The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that certainly had its ups, downs and probably too much sunshine. And that’s just me at the pool.
10. There was a depressing moment for Gator fans on Sunday after a depressing Saturday (I called it the Sooner State Sweep after Florida lost to Oklahoma in baseball and Okie State in softball). Florida had blown a 5-0 lead in an elimination game against Central Michigan, softball still couldn’t score and Billy Horschel’s massive lead at the Memorial was dwindling quickly. It was about then that I thought about switching both TVs off sports. But then I remembered – you are about to hit the dog days of summer when there is nothing going on. And it was worth it to hang in there.
11. Let’s start with the performance of Carsten Finnvold, which has to go down as one of those times when you say, “I thought I had seen everything.” The unscripted part of sports is what makes it so great. Here was a guy who had barely pitched all year and didn’t go on the road until the SEC Tournament. And the freshman pitched nine innings of relief and stymied a lineup that chewed the Gators up the day before. Jeff Cardozo and I often talk on The Tailgate about all of the times a soft-throwing lefty has stuck it to the Gators in the history of the program. Florida hasn’t had one like this since Sergio Rodriguez. There were a lot of goosebumps when he finished it off and kept Florida alive.
12. Of course, by the time some of you read this, we’ll know more about how big that performance was. If the Gators win today, the legend simply grows. If they lose, it will not be forgotten, but it falls into a different category. Does any of this make any sense? No, and neither does anything right now
13. For example, how many teams can say they had a great postseason when they were run-ruled in two of their last six games and shut out three times? Well, Florida’s softball team would fall into that category. I don’t think very many Gator fans were anything less than proud of this team when its season ended in Oklahoma City. The bats went dead and the two pitchers they faced in the last two games were incredible. There is a theory that you can’t win in OKC without a dominant pitcher and Florida did not have that. But to say this season was anything less than a success would be silly. This team next year could be scary good, kind of like the baseball team will be.
14. I have to admit to welling up when I saw Billy Horschel’s family running onto the green after he won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament. Horschel is really one of the good guys and one of the hardest workers in golf. And don’t forget that nobody has shown his school pride more than Billy during his career and his ultimate goal way down the line is to be Florida’s golf coach (J.C. Deacon just signed an extension and Horschel is in his prime so it will be a while.) That eagle putt on 15 basically ended the tournament and he now has seven wins. He has a long way to go to catch Doug Sanders 20 wins (or even Mark Calcavecchia’s 14), but he certainly has become every Gator’s favorite golfer.
15. Watch out for my Braves, who have won five straight and are finally over .500. The defending champs are still trying to figure some things out and it helps when the opposition isn’t that good, but we are getting to the point where I kind of turn my attention that way.
16. The Warriors had to win Sunday night to make this a series and I can imagine that Boston Garden will be rocking on Wednesday night (last time I checked the cheapest ticket was $955). It was surprising that Al Horford scored only two points after being one of the biggest stories in these playoffs, but maybe he was thrown off by having Klay Thompson covering him. That third quarter did allow me to go to bed at a reasonable time. That certainly is an old man talking here.
17. Oh, one more thing I wanted to say about the baseball regionals. ESPN does a good job covering them, but only if you have ESPN+. I thought I did, but I guess it expired. What bothered me wasn’t that. But the way they will stay with a game where the score is 20-1 and schedule so many games in the same time slots. It’s their world, but you have to pay for it. And there were a lot of great games, but some really embarrassing ones. Maybe we need a run rule like they have in softball and the SEC baseball tournament.
18. It has been two weeks since I have had a Back Nine, one missed for vacation and the other to celebrate Memorial Day. So, I’m sure you missed a great playlist. Or not.
* We were having an interesting discussion at Ballyhoo about the British Invasion. So, here we go starting with “Catch Us If You Can” by the Dave Clark Five.
* And a great one from Herman’s Hermits, “Listen People.”
* Finally, “I Go To Pieces” by Peter and Gordon.