THE BACK NINE

The Back Nine: Wow of a weekend for Gators


Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 22, 2017 at 8:34 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after a long weekend of watching a lot of swings and misses and that was just people not answering my phone calls.

10. So how was your weekend, Gator Nation? Wow, it doesn't get much better than softball winning a regional, baseball winning an SEC title, UF winning the All-Sports Trophy and Billy Horschel winning in a golf playoff. Oh, and Tim Tebow hit a homer. It goes back to what we talk about all the time around here, how great it is to have such excellent athletic teams that offer fans so many options. And while I have sometimes been critical of the fan base that doesn't always live up to my expectations, anyone who stayed through two softball games Sunday or the baseball game Saturday deserves a cold beverage and a pat on the back. It was brutal out there.

11. Kevin O'Sullivan's reward for winning the SEC title? A Monday seven-hour bus ride to Hoover, Alabama. Yay! The tourney is a necessary evil because it means a lot of revenue for the city and programming for the SEC Network, but it is also not taken too seriously. For example, Florida will throw Alex Faedo on Wednesday and the other two weekend starters to follow to stay on rhythm. But if the Gators get to the weekend, it'll be a stream of young pitchers on the mound. “We want to get healthy and get our three starters some work,” O'Sullivan said. Sully was not named the SEC coach of the year, which makes no sense because he had zero first-team players. Are you feeling the sarcasm there?

12. Speaking of healthy, O'Sullivan told the Back Nine that he was “in the jar” when Dalton Guthrie went down with an ankle injury. Fortunately, it was a sprain and he'll be back for regionals. It was funny to see him on the field celebrating while on crutches. As for catcher Mike Rivera, he was slated to hit last weekend, but when he hit on Tuesday and Wednesday, “it didn't look right.” He could play this week. It's important to get Rivera some live at-bats before we get to the big tournament.

13. By the way, I've been asked a dozen times about the pitch that drilled Austin Langworthy in the head Friday night and was not called a hit batter. Here's my explanation — baseball is messed up. I get that the home plate ump who was hit by the pitch as well didn't call it because he was dazed. But the other umpires? In the end, it's about the weird review rules that don't allow reviews except in certain situations. It feels like we've seen at least one inexplicable call a game this season. So if you're going to have review, why not make it available all the time? Either you want to get it right or you only want to get it right some of the time. And with the current umpiring situation, baseball needs it more than ever.

14. OK, while I'm pontificating, softball has a problem and it is this — a sport with a lot of quirky rules needs to do a better job of letting people know what is going on. So often this weekend, calls were made for illegal pitches and obstruction and a runner leaving base early and everyone in the press box was trying to figure out what happened. I know I haven't seen everything because on Friday I saw this — nobody knew whether to put a run up for Florida on a play at the plate. Tim Walton finally brought it to everyone's attention that Florida was short a run, but that's not a scoring issue. It's a softball issue. Either make the signals more clear or have a rep in the press box to interpret what is happening and announce it to the bewildered fans. And get off my lawn.

15. Come on down, Alabama. It should be a heckuva Super Regional. The way these two staffs pitch, it might be first one to one wins. It's not ideal to have a second straight year where it's an SEC matchup for Florida in the Supers, but when you get all 13 teams into the NCAA Tournament, you're bound to have some inter-conference matchups. There are three this year. That's fine. But I still believe what the committee did to Minnesota was awful, sending a No. 1-ranked team on the road (to Tuscaloosa, too.) Just because the Gophers lost a pair of 1-0 games doesn't make it right. It was wrong.

16. I can't tell you how excited I was to see Horschel win the Byron Nelson Classic. Too excited if you ask my family. He's such a good dude and the biggest Gator fan in the world. Not only did he win for the fourth time, but his performance gets him into the U.S. Open. And then there is this — his 2-year-old daughter, Skylar, went viral because mom shot a video of her celebration when Billy won. But the most amazing Horschel story was on Monday when his wife, Brittany, came out as an alcoholic and detailed on Twitter her battle and rehab stint. Strong woman. Strong family.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Lauren Haeger, who was a pretty fair softball player at UF — “I think today has been a wake-up call to everyone that umpires never get better no matter how old you get. Learn to deal with it early kids.” Yep. But you have to play around bad calls.

18. So this very nice woman at the softball game Friday asked me to include a Jimmy Buffett song in my Back Nine so, of course, I blew out a flip-flop. I did not step on a pop top. But a margarita sounds good right now. So does this playlist, which does not include any of the songs on the softball public address playlist (take that any way you want to):

• “Machine” by MisterWives.

• “guarded” by Flor.

• “How To Boil An Egg” by Courtney Barnett.

• “The Only Heirs” by Local Natives.

• And because she asked nicely, “Boat Drinks” by Jimmy Buffett.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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