Slumping Gators still contending for SEC

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Slumps are as much a part of baseball as curveballs and home runs.

Right now the Florida baseball team is mired in one, and it’s coming at a crucial time: With the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship on the line.

The fifth-ranked Gators (33-12, 12-9 SEC) have struggled offensively in their last six SEC games, hitting just .220 and scoring only 17 runs -- including just two runs in their last 21 innings. It’s as poor a stretch as UF has had this season, and it’s not what coach Kevin O’Sullivan envisioned as the Gators head to sixth-ranked Kentucky (35-9, 14-7) for a three-game series Thursday through Saturday.

“It’s just been very hard for us to score runs,” O’Sullivan said after the Gators lost at McKethan Stadium to Arkansas 3-1 in 10 innings last Sunday, their fourth home loss in their last nine conference games. “Teams go through this, and we’re not immune to it. It’s a difficult time right now but we will get through it, and we’ll hopefully be better because of it.”

Florida has scored more than three runs just once in the last six SEC games and the Gators went 13 consecutive scoreless innings against the Razorbacks. UF scored its only run in a 5-1 loss Saturday in the third inning and didn’t score again until the bottom of the eighth inning in Sunday’s 3-1 loss.

“We just haven’t been able to put it together,” O'Sullivan said.

The Gators better start if they hope to repeat as SEC regular-season champions. Kentucky is tied with No. 3 South Carolina (33-11, 14-7) and No. 4 LSU (35-10, 14-7) for first place in the overall league standings and Florida trails those three teams by two games. If the Gators don’t take at least two-of-three from the Wildcats, they’ll have a hard time keeping pace or catching either of the three teams.

UF, which has gone 10-10 since a 25-3 start, has 11 regular-season games remaining, including nine SEC games (Kentucky, Mississippi State and Auburn).