The one consistency on Florida's roster of unpredictable youngsters was supposed to be pitching and defense. The Gators lost dozens of home runs and plenty of batting average but supposedly replaced it with enough talent to keep opposing runs to a minimum.
But that talent was nowhere to be found Wednesday night, as the No. 17 Gators fell 8-7 to Georgia Southern in 12 innings at McKethan Stadium.
Florida committed six errors. Three of them came in a fifth inning in which the Eagles scored three runs on two hits. One of those two hits happened because first baseman Zack Powers missed the tag on a bunt play and then stopped, assuming the baserunner had moved outside the base path.
The Gators have committed 15 errors in five games this season. They committed 70 errors in 72 games last season.
Pitching was often put in poor positions because of defense. Only two walks were issued by Florida's nine pitchers - one by starter Justin Shafer and one by Ryan Harris, the losing pitcher - but both walks led to runs. The leadoff man in the fourth walked before scoring. The game-winning run came thanks to a bases-loaded walk.
"We obviously did not play very well, and I think that's indicative of where we're at as a team right now," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We played so well last night. Tonight, we did not play well at all."
He has a point.
Florida built a 5-0 lead on the road against Central Florida Tuesday night and held it thanks to another long relief appearance by freshman Parker Danciu and a clean 1.2-inning save from Johnny Magliozzi, who gave up the game-tying run to Georgia Southern in the ninth inning Wednesday night.
Tuesday night was another big night at the plate for Powers, who went 3 for 4 with one RBI and one walk two days after hitting two grand slams in a nine-RBI game. He cooled off Wednesday, going 0 for 4 before being pulled.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEKEND
Florida Gulf Coast comes to Gainesville this weekend sporting a 2-1 record after playing in the Snowbird Classic last weekend in Sarasota. The Eagles posted two shutout victories against the St. John's Red Storm to sandwich a 10-inning loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. They did not play any midweek games.
The Eagles' strengths have been Florida's downfall. In three games, FGCU has committed two errors and its two starting pitchers who have posted wins - Ricky Knapp and Michael Murray - have combined to throw 11 scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking two.
Florida will tinker with a new weekend rotation after O'Sullivan was not pleased with starter production during the opening weekend. Shafer, who was moved to a midweek role, will no longer be the Sunday starter as Florida experiments with 6-foot-5, 195-pound freshman Eric Hanhold in the same role.
Hanhold was brought in for a tune-up outing Wednesday night but lasted just one out while allowing two hits, three runs (one earned) and hitting a batter.
WEEKEND GAME TIMES
Friday: 7 p.m.
Saturday: 4 p.m.
Sunday: 12:30 p.m.