2012 for Florida.
Last year, the Gators were the No. 1 seed in the College World Series before bowing out quickly to South Carolina and Kent State. This go-round? No. 3 ? in Indiana's Bloomington Regional, although Austin Peay (RPI No. 25) and Valparaiso (No. 171) never allowed Florida to see the weekend's host, the issues were familiar.
The Gators left 11 runners on base Saturday. They got their first two batters of the game in play, only to strand both. Florida went scoreless in 15 of the 18 innings it played in Bloomington.
"It's kind of been that way all year long, to be quite honest with you," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.
There's no mystery to why Florida's season went the way it did in 2013. Last year, Florida had eight players (five of them juniors) and six signees drafted in the first 15 rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft. All of them signed. In the last two years, Florida has lost 16 current players and 10 signees to MLB.
"Depleted" is an understatement and it showed all season. It's a minor miracle the team was given the chance to lose two games in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida made the postseason thanks to a 29-28 regular season record against one of college baseball's toughest schedules. A midseason hot streak saw the Gators win a series against Ole Miss and sweep South Carolina. But that was sandwiched by an 11-16 skid to start the year and a 2-7 mark to end it.
"This season is not the standard we want at Florida. There's no rebuilding at Florida," O'Sullivan said. "We've got young players, but it's time to grow up. ? The thing that's been most disappointing is I don't think we've seen the improvement that I thought we would at some point. We have a standard at Florida, and quite honestly, we didn't meet that standard. ? There were a lot of positives this year as well. It's just hard when you have expectations for your team and the season comes to an abrupt end like it has."
O'Sullivan's assessment might be a little harsh. The Gators had one consistent presence in their starting rotation all year, and he went 3-6 with a 3.84 ERA. Florida's bullpen was based around three pitchers who threw a combined 164.2 innings. The other arms never caught up. There were freshmen learning their way and sophomores who weren't quite ready to fill the shoes of departed juniors. Regardless of execution, Florida is probably still another strong recruiting class away from grazing what it once was.
"Rebuilding" isn't a fun word to say, but it can be a necessary one. More importantly, it's a word O'Sullivan should have the right to use after what he has done for UF baseball, especially after an exhausting and mentally taxing season like 2013.