Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From No. 1 to Outgunned: UF Struggling in Baseball

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From No. 1 to Outgunned: UF Struggling in Baseball

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE -- It's not hard to understand why the Florida baseball team -- the national runner-up in 2005 -- has struggled this season.

It just takes a while to list and explain the reasons why the nation's preseason No. 1 team is fighting to stay above .500 and avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 1999.

Injuries to key players, others having some trouble adjusting to new positions, young pitchers being forced into major roles when they aren't ready and losing players to professional teams shortly before the season began are the reasons the Gators (22-18, 5-10 Southeastern Conference) look nothing like the team that finished second to Texas last season.

"We've gone through so much adversity this year," catcher Brian Jeroloman said as Florida prepared for today's 7 p.m. nonconference game at No. 5 Florida State (33-6). "A lot of people have gotten hurt, and there's some other things we didn't expect."

Six players expected to play major roles either have been lost for the season or for extended periods because of injuries.

Pitcher Stephen Locke, a freshman All-American last season and a lock to be the No. 2 starter, aggravated an injury to his left elbow during the fall. He had Tommy John ligament transplant surgery in September.

Designated hitter Jared Kubin, who batted .292 last season, suffered a torn labrum during summer ball, underwent surgery in December and was lost for the season. Third baseman Daniel Brooks suffered a fractured left wrist just days before the season opened and was lost for the season.

First baseman Matt LaPorta, who led the nation in homers (26) last season, missed 13 games with a strained oblique muscle early in the season. He has seven home runs and 21 RBI -- well below the 16 homers and 50 RBI he had through 40 games last season.

Relief pitcher Darren O'Day, Florida's ace and ERA leader (1.66), missed 10 days earlier this season with back spasms so severe that he had to be helped off the field.

Brandon McArthur, who hit .268 and drove in 30 runs in his first season after a severe head injury, has been bothered by shin problems all season. He's hitting just .239 and is in and out of a protective boot. …

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