Miami series a turnaround opportunity

Jonathon Crawford

The cloud of Florida's losing record isn't free of a silver lining. It's focusing on that silver lining — the positives — coach Kevin O'Sullivan said would be the key to downing No. 21 Miami for this weekend's series at home.

"Regardless of who we play, I think we need to improve and stay positive," Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It's early in the season. There's not much we can do with what's already happened."

Though the Gators (3-6) are dragging on the heels of a five-game losing streak — the most recent drop at the helm of North Florida Tuesday night — Florida's head coach said he has been pleased with his defense as well as the way the Gators have been swinging their bats.

In the extra innings UNF matchup earlier this week, UF boasted six runs and 13 hits in 40 at-bats by the close of the 7-6 loss.

"Unfortunately when you lose, those things kind of get neglected," O'Sullivan said. "It's our job as a staff (to ensure) those positive things continued to get reinforced and to focus on those things."

Junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford (0-1, 4.00) will continue in his spot as UF'S Friday 7 p.m. starter, projected to face off against UM left-hander Chris Diaz (1-0, 0.75). In his start against Florida Gulf Coast last Friday, Crawford went 5.1 innings allowing no hits after 79 pitches. Against the Hurricanes, O'Sullivan said he hopes to leave Crawford in "as long as possible" adding the junior is getting close to an 100-pitch count.

Crawford said following the loss on Tuesday, the pitchers called a meeting to discuss stepping it up and allowing hitters get comfortable in the box.

"We haven't been good at doing that," Crawford said. "Each time we get a lead, we give it up or it's a 2-run lead and the hitters are never really comfortable."

The Gators will again turn toward freshman right-hander Tucker Simpson (0-1, 4.15) for the 7:30 p.m. Saturday start, anticipated to square off against right-hander Javi Salas (2-0, 0.00).

However, O'Sullivan has yet to announce whom Florida will throw on the hill Sunday to battle against Miami left-hander Andrew Suarez (1-0, 1.80). The Gators will focus on one game at a time, using whomever they can from the pen to snag the win for the day, he said. Looking toward Miami's roster, O'Sullivan highlighted the Hurricanes' "older" lineup and bullpen.

"We're in a situation where we can't look too far ahead," he said.

Redshirt sophomore and third baseman Zack Powers said Florida's offense is ready to battle against Miami's bullpen and that the defense needs to brush up not giving up rebound runs. The offense, he said, needs to fine-tune some of the smaller items including mastering situational hitting and getting the leadoff guy on base.

"We practice every little situation and all it comes down to is executing it in a game," Powers said.

Despite the fact Florida is bearing the burden of a losing season thus far, this Miami series boasts opportunity for the Gators, O'Sullivan said. It's just one more opportunity to turn it around.

"We're not far off," he said. "Losing is contagious, but winning is, as well. All it takes is one good game and everybody's starting to feel good about themselves and you get things rolling in the right direction."

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