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Baseball takes down top-ranked Gators, continues struggles in conference play

(Photo by Brett Oakes)

By: Josh Brannock, Sports Editor

In front of 2,411 fans, the UNF Ospreys took on the No. 1 ranked University of Florida Gators at Harmon Stadium April 3.

Even though the game was at UNF, the crowd was packed with blue-and-orange-clad fans with a hint of Ospreys’ blue and gray. By the end of the game, only Osprey faithfuls were left in the stands as UNF pulled off the biggest upset of the year, beating UF 10-5.

First baseman Michael Wesner, who went three for four on the night, feels that this is the win that UNF needed to get back on track.

“This win’s pretty big. We’ve been struggling a little bit in [conference] play, and coming out here and beating the number one team in the nation [is] just gonna get the ball rolling,” Wesner said.

Head coach Smoke Laval thought the win was good for the team, but it shouldn’t be exaggerated.

“I’ve been on [the Gators’] side on a Tuesday, Wednesday night, and they’re struggling, and they have some injuries,” Laval said.

While Laval doesn’t think the win is as big as it seems on paper, he saw the team turn around something it has struggled to do throughout this season.

(Photo by Brett Oakes)

“Finally our offensive approach was much better tonight — not the hits but the approaches,” Laval said. “Maybe [the win] will kickstart us, and we can play with more confidence.”

Although the game was against the No. 1 team in the nation, Wesner said the team would’ve played the same way against any other team.

“We didn’t care who we were playing, we were protecting our home turf. We didn’t care if it was the number one team in the nation or the worst team in the nation,” Wesner said. “It was a great game, and I’m proud of everyone who played.”

Prior to the win over UF, the team had been struggling as of late. UNF lost its last four games, all on the road, and dropped seven of its first nine conference games of the season. The team was swept in a three-game series by Kennesaw State March 30-April 1.

Wesner couldn’t find a specific answer for what the team has to do to break the conference skid, but he thinks the UF game will help him personally.

(Photo by Brett Oakes)

“It’s just the intensity — you know, I can’t really tell you. We came out here wanting to win,” Wesner said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate, [but after tonight,] it’s just going to feed into the next couple of games and hopefully the rest of the season.”

Laval said the UF game was one of the best games in the last eight games the team has played and thinks the team needs to continue playing like it did against the Gators.

“We need to stay like we did [against the Gators] with that pitch-by-pitch, high-intensity baseball,” Laval said. “Sometimes the teams are just better than us, but that doesn’t bother me. Kennesaw State was very good, but I don’t think any of the other teams we’ve played were better than we were, and that’s what bothers me.”

Wesner built on Laval’s pitch-by-pitch philosophy and feels it’s starting to grow on the team.

“It’s a great way to go out and play the game: don’t take any plays off, and get one out at a time,” Wesner said. “When we get too ahead of ourselves thinking about the next at bat or the next inning, that’s when we get into trouble.”

Email Josh Brannock at [email protected].
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