10 Gator Bites for Friday, April 18

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (20-2) opens up competition in the semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Championships on Friday as it looks to defend the program’s first-ever NCAA National Championship by advancing to the Super Six for the eighth time in the last nine years. UF will compete against Alabama, Nebraska, Penn State, UCLA and Utah on Friday at 8 p.m. in Birmingham, AL with the top three finishers moving on to compete Saturday at 7 p.m. A live video stream of Friday’s event is available by clicking here. ESPN3.com will air Saturday’s Super Six and Sunday’s individual event competitions.

» Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley drew some positive reviews out of his Pro Day workout on Thursday even despite the fact that he was only competing at about 80-85 percent as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. According to Sports Illustrated contributor Tony Pauline, Easley is “drawing heavy interest” from Chicago, New England, San Francisco and Seattle with the aforementioned teams believing he will go in the second round of May’s 2014 NFL Draft.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Tebow, Watkins, Mincey

1 » No. 18 Florida Gators baseball (24-13) smacked the ball around Tuesday on its way to a 7-1 victory and regular-season series win over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (24-14) at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL. The Gators were embarrassed in a Gainesville, FL round robin from Feb. 27-March 2, splitting a pair of games with the Eagles, but came up big Tuesday. Junior catcher Taylor Gushue (3/4, 2 RBI, R) was one of six Florida players to drive in a run, and sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (3/5, RBI, 2 R) did his job in the batter’s box as well. UF used four pitchers to seal the deal against FGCU with junior right-hander Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, H) earning the start and victory. Freshman lefty Kirby Snead (4.0 IP, H, K) ate up the most innings, and freshman RHP Shaun Anderson (1.0 IP) closed the door. The Gators have now won three-straight and four of their last five games.

2 » Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow last week spoke at the Mississippi Coliseum as part of a fundraiser to help support Afghanistan war veteran CJ Stewart. Not only did Tebow himself pledge $10,000 and get four more audience members to do the same – meeting Stewart’s $100,000 goal – he also fielded questions about his life and football. Tebow said he hopes people won’t “talk about football when they talk about me in 50 years,” preferring his legacy to be “how I cared about people, and that I did something to make their lives better.” Seeing as he was in Mississippi, he also discussed UF’s loss to Ole Miss in 2008. “I consider that one of our biggest blessings,” he said, according to The Clarion Ledger. “We were a very talented team, but we needed more motivation. We went to practice in full pads that Sunday, and it was the most intense practice I’ve ever been in. So, thank you very much, Ole Miss.”

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15 Gator Bites for Tuesday, April 15

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was involved in a card accident before his team’s game on Monday – don’t worry, he’s OK – when a woman ran a red light and hit his sports utility vehicle. What happened next? “She said she ran a red light and it was her fault,” Parsons told the Houston Chronicle. “She had a little car so it kind of messed up the front bumper of my car. She was OK. Asked me to sign her insurance card.” Parsons led Houston with 21 points in 40 minutes on Monday. He entered the game recovering from a hip injury he suffered last week.

» According to Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, the Philadelphia Eagles have a high level of interest in Gators outside linebacker Ronald Powell. Kempski notes that Philadelphia has a history of selecting high-upside players that were ranked among the top players in the country coming out of high school seeing as the Eagles used a seventh-round selection on running back Bryce Brown in 2012.

» The final USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll came out following the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and the individual ballots of all 32 coaches that voted were released as well. Five coaches – Tim Cluess (Iona), Matt Driscoll (North Florida), Tim Floyd (UTEP), Shaka Smart (VCU) and Don Verlin (Idaho) – voted Florida into the No. 2 spot over Kentucky, while four other coaches picked UF at No. 4 behind Wisconsin. One coach – Mike McConathy of Northwestern State – ranked the Gators fifth in the final poll.

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No. 25 Florida baseball bests No. 4 South Carolina in dramatic fashion; Gators lead SEC East race

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 25 Florida Gators baseball (23-13, 9-6 SEC) sits atop the Southeastern Conference East division after coming through big over the weekend by taking two of three from the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks (28-7, 8-5) in dramatic fashion on the road at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, SC.

Florida jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the first inning of the series opener, but it was the only run it could muster against South Carolina lefty Jordan Montgomery, who struck out eight batters. A one-out walk issued in the fifth by UF freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (7 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, BB, 2 K) snowballed into a three-run inning for USC, which added an insurance run in the seventh and held on for the 4-1 victory.

The Gamecocks looked to be on their way to securing a series win during game two on Saturday, but the Gators turned things around in a major way with just six outs to go.

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Benches clear as Florida baseball tops No. 1 FSU

Florida Gators baseball has been up-and-down this season but pulled off its second-straight victory over the top team in the nation on Tuesday when it fought through a bench-clearing scuffle and took down the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles 4-1 at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL.

Florida, which also beat Florida State 3-1 in Gainesville, FL last Tuesday, clinched the regular-season series over its in-state rival. The Gators (16-9) and Seminoles (19-5) will play the last contest in their three-game series in Tallahassee, FL on April 8.

It did not take long for UF to get on the board as junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (1/2, R, 2 BB) walked to open the bottom of the first and scored four batters later when junior first baseman Braden Mattson singled to right field.

The Gators boosted their advantage with two more runs in the sixth. Mattson (2/4, RBI, R, SB) singled to open the frame, advanced to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a throwing error by pitcher Peter Miller, who corralled a sacrifice bunt from junior right-handed starter and designated hitter Justin Shafer but let it get away on a throw to first. Shafer scored unearned as freshman third baseman John Sternagel reached on a fielder’s choice with one out, and UF ended the inning leading 3-0.

Things got testy in Jacksonville two innings later when FSU left fielder D.J. Stewart hit a dribbler down the first-base line and collided with Florida sophomore lefty reliever Danny Young, who tried to field the ball in the base path but dropped it before Stewart arrived. UF junior 1B Zach Powers took offense to Stewart’s trucking of Young and met him chest-to-chest beyond the bag. Stewart responded by shoving Powers, and the benches cleared with both teams pushing and shoving.

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4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Matt Every on Sunday clinched his first-ever PGA Tour victory, winning the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL. Every, whose third-round 66 vaulted him into the lead, finished -13 for the tournament and edged Keegan Bradley by a single stroke. The victory results in him receiving earnings of $1.12 million (more than he has made in the rest of his career, combined), 500 FedEx Cup points and an automatic qualification to the 2014 Masters in April. A native of Daytona Beach, FL, Every played at Bay Hill dozens of times throughout his life and long dreamed of winning a PGA Tour event at the course, which is located about an hour from where he grew up.

At Florida from 2003-06, Every was a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection. He is the second former Gators golfer to capture a PGA Tour event title in as many years after Billy Horschel won the 2013 Zurich Classic last April.

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Florida men’s swimming, women’s track & field join Gators basketball with SEC Championships

In total the Florida Gators brought home three 2014 Southeastern Conference Championships over the weekend with the top-ranked men’s swimming and women’s track & field programs joining the basketball team as league title winners.

UF men’s swimming repeated as conference champions, topping Auburn 1440.0-1280.5 at Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, GA to capture the program’s second-straight and 35th overall SEC title. The accomplishment ranks it second all-time to Kentucky basketball (45) for most team crowns in league history. The Gators won 28 titles in a 41-year span from 1953-93 but suffered without one for 19-straight years until taking over the SEC once again in 2013.

Redshirt senior Sebastien Rousseau led the way for Florida, becoming the 12th male UF swimmer to win the Commissioner’s Trophy (most total points). He was also honored as SEC Male Swimmer of the Year for his overall achievements. Rousseau won three 200-yard individual SEC titles in freestyle, individual medley and butterfly, setting a league record in the latter event by finishing the swim in 1:41.07.

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Florida baseball back to .500 as bats go cold

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Playing an extended weekend schedule that likely felt like postseason play, Florida Gators baseball has likely come to the realization that seeing its season go beyond 56 games will be a difficult task going forward.

Florida (6-6), which hosted a double round-robin tournament featuring the Illinois Illini (6-6) and FGCU Eagles (6-4) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL from Thursday-Sunday, came away from the event winning just one of four games.

The event opened with a pitching duel between Gators freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore and Eagles righty Michael Murray. Shore (6.0 IP, 6 H, 7 K) had a strong outing but unluckily got the call to be on the mound during a contest in which his teammates were struggling mightily both at the plate and on the field.

Florida committed a season-high four errors, allowing two unearned runs to score, and failed to provide Shore with any run support. UF had its best shot to tie game in the bottom of the eighth with one out and runners on second and third but only managed one run – a two-out RBI single from freshman catcher Braden Mattson (1/3, RBI) – to fall 2-1 in the opener.

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