TWO BITS: Gators baseball, softball win three

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (12-1) won their 10th consecutive game with a 15-2 thrashing of the Florida A&M Rattlers (1-12) on Wednesday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman outfielder Justin Shafer (1/2) notched a career-high six RBIs on a double and three sacrifice flies. He also pitched the final frame of the game, striking out the side on 14 pitches. Freshman right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi (3.0 IP, 6 H, K) got the start but gave up two earned runs in his outing, giving senior RHP Greg Larson (2-0, 3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K) the opportunity to supplant him and pick up the victory. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1/1, 2 RBI, 3 R, 3 BB) was also stellar at the plate, and senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, 2 RBI, R, BB) picked up the 274th hit of his career on a double in the fifth, tying Jeff Corsaletti (2002-05) for fourth on the school’s all-time list. Florida remains undefeated (17-0) against Florida A&M and will have one day off before hosting Florida Gulf Coast for a three-game series on Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (4 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m. on Sun Sports).

2 » No. 3 Gators softball (21-1, 2-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to 11 games with a doubleheader sweep of the Mississippi State Bulldogs (14-7, 0-2 SEC) to open Southeastern Conference play on the road in Starkville, MS. Florida defeated Mississippi State 1-0 behind a complete game one-hit shutout by sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (11-0) in the first game and earned an equally hard-fought 8-5 win in the second contest with freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (4-0) earning the victory and Rogers (S1) picking up the save. Rogers struck out eight in the opening contest but was only supported by three hits from the Gators including what would be a game-winning RBI by freshman left fielder Jessica Damico (1-3) in the fifth. Freshman RHP Lauren Haeger started the second game but was roughed up for five runs (two earned) on three hits with three walks in just 1.2 innings. Bache (2.1 IP, 2 H, BB, K) and Rogers (3.0 IP, H, 3 K) closed the game out as sophomore RF Kasey Fagan (2-3, 3 RBI, BB) led the way at the plate. Haeger (1-3, R, 2 BB) and sophomore SS Cheyenne Coyle (0-1, R, 2 BB) added a RBI each, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton (1-4) drove in two runs with yet another homer. Florida will close out the week by playing a three-game weekend road series at Tennessee on Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (noon).

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SIX BITS: Walker, softball, Nelson, gym, lax

1 » Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker was honored on Senior Day before Sunday’s game. Because the game aired on CBS and the broadcast began following the ceremony, most fans did not get to see Walker enter the court with his mother to a loud ovation from his fans. The entire clip, including the video highlight package of some of Walker’s best plays in orange and blue, can be viewed below courtesy of GatorVision.tv:

2 » No. 3 Florida softball improved to 19-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to nine games after winning six contests from Thursday-Sunday by a combined score of 53-1. UF defeated Eastern Michigan 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday before beginning the Lipton Invitational, which the team hosted in Gainesville, FL. The Gators again beat EMU on Friday (16-0) and followed that up with a thrashing of Gardner-Webb (9-0) in the evening. Florida beat GWU a second time on Saturday (14-0), adding a win against Tennessee State (8-0) later that afternoon and a victory over Campbell (4-0) on Sunday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (10-0) earned two wins striking out 19 batters and giving up one earned run in 17.0 innings (she also made one relief appearance). Freshmen RHPs Alyssa Bache (3-0) and Lauren Haeger (6-1) each added two victories with neither giving up a single run and the latter mowing down 15 batters in 10.0 innings. The Gators’ offense was impressive all weekend long, but two players in particular stood out for their powerful performances. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie went 12/20 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and three stolen bases over the six games, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton matched her with four dingers of her own alog with 14 RBIs, six runs and three walks. UF will play five road games this week including two against Mississippi State and three at Tennessee.

3 » It is looking more and more like Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson will be wearing different colors in 2012. With no reports of negotiations for an extension occurring between Nelson and Cincinnati brass, the local media expects that he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next week. Should that occur, it is believed that the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans will make a run at him. The Dolphins in particular look like a promising landing spot for Nelson considering former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who helped resurrect Nelson’s career in Cincinnati, was hired as Miami’s new defensive coordinator after the season.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (10-1) earned a nail-biting victory on the road Sunday against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2). The Gators defeated the Cornhuskers 196.95-196.825, earning two individual event victories while only winning one of the four overall events. junior Ashanée Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson each won the vault with a score of 9.90, while junior Marissa King took home the balance beam victory with a 9.925 mark. Florida’s sizable win in the beam (49.325-48.950) was enough to push them past Nebraska in the overall score. UF will take on No. 7 Utah in their regular season finale on Senior Night on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

5 » No. 4 Gators lacrosse (4-2) dropped their second game to a top-10 ranked opponent this season, falling 12-11 in double overtime to the No. 9 Syracuse Orange (2-2) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Behind 6-4 at the half, Florida rallied over the final three minutes of the second period, scoring three-straight goals to knot the contest at 10 as the whistle sounded. SU got on the board first in overtime, but UF matched their visitors again to force a sudden death second overtime period. The Orange did not take long to make their move, scoring at 5:05 to end the game. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led the Gators with three goals (including the tying score in the first overtime), an assist, six draw controls and five ground balls (a season high for the team), while junior attacker Kitty Cullen had an off game with only one goal in 10 shots. Despite scoring fewer goals than their opponent, Florida had more shots than Syracuse (39-26) and committed fewer turnovers (9-20). UF is scheduled to face Georgetown on the road Wednesday before returning home to host Temple on Saturday.

6 » Both involved in close matches, No. 15 Gators women’s tennis and No. 10 Florida men’s tennis wound up with different outcomes when taking on the No. 5/6 Georgia Bulldogs’ women’s and men’s squads over the weekend. Florida’s women improved to 8-1 by taking down Georgia 4-3 on the road. The Gators won two of three matches to earn the doubles point with victories from the No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather. No. 1 Will fell in singles action to No. 11 Chelsey Gillickson, but No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree and No. 39 Oyen were all victorious to earn the overall win.

Florida’s men rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up with Georgia 3-3 but simply could not complete the comeback victory. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by taking down two of the three ranked duos for the Gators. The No. 8 pairing of junior Billy Federhofer and senior Nassim Slilam won their match, but the No. 18 duo of junior Tripper Carleton and sophomore Spencer Newman and the No. 43 team of sophomore Andrew Butz and junior Bob van Overbeek both fell 8-4. Singles wins by Carleton, Slilam and sophomore Michael Alford tied the match, but No. 51 van Overbeek fell to No. 3 Wil Spencer 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 in a final that lasted 2:28.

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Florida softball passes road test in Palm Springs

Participating in the 2012 Cathedral City Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Palm Springs, CA over the long weekend, No. 1 Florida Gators softball (13-1) won four of the five games they played and went 2-1 against top 25-ranked opponents. Though Florida may get knocked down from their top ranking when the new polls are released Tuesday, the Gators still found plenty of success over the weekend.

Florida started the event with back-to-back games against top competition on Thursday afternoon. UF defeated the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies in a 1 p.m. start before falling to the No. 5 Washington Huskies at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators scored six runs on five hits in the early contest, using sharp hitting from junior catcher Brittany Schutte (1-2, 2 RBI, R, SB) and senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) to help propel them to a 6-5 victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers pitched a complete game, striking out seven while giving up four earned runs (three in the top of the seventh) on nine hits with two walks.

Freshman RHP Lauren Haeger suffered her first loss of the season in the latter contest, allowing five runs (three earned) on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5.0 innings. Washington led 1-0 through 2.5 innings, but Florida took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third after a triple from freshman second baseman Katie Medina (2-3, RBI, R) and a single by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-4, RBI) sent two runs in. UF would not score again, leaving six on base over the course of the contest), as UW scored pairs of runs in the top of the fifth and six to pull away with a 5-2 win.

Gators head coach Tim Walton gave Haeger an immediate opportunity for redemption, throwing her in the team’s 1 p.m. game against the Brigham Young Cougars on Friday. Florida took down BYU 3-0 thanks partially to Haeger (4-1), who struck out five while scattering five hits and two walks in six innings. Fellow freshman RHP Alyssa Bache came on for the final inning, striking out two to earn her first save of the season. UF scored all three of their runs on two dingers including a solo shot by junior designated hitter Ensley Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and a two-run bomb by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) one inning later.

Gammel and Coyle found their power strokes again in the Gators’ second match-up on Friday, a 5-1 victory over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns. Florida got to the plate in the top of the first, but Texas matched the score with a run of their own in the bottom of the second. Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and Coyle (1-3 RBI, R) then each connected on home runs in the top of the fourth, vaulting UF ahead of UT permanently. Haeger (1-2, 2 RBI) and Schutte (0-2, RBI, BB, SB) were responsible for the other runs in the game, while Rogers only gave up four hits while striking out eight in a complete game outing that did not include an earned run.

Rogers (8-0) earned her third win in as many days on Saturday by striking out five and scattering five hits with only one walk in a complete game outing as the Gators took down the Boise State Broncos 3-0 to close out their road trip. Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI) hit a two-RBI single in the top of the first to give Florida an early advantage, and junior right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-3, RBI, R) smacked a solo homer in the fifth to extend UF’s lead.

It should come as no surprise that some of the team’s best performers over the weekend – Schutte, Coyle, Gammel and Medina – all hail from the state of California.

The Gators returned to Gainesville, FL on Saturday and will remain in town by hosting an event next weekend. Florida will take on Eastern Michigan on Thursday before competing in the Lipton Invitational from March 2-4. UF will take on EMU again on Friday as part of the event along with Gardner-Webb (twice), Tennessee State and Campbell. The Gators are set to open Southeastern Conference play on March 7.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, tennis, SEC TV

1 » Florida Gators baseball (2-1), despite losing the third game of their season-opening series to the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (1-2), remained the No. 1 team in the country on Monday when the new polls were announced. After winning their first game of the season 7-3, Florida beat CSF 5-2 Saturday evening before falling 8-5 on Sunday.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (1-0) was erratic through five innings Saturday, allowing two earned runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Junior reliever Austin Maddox (1) came on in the sixth and earned the save by striking out three batters in four one-hit innings. Freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-3) – named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday – led the way with two RBIs (on a bases-clearing triple) and a walk, while senior first baseman Preston Tucker and junior catcher Mike Zunino had two hits and a RBI apiece.

The Gators took an early 3-0 lead Sunday, but junior left-hander Brian Johnson was pulled after striking out five and walking one while giving up two hits in four innings. Sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (0-1) replaced him and imploded, giving up four earned runs on five hits while only recording one out. Florida’s bullpen struggled, and UF only added two runs down the stretch. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4) and senior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-5) each had two RBIs in the game, while Tucker (in at right field) was the most efficient from the plate, going 3-4 with a RBI and walk.

2 » No. 1 Gators softball (9-0) continued their dominant start to the 2012 season with two more wins over the weekend following their 8-0 victory in the series opener against the Michigan State Spartans (1-7). Florida freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (1-0), in her first appearance of the season, came close to a perfect game in her start, striking out four in a complete game and tossing a no-hitter through four of her five innings. The Gators run-ruled the Spartans 11-1 with freshman 1B/DH Lauren Haeger (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) and junior C Brittany Schutte (3-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) leading the way.

Florida was just as dominant on Sunday with a 15-4 win over Michigan State though Haeger (3-0) did give up four earned runs on five hits and four walks with five strikeouts in her complete game victory. Sophomore SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-2) had a homer and four RBIs with a run and a walk and was supported by Schutte (1-1, 4 R, 3 BB) and junior RF/DH Kelsey Horton (1-2, BB), who had two RBIs each. Schutte took home SEC Player of the Week honors on Monday, and Haeger picked up a Freshman of the Week nod.

3 » Even though Florida lost last week to Stanford and fell from No. 1 to No. 2 in the national rankings, the women’s tennis team (5-1) got a bit of good news Saturday night. The Connecticut women’s basketball team fell to St. John’s that evening, ending a 99-game home winning streak dating back to March 6, 2007. It was the longest such streak in NCAA women’s athletics and second-longest nationally among any collegiate sport. UF women’s tennis now owns the longest home winning streak as the Gators have won 98 consecutive matches at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. Florida will try to match UConn’s 99-game streak against No. 13 North Carolina on Sunday and can surpass it next Wednesday against Florida State.

4 » According to the Times Free Press of Chattanooga, TN, the annual football game between Florida and Tennessee that has been aired on CBS every year “since the network became the primary broadcaster of SEC games in 1996” may get bumped in 2012 because of a more attractive matchup between Alabama and Arkansas. The Alabama-Arkansas game, which is normally set to occur a week later in the season, was bumped up a week because of all of the shuffling that had to be done to accommodate Texas A&M and Missouri in the SEC’s schedule for next year. The paper reports that Florida-Tennessee “is the only league contest CBS has shown all 16 years, and it has been televised in prime time on five occasions.”

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2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

Spring is here and No. 2/4 Florida Gators softball is set to begin their 2012 season this weekend by playing five games as part of a three-day tournament hosted by South Florida in Tampa, FL from Feb. 10-12.

The Gators enter the 2012 campaign having lost a number of major pieces that formed the core of last year’s team that went all the way to the championship round of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. However, a strong and dynamic freshman class coupled with a crop of extremely talented players and superb coaching by Tim Walton means that Florida may not be far off from yet another successful season.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

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FOUR BITS: Tebow fulfills a wish, signed book special offer, Vogelbach gone?, Tucker back

1 » Former Florida Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is one of a handful of athletes who recently participated in ESPN’s collaboration with the Make-A-Wish Foundation titled My Wish. These segments, which will air on SportsCenter, feature athletes fulfilling the wishes of ill children by meeting them, hanging out and sometimes participating in an activity. Tebow’s segment, in which he meets up with 16-year-old Adam Hubbs (“who suffers from a rare immunodeficiency disorder known as MonoMac”) will air on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Below is a preview of Tebow’s segment:

2 » Speaking of Tebow, HarperCollins, the publishers of his memoir Through My Eyes, got in touch with OGGOA to make you all aware that there is currently a contest being run in which 10 lucky fans can enter to win a limited edition signed copy of Tebow’s book. All you have to do is click here and enter your e-mail address! Head over and let us know if you are one of the lucky winners. Contest concludes July 20.

3 » According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs are making a push to pluck first baseman Daniel Vogelbach from the Gators. A second-round pick by Chicago in the 2011 MLB Draft, Vogelbach has already signed with Florida to play college baseball next year should he not work out a professional contract. However, the Tribune reports that the team’s scouting director “normally likes ultra-athletic players, but he fell in love with the 5-foot-11, 240-pounder’s big-time power and was impressed that he dropped about 40 pounds from his junior to senior year.” The Cubs may end up paying Vogelbach nearly $1 million more than recommended for a player drafted at his position in the second round.

4 » Former Gators six-time All-American and four-time Southeastern Conference track champion Erin Tucker (1994-99) has been hired by the University of Florida as an assistant under head coach Mike Holloway. “It’s kind of surreal,” Tucker said in a school release. “When I was at Florida in 1994 it was definitely not the team that it is now. During my time working with athletes at other schools I have seen the program grow and I’d like to think that I had a little something to do with that as an athlete in terms of the ideas that we left when we were done running and helped set the foundation. It is like a dream come true, but I’m hesitant to say that because I know that ‘once a Gator, always a Gator’ and I’ve never not been a Gator. It feels really good to come home again and do what I love.”

Extra BIT » Four members of Florida’s impressive 2011 softball recruiting class will be participating in the Under Armour All-American Game this weekend in Orlando, FL. Pitchers Alyssa Bache and Lauren Haeger will be joined by third baseman Bailey Castro and infielder Jessica Damico as four of 30 players invited to the game.

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SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

1 » The No. 2 Florida Gators baseball and softball programs found out Thursday that each would have four games featured live on the ESPN family of networks during their respective 2011 regular seasons. Florida baseball – which will be featured on ESPNU’s Thursday Night Baseball Game of the Week with their contest at Arkansas on May 5 at 7:30 p.m. – will also face Georgia (away) on April 16 at 2 p.m. on ESPNU, Alabama (home) on April 23 at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, and Arkansas (away) on May 7 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. Gators softball will have four home games aired live. Their back-to-back games against Alabama on April 23 (4 p.m.) and April 24 (1 p.m.) will air on ESPN2 and ESPNU, respectively, while their consecutive contests against Tennessee on May 7 (12 p.m.) and May 8 (3 p.m.) will be featured on ESPN and ESPNU. All games airing on ESPN or ESPN2 will also be simulcast on ESPN3.com.

2 » Florida softball also found out Thursday that their incoming 2011 recruiting class has been ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN/RISE. The Gators are bringing in six freshmen including pitcher Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, FL), third baseman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, FL), infielder Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, MO), shortstop Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, FL), utility player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, AZ), UTL Brianna Little (Middleburg, FL) and SS Katie Medina (Downey, CA). Wrote ESPN: “The Gators had a lot of pressure to bring in a dynamic recruiting class with the group they have leaving this year, and they certainly pulled it off. They bring in a big class of seven athletes that includes two dominating pitchers in Lauren Haeger and Alyssa Bache, power at the plate with big hitters like Bailey Castro and Briana Little, and speed in the infield with tough players like Jessie Damico, Sami Fagan and Katie Medina. The Gators have the best recruiting class of the year, hands down.”

More on Tim Tebow, UF basketball and Jacoby Brissett…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: baseball, softball, Tebow, Brissett

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Florida receives nine letters of intent Thursday

Between softball, women’s basketball and gymnastics, the University of Florida was honored to receive nine letters of intent on Thursday from future student-athletes who hope to become big parts of their respective Florida Gators teams.

Softball picked up six commitments for its 2011 signing class including pitcher Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, FL), third baseman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, FL), infielder Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, MO), shortstop Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, FL), utility player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, AZ) and SS Katie Medina (Downey, CA).

“To say we are excited about this year’s signing class is an understatement,” head coach Tim Walton said. “Each one of these student-athletes brings a tremendous amount of talent individually. Collectively, they’re one of the best classes in the entire country. We look forward to great things out of this group. We’ll be losing an extremely talented senior class this upcoming season – arguably one of the best Florida softball classes ever. We are excited about coaching this talented incoming class, which we expect to step in right away and replace some Gator greats.”

The basketball team added point guard Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, CO) and center Viktorija Dimaite (Gainesville, FL by way of Lithuania), both of whom could have a big impact on the program. “I’m excited about the type of people that they are and what they bring to our team,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “They are all-around winners and are definitely championship-caliber people.” Dimaite is 6’4” and helped lead The Rock School to the 2010 Class 1A girl’s basketball state championship, while Needles comes from a high school program that has produced WNBA-caliber players.

Gymnastics head coach Rhonda Faehn scored another major signing for her program by bringing in Kiersten Wang (Colorado Springs, CO). Wang was runner-up on vault at the 2009 Level 10 Junior Olympic Championships and has excelled at every level of competition she has attempted. “Kiersten contains the perfect all-around package. She has a tremendous amount of quickness, power and talent. She is an exceptional talent who is extremely determined and loves to perform. Kiersten will contribute immediately to this team,” Faehn said.

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