FOUR BITS: lacrosse’s big win, baseball’s rebound

1 » Don’t bother telling No. 14 Florida Gators lacrosse that you’re not supposed to upset a top-10 team in only your second year of existence. On Wednesday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL, Florida (5-1) took down the No. 9 Georgetown Hoyas (0-2) 17-10 for the program’s first win against an opponent ranked No. 10 or higher in school history. Leading the way once again for the Gators was sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, who scored four goals on eight shots. Sophomore M Brittany Dashiell matched Cullen shot-for-shot, and sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns scored three goals and notched one assist. Florida out-shot Georgetown 32-19 on the evening and outscored them in both halves. The Gators’ current five-game winning streak is the longest in program history and could be stretched further as they have five games remaining on their nine-game home stand.

2 » Looking to bounce back from a stunning defeat to unranked Georgia Southern, No. 1 Florida baseball (11-2) rebounded in a big way with a 8-1 thumping of the South Florida Bulls (5-7) on the road at the USF Baseball Stadium in Tampa, FL. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (1-0) only pitched 5.0 innings but struck out four and only gave up a single earned run during his outing. Offensively, the Gators were powered by a trio of home runs from junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (3-4, 2 RBI, 3 R), sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-2, 2 RBI, 2 R) and senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, RBI, R). Zunino’s two-run shot in the top of the second put Florida on the board early and ended up being the game-winning hit, and Adams followed him with a solo shot giving the Gators back-to-back homers on the night. UF returns to Gainesville for a three-game weekend series against Rhode Island.

Two more BITS on softball improving to 21-0 and Florida basketball not being able to earn a No. 2 seed in March Madness…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: lacrosse’s big win, baseball’s rebound

Gators add commitment from 2012 PG Ogbueze

Florida Gators basketball’s 2012 recruiting class doubled in size Wednesday as four-star point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) committed to head coach Billy Donovan.

Joining four-star shooting guard Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL), Ogbueze is Donovan’s second backcourt commitment for the 2012 cycle and the University of Florida’s highest-ranked point guard recruit since former five-star Nick Calathes. He is listed as the No. 7 player at his position by Scout and the No. 9 point guard in his class by Rivals.

“When I arrived on campus I was impressed with all the coaches, players and the beautiful campus,” Ogbueze told ESPN about his decision. “I want to learn my position from Coach Donovan, who has had great success with perimeter players and is a proven winner. Winning back-to-back national championships means a lot.”

Always holding the school in high acclaim, Ogbueze decided to attend Florida over offers from Oklahoma, Baylor, Tennessee, Wake Forest and South Carolina. Assistant coach Rob Lanier was heavily involved in his recruitment.

“Braxton Ogbueze approaches everything with excellence in mind,” his high school head coach Sean Wiseman told ESPN. “From the court to the classroom as well as his character, he tries to be the best at what he does. That’s what makes him special.”

The Gators already have five-star SG Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star forward Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI) on board as members of their 2011 signing class.

Scout.com first reported Ogbueze’s decision.

Photo Credit: NY2LA

Florida spring practice will be closed to public

The Will Muschamp era of Florida Gators football will begin with a measure put in place that even former head coach Urban Meyer did not institute during his time in the orange and blue: 2011 spring practice will be closed to the public.

“With a new coaching staff here teaching our system, we feel like minimizing our distractions is important,’’ Muschamp said in an official statement. “We realize that there is high interest from the fans, and we are extremely appreciative of the support that The Gator Nation gives us. We hope that they understand that this decision has been made in the interest of helping our program be successful on Saturdays this fall by allowing our team to learn and develop together in this type of environment.

“We also respect that the media have a job to do and understand that this creates a challenge for them, so we ask for their patience with us as we work through our first spring practice here at Florida.’’

Fans will be able to get their first look at the new Gators team on April 9 at the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game. The event will air live on Sun Sports beginning at noon. Tickets are free for students, Gator Boosters and members of the Alumni Association and F Club. A limited number of free tickets are available to the public; otherwise the cost is $5 per person.

Florida also announced Wednesday that Pro Day will be held for those players hoping to be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft on March 15 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Among those expected to participated, according to UF, are center Mike Pouncey, safety Ahmad Black, punter Chas Henry and guard Carl Johnson.

OGGOA has previously been informed that running back Emmanuel Moody, defensive linemen Terron Sanders and Justin Trattou will also be participating along with a number of other former seniors/graduates.

In the past, Pro Day had been open to both the public and the media. This time around, only the media will be allowed to attend.

“Pro Day is an extremely important day for the career hopes of these players, and they’ve spent an enormous amount of time and energy preparing for it,” Florida associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain said in a release.

“We feel that creating a more private environment and minimizing potential distractions will help give them the best chance to perform up to their potential. We also feel like it’s become more important than ever for us to monitor who is around our team and student-athletes, and taking this step provides us an even greater ability to manage that.”

Parsons, Walker recognized with more honors

Fresh of winning the 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year award from the league’s coaches, Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons earned additional recognition on Wednesday.

SportingNews tabbed Parsons as it’s SEC Player of the Year and selected him as one of the five member of its 2011 All-SEC First Team. The National Association of Basketball Coaches named Parsons to their 2011 All-District 21 First Team.

Also honored Tuesday was Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, who was given 2011 All-SEC Second Team honors by SportingNews and 2011 All-District 21 Second Team recognition by the NABC.

SportingNews chose former Florida assistant and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant as the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year, an award the conference coaches presented to Gators head coach Billy Donovan.

The NABC’s District 21 is an area that covers the states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Florida grad Davie’s bat grab earns rave reviews

Being a Florida Gators fan these days will not get you much publicity…unless you’re a beautiful woman, happen to be wearing jean shorts or are getting in some kind of trouble. Mitch Davie broke through that barrier by simply attending a Atlanta Braves spring training baseball game on Friday and – not as simply – making an astounding one-handed grab of a baseball bat flying into the stands (without spilling his Red Stripe).

“There was a group of nine of us that went to the game courtesy of our area manager for all our hard work these past months. So everyone on my right in my row is with me,” Davie told OGGOA in his first interview about the catch. “I had told D.J. Ackley, who is in sunglasses, that if a ball came his way I’d catch it.

“Two innings later, I hear the crowd scream and I look up and see the bat flying [in my direction]. So I just timed it and threw my hand out. I told D.J. afterward that he didn’t even react; he told me he put his foot up, but I didn’t even see it because I was so focused on the bat.”

Had the Associated Press’ David Goldman not captured the moment with his camera, only a select group of people would have known about Davie’s catch. Instead, his picture has been featured on numerous websites and mentioned on television programs including Jim Rome is Burning (ESPN) and Regis and Kelly (ABC).

He has been contacted for a handful of interviews but chose to speak with OGGOA first.

“I was surprised it was caught on camera and not video,” he said. “I assumed, it being a game played at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, that it would have been caught by someone’s video camera. The response has been tremendous.”

When a bat is flung into the crowd by accident, the respective team’s equipment manager often retrieves it in exchange for a replacement bat or some other memorabilia. Davie was able to keep the one he nabbed, though he jokingly wished his efforts were somewhat rewarded by the offending batter.

“The bat is in my possession,” he said. “I’m kind of upset [Atlanta second baseman] Dan Uggla left in the eighth inning, so I didn’t get an autograph. I think the least he owes me is dinner and a movie for saving him from a lawsuit!”

Davie may not get to enjoy a steak with Uggla, but he was definitely a part of a moment that Gators fans will be proud of for quite some time.

Photo Credit: David Goldman/Associated Press

FOUR BITS: Grant on Donovan, track & field

1 » Like his former boss and close friend did for him a few days ago, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant expressed plenty of positive thoughts and warm wishes toward Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan upon learning he was voted 2011 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. “It’s a great honor – 15 years in the league and the success that he’s enjoyed,” Grant told The Birmingham News. “It’s really, really hard – the expectations were extremely high for his team this year. They may have surpassed those expectations with what they’ve done. […] There is not a more deserving recipient because of the way he approaches what he does and the passion that he has. I’m really happy for him and their program.”

2 » As OGGOA tweeted about Monday, Florida basketball was not the only sport to pull in high praise from the SEC. Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was named the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for his sport on Monday, and junior jumper Christian Taylor earned 2011 SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year honors. Also awarded by the conference were hurdler Eddie Lovett and Cory McGee, who were each named 2011 SEC Freshman Runner of the Year for their respective gender.

3 » The 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships begin on Friday at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, TX, and Florida track and field will be represented by 15 student-athletes (13 men, two women) at the event. The Gators men’s team is looking to defend its title after claiming the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship. Sophomore sprinter and defending champion Jeff Demps will compete in the 60-meter dash, while defending champion Taylor will try to once again win the triple jump. Junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock will also compete in the triple jump. Other Florida athletes participating in the NCAA Indoors include Clay (long jump), junior runner Dumisani Hlaselo (mile), junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), Lovett (60-meter hurdles), McGee (mile), sophomore Tony McQuay (200-meter dash, 400-meter dash), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), senior Terrell Wilks (60-meter dash). The Gators will also field men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay teams.

4 » Former NFL head coach Mike Ditka, speaking with Chicago Sun-Times, provided his opinion on the future of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Ditka only had good things to convey about the second-year pro. “People talk about the combine, about body fat, 40 times, bench presses, how high you can jump. That’s great, but how do you measure heart?” he said. “People talk about Tim Tebow like he can’t do this or he doesn’t have this throwing skill. But all that matters is can he lead you from Point A to Point B. I like him. You cannot coach character. You cannot coach leadership.”

Georgia Southern shocks No. 1 Florida baseball

Coming off a three-game sweep of No. 24 Miami, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball did not expect the Georgia Southern Eagles to put up much of a fight Tuesday night. With the game scoreless entering the fifth inning, Georgia Southern (8-5) exploded for seven runs over the final four innings of the game to rout Florida (10-2) 7-0 and end their 24-game home winning streak at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Looking to give their starters a rest, the Gators began the game with junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone on the hill. Mardone struck out five in only 2.2 innings before being replaced by junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson (0-1), who gave up two earned runs on three hits in three innings to earn the loss.

Only one of the four other runs Florida allowed was earned as errors and miscues cost the Gators dearly. None if it mattered, however, as Florida’s offense was only able to muster three singles over the course of the game. Eagles pitchers Chris Beck, Josh Adams (3-1) and Matt Murray (S2) teamed up to complete Georgia Southern’s shutout. The trio combined to strike out 11 UF batters, with Beck giving up his team’s only walk.

GSU center fielder Shawn Payne (2-5, 2 RBI, R), first baseman Steve Cochrane (1-5, 2 RBI, R) and shortstop Ben Morgan (3-4, 2 R) led the way for their team offensively.

Florida faces South Florida in Tampa on Wednesday before returning home for a three-game weekend series against Rhode Island from Friday-Sunday.

FOUR BITS: Johnson, Pitino, Joyer, Dunker

1 » It is quite obvious that former Florida Gators guard Carl Johnson is a large man. Florida fans have known this for quite some time and NFL folks got to see it for themselves during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine when he weighed in at an event-high 361 lbs. However, Johnson’s size is not solely due to eating habits or not working out but rather the medicine he takes to combat his Crohn’s Disease. “[It’s] like arthritis in your intestines,” he told the Palm Beach Post’s Ben Volin. “Crohn’s patients are known for dropping massive amounts of weight, like 20 pounds in a week. So [the medicine] makes me gain weight. It makes me retain water. But it also keeps me alive, so it’s a double-edged sword.” Luckily for Johnson, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard (who also has the disease) has been there for him from the beginning. Read more about his struggles with the disease and preparation for the 2011 NFL Draft.

2 » He may be a bit biased due to his son being an assistant on the team and the fact that he coached Florida head coach Billy Donovan while both were at Providence, but Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino tabbed the Gators as his dark horse candidate for a national title during a recent appearance on the Colin Cowherd show on ESPN Radio. “Everybody overlooks Florida,” he said. “Obviously Billy Donovan played for me, but I think Florida’s the type of team with three seniors in the front court with a very quick backcourt. They’re a team that could beat anyone on a given night. I look at Florida. Although they are ranked [12th] in the nation, nobody talks about them as a potential national champion. But they have the experience in their head coach, they have the experience in the frontcourt, the returning backcourt.”

3 » You have to be strong in order to play fullback and linebacker. You have to be even stronger to carry your family on your back when your mother suffers a cerebral aneurysm, undergoes multiple surgeries and has years of recovery ahead of her. Florida freshman FB Hunter Joyer is both after helping his family survive the frightening near-loss of his mom. “To have her there to be able to share in that moment was amazing,” Hunter said of his mom joining him on National Signing Day. “I couldn’t imagine how upset I would be if she wasn’t there. Signing with Florida was one of my lifelong dreams, and she was there to share it and take pictures with me.”

4 » Four-star tackle Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) looks to be one of the top offensive lineman available in the 2012 recruiting class, and the Gators are already making a strong push for him. Having visited Florida for Junior Day already, Dunker was impressed with head coach Will Muschamp, the campus and town; he hopes to learn more about the school as he goes through the recruiting process. “I had a good time while they were showing me around,” Dunker told the Post. “I was driving through [Gainesville] and it seems like a place I could live.”

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