TALLAHASSEE - Kevin O'Sullivan is in his first season as Florida's baseball coach and, prior to taking over the Gators, didn't have any personal experience dealing with the Florida-Florida State rivalry.
That changed with three regular-season meetings between the schools, two won by FSU, including a 4-2 victory in front of a then-record crowd (6,737) at Dick Howser Stadium on April 15.
Therefore, when the Gators found out Monday they were headed to the NCAA Tallahassee Regional and perhaps a rematch with FSU, O'Sullivan quickly addressed the issue in a team meeting. After all, there is no guarantee FSU and Florida will meet this weekend, only anticipation.
Florida opens against Tulane and powerful right-hander Shooter Hunt (9-3, 2.45 ERA) this afternoon, and the No. 2-ranked Seminoles face Bucknell tonight in the opening round.
"You can't look ahead," O'Sullivan said Thursday. "You are facing a guy who is a potential first-round pick. If we do that, we'll be playing the first game for sure on Saturday in the losers' bracket."
Still, the possibility of a showdown between the top two seeds in the double-elimination tournament adds an extra dimension, an element others in the field may not expect, but at least sense.
"I have to be honest," Bucknell coach Gene Depew said Thursday. "This would not have been my choice of places to come because of the caliber of competition that is here.'"
If Florida and FSU do square off, experience is clearly on the Seminoles' side, while history favors the Gators. FSU is making its 31st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Meanwhile, this is Florida's first postseason berth since 2005 when the Gators made it to the College World Series, sweeping a pair of games against the Seminoles on their way to Omaha in the Gainesville Super Regional.
FSU senior first baseman Dennis Guinn understands the public's interest in a rematch with the Gators, but he also knows the Noles haven't been too successful against Florida in the postseason.
"For the fans, it's going to be fun because everybody loves a Florida-Florida State matchup if that happens," Guinn said. "That's not how we're taking it. We can't look ahead."
Florida is 10-2 all-time against FSU in the NCAA Tournament, including 7-0 since veteran FSU coach Mike Martin won his only postseason game against the Gators in his first attempt - a 5-1 victory in the 1981 Miami Regional. Since then, the Gators have outscored the Noles 47-23 to win seven in a row.
Once a stranger to the rivalry, O'Sullivan now understands why Gators and Noles reside on opposite sides of the fence. He could be in store for another lesson this weekend.
"Our players know a lot of their players," he said. "It's a great rivalry."