2012 Florida Gators baseball: Just win, baby.

Though basketball has national title aspirations and both softball and lacrosse are getting started on what should be a pair of exciting campaigns, no squad is more hyped entering this season than the unanimously top-ranked Florida Gators baseball team.

Florida went all the way to the 2011 College World Series championship series a year ago before falling to South Carolina, a team they will go back-and-forth with throughout the 2012 Southeastern Conference slate. With so many starters returning to the team and an exceptional freshman class signed to fill in the gaps, the Gators have only one true goal in 2012 – win a national championship.

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Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Three drafted Gators shun MLB for 2011-12

Eleven Florida Gators baseball players were selected in the 2011 MLB Draft in June, a school record for the University of Florida. Three of those 11 players – outfielders Preston Tucker and Tyler Thompson as well as right-handed pitcher Greg Larson – have returned for their senior seasons and a shot at the College World Series.

Tucker was picked with the No. 498 overall pick in the 16th round by the Colorado Rockies, Thompson was chosen at the 1,387th spot in the 46th round by the Washington Nationals, and Larson was a 29th round selection (No. 885) by the Los Angeles Angels.

The following now former Gators accepted their deals and left the team:

Junior LHP Nick Maronde – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Senior OF Bryson Smith – Round 34, Pick 1,045 – Cincinnati Reds

Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two on the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60. Though there were indications some might pass on the money and end up playing for UF in 2012, all four players were signed by their respective clubs.

RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals

That leaves the Gators with a eight-person 2011 signing class, which includes four players who were drafted in June but chose not to take their deals.

INF Casey Turgeon – Round 22, Pick 672 – New York Mets
INF Joshua Tobias – Round 31, Pick 937 – Washington Nationals
RHP John Magliozzi – Round 35, Pick 1,080 – Tampa Bay Rays
RHP/OF Ryan Harris – Round 37, Pick 1,139 – New York Yankees
C Brandon Sedell
RHP/3B Justin Shafer
LHP Corey Stump
3B/OF Sean Trent

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Record 11 Gators selected in 2011 MLB Draft

A school record 11 current members of the Florida Gators baseball team were selected by professional organizations on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the second and third days of the 50-round 2011 MLB Draft.

Junior LHP Nick Maronde – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior OF (1B) Preston Tucker – Round 16, Pick 498 – Colorado Rockies
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Junior RHP Greg Larson – Round 29, Pick 885 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Senior OF Bryson Smith – Round 34, Pick 1,045 – Cincinnati Reds
Junior OF Tyler Thompson – Round 46, Pick 1,387 – Washington Nationals

The vast majority – if not all – of the underclassmen picked in the draft are expected to return to school to both graduate and improve their standing for 2012.

Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two in the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60.

RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals

The advisor for Kelly and Smith, Jason Wood of Arland Sports, told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that he expects both players to turn down the large signing bonus they would get for agreeing to forego their college careers and instead enroll at Florida. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” Wood said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment. It’s a compliment to go as high as he did. The Padres are a great organization, and he’s honored to be drafted.”

More Gators are expected to be picked in the draft, which runs for 50 total rounds and concludes on Wednesday.

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Nine Gators selected on day two of MLB Draft

Nine current members of the Florida Gators baseball team were selected by professional organizations Tuesday on the second day of the 2011 MLB Draft.

Junior LHP Nick Mardone – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior OF (1B) Preston Tucker – Round 16, Pick 498 – Colorado Rockies
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Junior RHP Greg Larson – Round 29, Pick 885 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two in the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60.

RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals

The advisor for Kelly and Smith, Jason Wood of Arland Sports, told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that he expects both players to turn down the large signing bonus they would get for agreeing to forego their college careers and instead enroll at Florida. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” Wood said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment. It’s a compliment to go as high as he did. The Padres are a great organization, and he’s honored to be drafted.”

More Gators are expected to be picked in the draft, which runs for 50 total rounds and concludes on Wednesday.

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TWO BITS: Werner DUI dropped, recruits drafted

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner, arrested by Gainesville police on April 12 for driving under the influence, had his case dismissed by the State Attorney’s Office. Werner passed two breath tests, blowing below the legal limit of 0.08 twice, but officers on site said he failed field sobriety tests and arrested him on site. After reviewing video of Werner’s tests, available here courtesy of First Coast News, state attorneys determined there was not enough evidence to pursue the case further. “The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence to sustain conviction,” SAO spokesman Spencer Mann told FCN. “The video doesn’t support what we believe could sustain a conviction. We think he did pretty well on the field sobriety test.” Werner was initially pulled over while driving his girlfriend’s car, which had a tail light out and its high beams on.

2 » Though no Gators were selected Monday in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, two of Florida’s signees were chosen in the compensation round. Right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly (Boca Raton, FL) was picked No. 48 overall by the San Diego Padres, and RHP Hudson Boyd (Fort Myers, FL) went No. 55 to the Minnesota Twins. It is unknown if either will sign with their respective MLB club, though selections that high in the draft are often offered a significant sum of money to skip college for minor league and – hopefully eventually – major league ball.

In addition to the UF’s other signees, 12 Gators are currently eligible to be drafted. Junior pitchers Nick Maronde and Anthony DeSclafani – and junior right fielder Preston Tucker – should be selected the highest out of the remaining pool. Other Florida players who could be picked include seniors second baseman Josh Adams and center fielder Bryson Smith and juniors RHP Matt Campbell, RHP Greg Larson, left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis, RHP Justin Poovey, RHP Tommy Toledo and left fielder Tyler Thompson.

Below is a video of Kelly courtesy of MLB.com:

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Georgia tops Florida 4-3, forces elimination game

In a strange game that included their starting pitcher being knocked out in the first inning, No. 2 Florida Gators baseball (43-16) was forced into an elimination game in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament after dropping a close 4-3 decision to the Georgia Bulldogs (31-29) in the semifinal round of the event.

The top of the first was a tough inning for Florida, which saw sophomore right-handed pitcher Brian Johnson get taken off on a stretcher after giving up two earned runs. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino, who got his leg tangled with the batter while attempting to pick off a runner trying to steal second, stumbled and instead threw the ball into the back of the head of a crouching Johnson.

Johnson (0.2 IP, ER, 2 H, 2 K) was promptly brought to the hospital and deemed alert and responsive though he did have a headache and continued to undergo further tests. He was diagnosed with a minor three concussion (no skull fractures or bleeding) and returned to the team hotel well before the game concluded.

Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani replaced Johnson on the mound, and junior Tyler Thompson was chosen to take his place in the lineup at designated hitter.

The Gators got out of the top portion of the inning and tied the game up in the bottom frame. With sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-2, R, BB) and junior second baseman Preston Tucker (0-3, R, BB, SB) on base via walks, Thompson (1-4, 2 RBI) doubled to center to plate both men and erase his team’s deficit.

Georgia re-took the lead in the third, when three consecutive singles scored a run and a sacrifice fly by the next batter plated another to put the Bulldogs up 4-2. Florida responded in the fourth when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-3, BB) reached on a throwing error allowing junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-4, R, SB) to score from third and the Gators to get within one.

Florida was never able to score the tying run, allowing the Georgia to claim the win.

DeSclafani, who stayed on and pitched the vast majority of the game in Johnson’s stead, put forth a superb effort for Florida. He struck out four, gave up six hits and allowed just two earned runs in 7.2 innings of relief work.

The Gators and Bulldogs will square off in an elimination game Saturday night with the victor facing Vanderbilt in the championship on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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FOUR BITS: Weis, Muschamp, baseball, Demps

1 » The Florida Gators failed to get a commitment from four-star linebacker Raphael Kirby (Stone Mountain, GA) on Tuesday, but offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was in attendance at the Stephenson High School spring game to check in on commits four-star running back Mike Davis and three-star defensive lineman Jafar Mann. Those onsite at the game note that Weis and his Super Bowl ring (which he let a few fans try on) were a major attraction, and Davis was pleased to see his future coach was in attendance. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Mann ended up not participating in the scrimmage “after violating undisclosed team rules.”

2 » Florida head coach Will Muschamp continues to make his rounds of the state while Gator Gatherings are hosted in his honor. He was in Tallahassee on Tuesday and took the opportunity to talk about his counterpart with the Florida State Seminoles, Jimbo Fisher. “In our profession, we’re so busy throughout the year, it’s awful hard to maintain a relationship with anybody unless they’re on your staff,” Muschamp said, according to Florida Today. “But I’ve got great respect for Jimbo. I obviously know [his wife] Candi and the Fisher family very well. We worked together I think about six or seven years. Any time you spend that much time with somebody, I’ve got great respect for him as a football coach and a person. He does a good job.” It should be noted that FSU is no longer referred to the “Team Out West” and UF’s in-house posted schedules; Muschamp has changed it to read “Florida State.”

3 » No. 4 Gators baseball (39-14) struggled mightily Tuesday, allowing the unranked Jacksonville Dolphins (33-18) to rout them 11-2 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Jacksonville posted three quick runs in the first inning, and starting junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (4-2) was pulled after allowing four earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three in 2.2 innings. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB) hit a two-run bomb in the bottom of the first, but Florida’s offense stalled the remainder of the contest. Replacing Panteliodis, junior right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani did not have much luck either, giving up five runs (two earned) while striking out four in 2.1 innings. Jacksonville piled on two more runs in the fourth, three in the fifth and a pair in the eighth to cruised to the victory. The loss was difficult to deal with but relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things for Gators baseball. UF is set for a three-game series with Kentucky beginning on Friday that could determine if Florida, South Carolina or Vanderbilt wind up the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season champion. All three schools are currently tied for first-place with USC holding the tiebreaker.

4 » Putting together his “freaks list” for the 2011 college football season, ESPN Insider’s Bruce Feldman has placed Gators senior running back Jeff Demps at the very top. Here is a portion of what Feldman had to say:

Gators strength coach Mickey Marotti says the back can squat “an ungodly amount of weight.” And despite the added pounds, Demps has gotten faster. “He was a 10.1 guy, is now a 9.9 guy and probably will be a 9.8 guy,” said Marotti, who adds that Demps has really improved his acceleration. […]

“It’s his work ethic and his motor,” said Marotti. “It’s really something special. From the time he showed up here through today, it’s always full-go. This is an overachieving guy that has a lot of gifts. He has an energy and enthusiasm for everything. People feed off him. They love to be around him. He’s the hardest working guy on our football team and I can’t speak for our track coach, but I believe he’s probably the hardest working guy on our track team too.”

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