Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.
Thrice is nice
Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.
UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.
The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.
In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.
Baseball takes two of three from Miami
By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
In its first big test of the season, No. 5 Florida baseball (6-1) came away with a passing grade by taking two of three games from the in-state rival No. 8 Miami Hurricanes (4-3) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. UF has now won 19 of its last 24 meetings against UM and came out ahead over the weekend despite being outscored by the visitors 11-8. Impressive outings by senior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner and sophomore right-hander Dane Dunning tilted the series in Florida’s favor.
Friday’s opener was set to be a battle of the aces, pitting Andy Suarez of the Canes head-to-head with Gators sophomore RHP Logan Shore, but only 10 pitches total were thrown between the two hurlers. Suarez strained an oblique during warm-ups and was scratched; Shore (0.0 IP, H, BB) limped off during the first inning due to a hip pointer. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan called on Poyner (5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 7 K) to pitch extended relief, which he did well for the Gators five frames before beginning to fade by giving up a lead-off single and a one-out double in the sixth. From there, the Hurricanes only needed only one more hit to go up 3-1 as a passed ball and wild pitch allowed two runs across the plate.
Freshman catcher Mike Rivera (1/3, 2 RBI, BB) provided a clutch two-out, two-run single in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game 3-3. In the eighth, Rivera was on the receiving end of a perfectly-executed relay via sophomore center fielder Buddy Reed and junior shortstop Richie Martin (1/3, 2 R, BB, SB) putting out Miami C Zack Collins, the would-be go-ahead run, at the plate. Reed (3/5, RBI, R, 2 SB) one-upped himself in the bottom of the ninth, delivering a walk-off single to secure the 4-3 victory. Junior RHP Taylor Lewis (1-0, 1.1 IP), a 2015 transfer, earned the win.
The Canes evened the series with a 7-2 win on Saturday, jumping out to an early lead and holding the Gators at arm’s length the rest of the way. Sophomore LHP A.J. Puk (1-1, 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, WP) struggled mightily in a 25-pitch second inning; in the third, he gave up three hits to open the frame. O’Sullivan soon pulled Puk for junior RHP Aaron Rhodes (4.2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, BB, 6 K), who retired his first four batters before getting into the trouble in the fourth. A monster three-run blast from Collins pushed UM ahead 6-0 and put the game out of reach for good as UF was only able to plate two runs as Tobias (0/3, RBI) hit a sacrifice fly, and freshman C JJ Schwarz (1/4, HR, RBI) mustered a solo shot.
Runs were scarce in the series rubber match. Dunning (2-0, 5.0 IP, R, 3 BB, 4 K, WP) did not allow a hit but gave up an unearned run in the second inning after issuing three-consecutive two-out walks, which all preceded a passed ball. Reed (1/3, RBI, BB) tied the game with a one-run single in the bottom of the third. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader (1/4, RBI, R) then provided the winning run with a solo shot in the fourth. Lewis (1.1 IP, H) collected a four-out, 10-pitch save, his first of the season, to secure the 2-1 victory.
Scoring only eight runs over three games may not win the Gators many more series this season, but the two wins over the Hurricanes do show that Florida’s pitching staff is the real deal. UF’s offense, which scored 50 runs in its first four games, will look to recover against the FAU in Jupiter, Florida, on Tuesday. Florida will then host Stony Brook back in Gainesville over the weekend.
Cake walks continue
No. 1 Gators softball improved to 16-0 with five wins over the weekend while hosting the Aquavina Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Florida routed Liberty 11-0 on Friday, beat Illinois State (4-1) and Kansas (7-1) on Saturday, and wrapped up the event with consecutive dominant wins over Mercer – 20-3, 10-3 – on Sunday.
Senior Lauren Haeger beasted all weekend for the Gators, smacking home runs in four-straight games and collecting 12 RBI. She also picked up four wins, allowing three earned runs while tossing 29 strikeouts in 25.0 innings.
Senior outfielder Briana Little tried to match Haeger in a single game, going 3-for-3 with three homers, nine RBI and four runs in Sunday’s opener against Mercer. Four other Florida players showcased their power with freshman Kayli Kvistad smacking three bombs and collecting seven RBI on the weekend, and junior Taylore Fuller hitting a grand slam in the tournament opener.
The top team in the land, UF will host UCF on Wednesday before taking an extended trip to the West Coast. Florida is set to play 11 games in California from Feb. 27 to March 7, participating in the San Diego Classic and Judi Garman Classic before opening up league play on March 13.
No. 2 Florida women’s tennis was taken as far as it could go by its fierce rivals, the No. 10 Stanford Cardinal, which pushed the Gators until the final set of the final singles match before UF (8-1) extended its home winning streak to 138 matches with a 4-3 victory.
Stanford took the early lead by winning the doubles point, though Florida got right back in the game with three-straight singles victories on the backs of No. 91 freshman Peggy Porter (6-0, 6-2), No. 27 sophomore Belinda Woolcock (6-0, 7-5) and No. 44 sophomore Kourtney Keegan. The Cardinal tied things up with two minor upsets as No. 10 Carol Zhao beat No. 6 freshman Brooke Austin (1-6, 6-3, 6-3) and No. 14 Taylor Davidson snuck by No. 3 freshman Josie Kuhlman (2-6, 6-0, 7-6 ).
The Gators’ hopes were left in the hands of the team’s elder stateswoman, No. 13 junior Brianna Morgan, who split sets one and two (6-1, 2-6) with No. 16 Caroline Doyle. In the end, a double fault by Doyle on match point allowed Morgan to capture the final set 6-3 and send Florida to victory at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
Not what they wanted
Unlike many of the other UF teams over the weekend, No. 2 Florida gymnastics was not quite successful in its tough showdown, dropping a dual meet 197.950-197.425 to the SEC rival No. 3 LSU Tigers on Friday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Gators (5-2, 4-2 SEC) only won on vault with freshman Alex McMurty registering a huge 9.975. Overall, the Tigers were able to dominant, and even the return of junior All-American Bridget Sloan, who only competed on the uneven bars (9.90) was not enough to sway the event in Florida’s favor.
The Gators are looking to three-peat as national champions and have plenty of season left to lock down their routines with three more meets before the SEC Championships on March 21.
Odds and ends
» No. 4 Florida lacrosse (3-1) routed San Diego State 17-7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville on Saturday. Senior midfielder Shannon Gilroy led the way with five goals on 10 shots.
» Gators women’s basketball (12-15, 4-10 SEC) dropped its third-straight game and fell to 1-5 against ranked opponents this season with a 66-46 defeat at the hands of No. 15 Texas A&M. Florida shot 31.7 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers in the contest as freshman guard/forward Ronnie Williams led all scorers with 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting.