The Back Nine comes at you after a really nice weekend that included actually going to a movie in person and (hopefully) making my wife realize what a great mother she is to Kelsey.
- We have to be honest. Midway through this baseball season, most Gator fans were wondering how this year’s freshman class managed to be ranked No. 1 as the best recruiting class in the country. The last couple of weeks have changed that. Florida has not only won six of seven games, but went from being worried about getting into the NCAA Tournament to getting back into the discussion of being a host. Especially considering the stadium the Gators play in. Seriously, Florida could end up being one of those teams that hosts as a two seed. The sweep of Mississippi State in one of the toughest environments you can play in shows that these kids are alright. Four freshmen pitched in Saturday’s win and the freshman are also coming up big at the plate. The Bulldogs are a shell of the team that won it all last year and are in serious risk of not making the SEC Tournament, but you had to be impressed with what these young Gators accomplished.
- That said, it’s far from over. A road series at Missouri and a home series against South Carolina plus that postponed game at home against FSU and the game tomorrow night at home against Bethune still await and the Gators still have work to do. But we went into this last four-series stretch thinking Florida had to win all four series and they are halfway there. Here’s an interesting stat about home and away for this team – the Gators are tied with three other SEC teams for the most road wins this season and also tied for next to last in the most home losses. So, there’s that. The Gators are now No. 12 in RPI after the sweep.
- Meanwhile, Billy Napier made some news with two big commitments this weekend. Knijeah Harris became the second IMG player to commit (the previous total under Florida coaches was zero-point-zero) and Creed Whittemore also committed. Florida fans who were wondering where all the commitments were can calm down … for about a day. The Harris commit is the big one because of that IMG connection that had never existed for UF before, but knowing the Whittemore family Creed may be the one that has a major impact on the program.
- It’s a cool thing when an SEC Tournament comes to town and since we can’t get one in Gainesville for baseball or basketball, it’s exciting that it has finally returned for softball. Florida plays Wednesday afternoon and could use a boost to its resume with a couple of wins at the very least. This Tim Walton team is different from most of his teams during his career at Florida in that it is wildly inconsistent. You just never know what you are going to get at the plate or in the circle. Still, Florida has 41 wins this season and will likely host the Regionals with an outside shot at hosting Super Regionals. Here’s another stat – Florida is 20-4 in games played away from Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium and 21-11 at home. A lot of that has to do with who they play where, but it has still been a weird year for both baseball and softball home and away.
- While we’re at it, how about some kudos for the men’s and women’s tennis teams. Not only did both reach the Sweet 16, they did it by beating the tar out of Miami and FSU in the Round of 32. If you’re a Gator and that doesn’t make you feel happy, we need to talk.
- And a big shout out to lacrosse for winning the AAC Tournament and winning for the 13th straight time AND drawing the overall No. 7 seed and hosting a regional coming up this weekend. It’s about to get crazy over the next few weeks in Gainesville, which is reason No. 27 why I love this town. There’s always something going on and you have a full menu if you want to get out and enjoy high level sports.
- Cher once sang that she wanted to turn back time and so do I. Then, I could have bet a grand on Rich Strike to win the Kentucky Derby as an 80-1 shot. Actually, I would go all the way back to March when he was a 300-1 shot in Vegas. That was an incredible ride by Sonny Leon. It was kind of a Seabiscuit story with a small horse who looked like the jockey just whispered, “OK, let’s go win this thing,” as they came around the final corner. The scene afterwards was a little strange with the horse trying to eat another horse (I may be exaggerating slightly) and getting punched by the Derby handler, but it was seriously the most exciting two minutes in sports. Actually, the most exciting 15 seconds.
- Kind of like the last two minutes of NBA playoff basketball. It certainly has been interesting.
- Friday night was pretty special for this old man and my lovely wife as we went to the High Dive to see Mike Campbell’s band the Dirty Knobs with Stan Lynch on the drums (thanks for my friend Scott Carter for hooking us up). It was awesome, baby, to see 40 percent of the original Heartbreakers perform. These were my favorite three songs from a show that lasted more than two hours:
*And while “Runnin’ Down A Dream” was the perfect closing song, there were a few tears when the band played “Southern Accents.” It was an emotional night. Here is the Heartbreakers version.