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Florida baseball striding after pressing the reset button

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Florida pitcher Frank Rubio tossed four scoreless innings to lift the 12th-ranked Gators to a 2-1 win over North Florida on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at McKethan Stadium (Photos by Jordan McPherson)

 

GAINESVILLE

Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan doesn’t want to focus on the past.

He knows where his team has faltered this year:  those early-season midweek losses, that three-game sweep at Auburn, those two home losses to Tennessee.

But reliving those mistakes, O’Sullivan said, aren’t going to get his team anywhere.

“Sometimes,” O’Sullivan said, “you just have to press the reset button and just start over.”

That mindset has paid off for Florida as of late.

After a 2-1 win against North Florida on Tuesday night, the 12th-ranked Gators (25-12) have won five of their last six games and are on a roll heading into a key weekend series with South Carolina.

The examples of the team’s resetting mentality are present all over the team.

Exhibit A: Frank Rubio.

The senior pitcher and former St. Thomas Aquinas standout failed to record an out in his past two outings -- two-batter stints against LSU (hit-by-pitch and two-run home run) and Florida State (single, walk) -- and he drew the loss in the outing before that against Auburn.

But on Tuesday, he trotted out of the bullpen and tossed a career-high-tying four scoreless innings and helped turn a key double play en route to his first win of the season. Rubio, a sidearm-throwing righty, gave up just two hits and struck out three, also tying a career high.

Rubio said he has shortened his stride and focused on staying ready during the past three weeks.

“I think it definitely gives Sully a little bit of confidence in that he has somebody who can throw strikes,” Rubio said. “I’ve done it in the past, so I think it was more about reassuring him that he has another arm to help him.”

O’Sullivan added: “In this game, it’s very easy to jump off a guy’s bandwagon when he’s struggling. … Frank’s had a tough year and then all of a sudden, he goes four scoreless.”

DSC_6562Exhibit B: Dalton Guthrie (photo, left).

The shortstop struggled after suffering a shoulder injury in the series opener against Auburn. In the first 14 games he played after the injury (he sat out two games against Missouri), Guthrie went just .119 at the plate (7 for 59) with 13 strikeouts.

But in the last two games, the junior has gone 4 for 7 with two home runs, 3 RBI, three runs scored and four walks. He’s also returned to his normal form in the field, making a key grab in Florida’s series finale against Tennessee two weeks ago and helping turn a double play in the sixth inning against UNF

Exhibit C: The offense as a whole.

Over the last five games, Florida is averaging more than 11 hits and eight runs per game with seemingly a different player showing up each night.

One night, it’s Ryan Larson, the senior with a team-high .349 batting average.

The next, it’s Austin Langworthy, the freshman who is on a five-game hitting streak with a .400 batting average since returning from a wrist injury.

On Tuesday, it was Guthrie (2 for 3, RBI) and JJ Schwarz (RBI double) against a North Florida pitching staff that only allowed six total hits.

“It’s a lot better, that’s for sure,” shortstop Dalton Guthrie said. “We have to keep going, keep working.”

That starts Thursday with the series against South Carolina, which is tied with Florida for second in the SEC East at 8-7 in conference play, two games behind No. 10 Kentucky.

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