After Andrew Baker notched the first strikeout of his college career, the freshman danced on the mound. The game was over, and he’d preserved his team’s 8-1 win over William and Mary on Saturday. But in his one inning of work, the game wasn’t really in doubt.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday.
Brought on to close against the Jacksonville Dolphins, Baker inherited two runners and one out in the bottom of the ninth. He finished by allowing a game-winning hit to JU, taking the loss in Florida’s first defeat of 2017.
“I’ve gotta learn to keep composure,” he said. “I’ve gotta learn to throw in tight situations like that. So it’s really a good lesson to learn early.”
Coach Kevin O’Sullivan agreed.
He didn’t think much of Baker’s flop, blaming himself for putting the lefty in that situation. But when No. 3 Florida (3-1) opens its weekend series against Miami (2-1) tonight at 6:30 at McKethan Stadium, O’Sullivan needs Baker — and the rest of UF’s young relievers — to step up.
“I think the key to our team,” he said, “eventually, is the development of four or five of those freshmen.”
Aside from Baker, none of them have received significant playing time. O’Sullivan is hoping to change that against Miami.
Baker, meanwhile, is excited to get another chance to pitch, especially against the Hurricanes.
“I watched this series right here every year since about eighth or seventh grade,” he said, “so I’m really excited to be a part of it this time.
“Jitters are going to be crazy.”
Contact Ethan Bauer at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ebaueri .