TWO BITS: Beemer wins, Washington to transfer

1 » Former Florida Gators walk-on defensive lineman Gary Beemer, who is most famous for scoring a touchdown as a replacement running back on Senior Day last season, received the 2011 John Stucky Award for being one of the “most impressive young strength coaches” who take the oral portion of the certification and are interviewed about their knowledge. Beemer, who is currently an intern in Florida’s strength and conditioning department, hopes to make a career in the field. He will learn from one of the best, head strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, one of only 71 people in the world to hold a Master of Strength and Conditioning certification, according to the University of Florida.

2 » Gators sophomore outfielder Kamm Washington is set to transfer out of the program, according to a report from the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser. Washington, who played in 33 games this season, is looking at a number of options. “He left on his own free will,” his mother, Cheryl Washington, told the Post. “It was not a good fit.”

Mike Zunino named 2011 SEC Player of the Year; seven teammates awarded All-SEC honors

The team’s leader in hits, runs, home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage, Florida Gators sophomore catcher Mike Zunino was named the 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by the league’s coaches on Tuesday.

He is the second University of Florida baseball player to ever win the award. Former Gators first baseman Matt LaPorta captured the honor in 2005 and 2007.

A terror at the plate for Florida all season, Zunino leads the conference in home runs (15), RBI (59), runs scored (62) and total bases (141); he is second in the SEC in batting average (.383, -.002) and slugging percentage (.701, -.008). Zunino is also tied for third in doubles (19), places fifth in on-base percentage (.455) and is tied for sixth in hits (77).

He was named to the 2011 All-SEC First Team alongside teammates junior outfielder Preston Tucker and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson. Also on the team are Vanderbilt’s Aaron Westlake, Tony Kemp and Grayson Garvin; South Carolina’s Scott Wingo, Michael Roth and Matt Price; Kentucky’s Casey McElroy; LSU’s Mikie Mahtook; and Auburn’s Casey McElroy.

His Gators teammates – senior second baseman Josh Adams, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana and sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall – were placed on the All-SEC Second Team. RHP Karsten Whitson and third baseman Zack Powers were honored on the 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team, and both Zunino and Fontana earned spots on the 2011 SEC All-Defensive Team.

It is the first time in UF history that student-athletes representing the school have won SEC Player of the Year in baseball and softball (senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder). Florida now has 11 SEC Players of the Year for 2010-11 also including Chandler Parsons (men’s basketball), Bank Vongvanij (men’s golf), Christian Taylor (men’s indoor track & field), Will Claye (men’s outdoor track & field), Conor Dwyer (men’s swimming), Monica Dodson (women’s diving), Kathryn Williamson (women’s soccer), Allie Will (women’s tennis) and Kelly Murphy (volleyball). Gators lacrosse’s Kitty Cullen also won ALC Player of the Year.

Photo Credits: The News-Press, John Korduner/Icon SMI

Florida women’s tennis shuts out UCLA 4-0, will face Stanford for 2011 NCAA Championship

Competing in the Final Four for the second-straight season and 21st time in the last 25 years, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (30-1) shut out the No. 6 UCLA Bruins (22-6) 4-0 to advance to the 2011 NCAA Championship taking place on Tuesday at Taube Tennis Stadium in Stanford, CA.

Florida got the evening started by winning two of three doubles contests and picking up the first point of the match. The No. 45 pairing of sophomore Lauren Embree and freshman Sofie Oyen won their set 8-6, and the duo of sophomore Caroline Hitimana and junior Joanna Mather closed out their opponents 8-4.

Embree/Oyen and Hitimana/Mather have been on fire for UF, also winning the doubles point for the Gators in their Elite Eight match-up on Sunday.

No. 17 Embree captured the first singles point with a dominant 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 42 Noelle Hickey and was followed by No. 54 Cercone, who outlasted No. 77 Courtney Dolehide 7-5, 6-3 to give Florida a 3-0 advantage. With the sun setting and the courts becoming much colder, No. 7 sophomore Allie Will – UF’s ace all season – clinched the win for the Gators with a 7-6, 6-2 triumph over No. 57 McCall Jones on court one.

Florida will face the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal (28-0) for the title for the second consecutive year and ninth time since 1988. The Cardinal defeated the Gators 4-3 for the 2010 NCAA Championship and is 6-2 all-time against UF when competing for the national title. Stanford is 16-11 all-time against Florida.

Tuesday’s championship game, where the Gators will look to break the Cardinal’s 184 consecutive match home winning streak, will air live on ESPNU at 7 p.m.

Tebow talks about “Through My Eyes” memoir

A new promotional video has been released featuring Denver Broncos and former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow discussing his memoir, Through My Eyes, which will be released nationwide on May 31.

Companies like Amazon.com have begun taking pre-orders with a release date of May 31. HarperCollins will initially print 200,000 copies of the memoir, and an audio book will also be available. Through My Eyes will be released for the Amazon Kindle as well. You can pre-order it by clicking here.

Tebow will also be participating in a five-city book tour from May 30-June 11. For more information on where he will be appearing in Florida and Colorado, click here.

Noah’s rough Sunday includes one point, gay slur

Post updated at 5:25 p.m.

Sunday was not the best night for Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah.

Facing the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Noah only posted a single point while failing to connect on an attempt from the field, grabbing just five rebounds and dishing six assists.

Additionally, his defense on Heat power forward Chris Bosh was lacking; Bosh scored most of his game-high 34 points on Noah and ended up +15.

“I never got into a rhythm,” he said. “Even if I’m not in an offensive rhythm, I have to bring more. Give Miami credit, they played well. But we can get better.”

However, what Noah will actually be remembered for from Sunday’s game is not his poor performance but rather something he said while on the bench. He apparently directed a gay slur at a heckler in the pro-Miami crowd who was repeatedly taunting him.

Note: The video below contains explicit, inflammatory language.

Like Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant received a few weeks ago, Noah will likely be handed down a fine from the NBA league office for the slur. Bryant uttered a similar phrase to a referee previously in these playoffs.

Noah has since apologized for his actions, something Bryant chose not to do.

“It’s very disappointing. I apologize if I offended anyone,” he said. “I was just caught in the moment. A fan said something that was disrespectful toward me, and I responded. I have to take the consequences like a man. It was just a bad decision on my part.”

UPDATE: Noah has since apologized a second time. “I don’t want to be a distraction for the team, and I apologize for what I said,” he said Monday. “What I said wasn’t right. I don’t want to disrespect anybody. That’s not what I’m about. I just got caught up in something a fan said and I went back at him, and I’m going to face the consequences as a man. Sometimes fans say things that are a little bit overboard, but still, it’s on us not to react. If you react, they win, and I did. It was a bad decision on my part, and I’m going to face some pretty severe consequences.”

Noah was fined $50,000 Monday evening by the NBA.

The quotes used in this post are courtesy of the Miami Herald and New York Times.

Florida sweeps SEC All-Sports awards…again

Any doubt that the University of Florida had the dominant athletics program in the Southeastern Conference during the 2010-11 school year was put to rest Sunday as the university was named the SEC All-Sports champion by the New York Times Regional Media Group for the third-straight season. Sweeping all three titles – overall, men’s and women’s – the Florida Gators won by staggering numbers in each category, literally dominating the competition.

Team (OVERALL)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida160.51610.03
No. 2 Georgia139168.69
No. 3 Tennessee123.5158.23

Team (MEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida 71.5710.21
No. 2 Georgia6178.71
No. 3 Alabama5377.57

Team (WOMEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida8999.89
No. 2 Tennessee75.589.44
No. 3 Georgia7898.67

Florida is the only school to sweep all three titles in a single season, accomplishing the feat for the 11th time, fourth in the last five years and third-in-a-row (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10). All 16 of UF’s sports (nine women’s, seven men’s) were counted with cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field combined into one unit per gender.

The Gators won eight SEC titles over this period: baseball, men’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s track & field, women’s cross country, soccer, women’s tennis and volleyball. It is the fourth time UF has won seven or more SEC titles in a single season.

Florida has been victorious in 21 of the last 24 All-Sports awards with the men’s program winning its 15th and women’s program winning its 18th respective individual titles.

The Gators lead the SEC with 201 all-time team titles.

Florida women’s tennis defeats Miami 4-1 in Elite Eight, advances to 2011 NCAA Final Four

Advancing to the Final Four for the second-straight season and 21st time in the last 25 years, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (29-1) won a nail-biter against the No. 7 Miami Hurricanes (21-7), beating them 4-1 in the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament at Taube Tennis Stadium in Stanford, CA on Sunday.

With the No. 2 pairing of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Alex Cercone down 7-5 to Miami’s No. 5 duo, Florida wound up winning the other two doubles matches to take the doubles point. The No. 45 team of sophomore Lauren Embree and freshman Sofie Oyen won their match 8-4, and the pair of sophomore Caroline Hitimana and junior Joanna Mather took their contest 8-5 to clinch the point for the Gators.

No. 53 freshman Olivia Janowicz captured the first singles point (6-4, 6-2) for Florida, but Miami answered when Gabriela Mejia beat No. 91 Oyen 7-6(1), 6-1. No. 7 Will defeated No. 6 Bianca Eichkorn in straight sets (6-2, 6-1) to give the Gators a 3-1 advantage with three matches remaining in the contest.

Two of the final three matches entered in the third set and both were within a game of each other; UF was well behind in the third. No. 54 Cercone wound up finishing first, clinching the victory for Florida with a 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 win. No. 42 Mather led her opponent, but No. 17 Embree was trailing in her match as the day came to a close.

The Gators will participate in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament on Monday evening; Florida is set to take on No. 6 UCLA (22-5) at 7 p.m. in Stanford.

Florida softball responds from 3-2 loss to run-rule UCLA 11-3, advance to NCAA Super Regionals

It was a tale of two games for No. 3 Florida Gators softball (50-10), which struggled to hit the ball early in the day but hit the cover off it in the late afternoon to win the Gainesville Regional and advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Regionals. Florida fell in a come-from-behind 3-2 win by the UCLA Bruins (36-19) but powered their way to victory in the second contest, earning an 11-3 decision at Pressly Softball Stadium.

Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher got the start for Florida in the first game and got out of numerous jams until being pulled with two runners on in the bottom of the fifth. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers relieved her but ended up allowing one of Brombacher’s runners to score before the inning was over.

The Gators offense responded immediately, utilizing a walk and hit-by-pitch to score twice on in the top of the sixth. Florida called a double steal to place junior pinch runner Lauren Heil (in for senior first baseman Megan Bush) on third and freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle on second with one out.

Senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (0-1, RBI), the next batter, hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Heil; an error at third forced by Colye (1-1, R, BB, 3 SB) sliding into the baseman’s foot let the ball loose and allowed her to score the Gators’ second run of the inning.

After getting through the sixth, Florida entered the bottom of the seventh looking to end the game. UCLA would have none of it, getting their lead-off runner on base and scoring her two batters later on a RBI single. The Bruins’ rally continued as UCLA loaded the bases with two outs. A single to right-center by right fielder Amy Crawford plated 1B Andrea Harrison, gave the Bruins the victory and forced a second and final game.

Florida only registered one hit in the opening game and failed to take advantage of their numerous base running opportunities. The Gators stole seven bags in the contest but left six runners on base, many of whom were in scoring position.

Rogers drew the start in the second game and was clutch early, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the first. Florida rewarded her for her efforts, loading the bases in the bottom of the inning and getting on the board right away.

Bush smacked a two-RBI single to score junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie and senior second baseman Aja Paculba, and Coyle followed with an infield single that was thrown home but bobbled for an error to allow two more runs and put the Gators ahead 4-0. DeFelice (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) did not want the fun to end and jacked a two-run bomb to left with one out to give Florida an early 6-0 advantage. Moultrie (2-4, RBI, 2 R, 2 SB) and Paculba (2-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) followed by returning the favor from earlier in the inning with one-RBI and two-RBI singles to give the Gators a 9-0 lead.

The next two innings were all Rogers, who struck out the side in the top of the second and was faced with another bases loaded jam in the third. Instead of panicking, she forced a 1-2-3 double play and ended the third with a strikeout, her fifth of the afternoon.

Florida tacked two more runs on in the fourth when Coyle (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, SB) stepped up with junior PR Ellie Langley on base (in place of sophomore RF Brittany Schutte) and hit a homer to left to put her team ahead 11-0. Rogers (32-6) was roughed up a bit in the top of the fifth and gave up three runs but eventually tossed three more outs and earned a win against UCLA in a five-inning, run-ruled game hours after taking a tough loss. She allowed seven hits and notched six strikeouts in the second game.

The victory advances the Gators to the Super Regional, which will be hosted in Gainesville, FL as Florida takes on No. 13 Oregon beginning Fri., May 27.

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