FOUR BITS: baseball, Hunter, Every, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (31-9, 11-7 SEC) won their second-straight weekend series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (24-17, 8-10 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won the series opener 3-2 in 16 innings on Friday before dropping Saturday’s contest 5-3 and needing a victory Sunday to clinch the series. The Gators started with a 1-0 lead via a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) in the bottom of the second, tied the game 2-2 in the fourth thanks to a RBI double by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott and fell behind 3-2 in the top of the sixth after the Bulldogs rallied. However, Florida would match and exceed that rally in the bottom frame, scoring four runs including three coming from a homer to right by Pigott (3/3, HR, 4 RBI, R, BB) to take a 6-3 lead.

Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (3.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K) got the start for the Gators but struggled with his command in the fourth. Florida’s bullpen allowed two more earned runs over the next 2.2 innings but was able to close out the contest with 3.1 scoreless innings including junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez striking out three of the five batters he faced. Senior RHP Greg Larson improved to 6-0 with the victory, and junior RHP Austin Maddox notched his 11th save of the season.

2 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics may have come up just short of winning the overall national championship on Saturday but that did not stop freshman Kytra Hunter from picking up her second individual 2012 NCAA Championship on Sunday. Hunter, who won the NCAA all-around title (first in school history) on Friday with a final score of 39.725, captured the NCAA vault title on Sunday with a score of 9.8750. Hunter also came within a hair (0.0125) of taking the floor exercise championship as well.

3 » Speaking of heartbreaking losses, former Florida golfer Matt Every (-7) finished two spots back of Ben Curtis (-9) in the 2012 Valero Texas Open on Sunday, losing out on the title and a $1.116 million championship purse. Every did, however, bring home $545,600 for tying for second place and was not the only former Gators golfer to win big money as Brian Gay (-5) tied for fourth and banked $244,125 and Billy Horschel (+14) came in 75th and won $12,090.

4 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons – averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while starting 56-of-62 games as a rookie so far – was recently profiled in the video below. Hours after this initial posting Parsons posted one of the best lines of his young NBA career, scoring a personal-best 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, gymnastics, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (30-8, 10-6 SEC) prevailed in a 16-inning marathon on Friday, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (23-16, 7-9 SEC) 3-2 in the teams’ series opener at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida gave up a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth as Georgia tied things up but neither team posted a run in the following 16 frames. Finally the Gators ended the game by forcing the Bulldogs to commit the first error of the contest for either team. Junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit walked with one out, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved over to third thanks to a wild pitch. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana stepped up to the plate with hopes of driving Ramjit home but struck out swinging; however, Fontana’s third strike was dropped and an error by the catcher (a bad throw to first) allowed Ramjit to cross the plate. Right-handed relievers junior Austin Maddox and senior Greg Larson tossed the final 8.2 innings of the game. Maddox struck out five and allowed four hits in 5.2 innings, but Larson (5-0) earned the win after striking out two in three no-hit innings to conclude the contest. Friday’s game was the longest UF has participated in since 1996.

2 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics finished second in Session II of the 2012 NCAA Championships on Friday, advancing to the 2012 NCAA Super Six for a chance to win the first national title in team history. UF finished with a final score of 197.650, just 0.025 behind session winner Alabama. Freshman Kytra Hunter also captured the NCAA all-around individual national title – the first in team history – with a 39.725 in the event. The Gators will compete for the team national championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. (streamed live on ESPN3.com) and the rest of the individual titles on Sunday.

3 » No. 1-seed Florida women’s tennis (19-1) swept the No. 8-seed Tennessee Volunteers (14-12) in 2012 SEC Tournament second-round action on Friday, advancing to the semifinals where they will face No. 4-seed Ole Miss on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Gators easily won the doubles point and got three quick wins from sophomores No. 68 Alex Cercone, No. 51 Sofie Oyen and No. 121 Olivia Janowicz to end the contest relatively early. Florida will participate in the semifinals for the 25th time in school history, continuing their undefeated streak (25-0) in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The No. 4-seed Gators’ men’s tennis team (14-9) was not as fortunate, falling 4-1 to the No. 5-seed Ole Miss Rebels (13-7) and eliminating themselves from the event.

4 » No. 3/4 UF softball (40-5) swept a doubleheader against the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-22) on Friday and will look to close out the series with a victory in game three on Saturday. Florida won the early contest 7-4 behind the offense of freshman left fielder Briana Little (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) and closing ability of freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (S2, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 K). The Gators used the strong arm of freshman RHP Lauren Haeger (12-2, CG, 5.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K) to help them coast to a 9-0 shutout victory in the evening game. Haeger (1/4, HR, R), freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2/3, 2 R, BB), sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/1, HR, R, 2 BB) and junior catcher Kelsey Horton (1/3) contributed two RBIs each in the contest.

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Johnson leads Florida over Georgia Southern

Junior designated hitter Brian Johnson’s hot streak at the plate continued on Monday as the reigning SEC Player of the Week matched a career-high with five RBIs to lead the No. 1 Florida Gators (29-8) over the visiting Georgia Southern Eagles (22-17).

Florida topped Georgia Southern 8-2 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL as Johnson went 2/4 from the plate, hitting a three-run homer in the first and two-RBI double in the seventh to power the Gators to their fourth win in the last five games.

Senior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson (4-0) picked up the victory on Monday in a short outing, allowing an earned run on four hits while striking out three in 3.0 innings. Four relievers combined to toss seven shutout innings before junior closer Austin Maddox gave up an earned run in the final frame.

UF scored all eight of their runs with two outs and eight of the nine Florida starters registered a hit in the contest. The six Gators pitchers that participated did not walk a single batter in the outing.

Monday’s game was the beginning of a nine-game homestand for Florida. It continues this weekend with a three-game series against Georgia on Friday (7 p.m., CSS), Saturday (7 p.m., CSS) and Sunday (3 p.m., ESPN2).

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No. 4 Florida baseball wins series at Tennessee

Picking up a weekend series victory for the first time since late March, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (28-8, 9-6 SEC) triumphed 2-1 against the Tennessee Volunteers (21-15, 7-8 SEC) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, TN.

Florida and Tennessee kept it close in the first two games, but a blowout victory by the Gators on Sunday gave them their first weekend series win since travelling to South Carolina March 22-24. Sunday’s victory was also UF’s largest since March 16.

Trailing 1-0 early on Friday, Florida rallied for three runs in the middle of the game and held on thanks to some solid relief pitching to deliver sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (4-1, 5.0 IP, 6 H, ER, 3 BB, 5 K) the victory. Juniors left-hander Steven Rodriguez and RHP Austin Maddox combined to strike out seven in four shutout innings with Maddox picking up his 10th save of the season as UF won 3-1.

The Gators’ pitching was not as solid on Saturday with sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson struggling as he continues to work his way back from injury. Whitson gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out just one in three innings, leaving his team in a 4-3 hole as he exited the game.

Florida tied it up in the fourth but eventually fell 5-4 despite a solid effort by freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi. Replacing Whitson, Magliozzi (4-1) only gave up one earned run on two hits with two strikeouts over five innings but was on the hook for the loss as UF failed to plate any of the seven runners they got on base.

Sunday’s series finale featured the Gators’ largest margin of victory in a month as Florida got out to an early 4-0 lead and held on to take down Tennessee 8-1.

Junior LHP Brian Johnson (5-1) earned the win by scattering six hits while walking one and striking out four over 6.0 innings. Five UF relievers combined to end the game by tossing three one-hit innings.

Johnson and junior shortstop Nolan Fontana were both dynamite at the plate over the three-game series. The former went 6/12 with a homer, six RBIs and two runs, while the latter finished 5/8 with a RBI, four walks, two runs and a stolen base.

After playing 12 of their last 15 games on the road, the Gators will come home for a nine-game homestand to close out the month of April. Florida will begin their homestand by hosting Georgia Southern on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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Florida baseball completes season sweep of FSU

Despite entering Tuesday’s game having lost five of their last seven games, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (26-8) completed the season series sweep of the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (27-6) for the first time since 1958 with a big 6-3 victory on the road at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, FL.

Florida came from behind to defeat Florida State in all three of their games in 2012, taking down their in-state rivals 9-2 on March 13 in Gainesville, FL and 4-1 on March 27 in a neutral site game in Jacksonville, FL. With Tuesday night’s victory, UF has now swept FSU and Miami in the same season for the first time in school history.

After going down in order to start the game, Florida found themselves in an early hole as Florida State took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first off a solo homer by second baseman Devon Travis. The Gators loaded the bases with one out in each of the next two innings but stranded all six base runners and failed to get on the board.

The Seminoles made their visitors pay in the bottom of the third, jumping ahead 3-0 after a throwing error by UF junior catcher Mike Zunino and a sacrifice fly by FSU C Stephen McGee allowed two runs to cross the plate.

Florida would not stay down for long, however, finally getting on the board in the next frame. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana walked to lead-off the fourth, moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a looper double to right by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2/4, RBI, BB).

The Gators tied things up in the fifth when freshman 2B Casey Turgeon singled up the middle and Zunino (2/5, HR, 2 RBI, R) followed by smacking a two-run homer to left. It was not long before Florida took and increased their lead on Florida State. UF loaded the bases again in the sixth though only Fontana scored after Turgeon (3/5, RBI, R) singled to left with two outs. Fontana (2/3, HR, RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) continued his stellar offensive performance the next inning with a solo shot to right in the seventh to give his team a two-run cushion.

Though the Gators undoubtedly got the help of some clutch hitting in the middle innings, the pitching in relief of junior left-handed starter Brian Johnson (3.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K) was perhaps even more impressive.

Freshman right-hander Ryan Harris forced eight ground ball outs and registered one strikeout in three no-hit innings, and junior LHP Steven Rodriguez followed by striking out the side (all looking) in the bottom of the seventh. Junior closer Austin Maddox then came on to finish things up, registering the final five outs of the ballgame.

Florida will look to build on Tuesday’s victory when they travel to Knoxville, TN for a three-game weekend series against Tennessee on Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (3 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.). Saturday’s contest will air live on FOX Sports Florida.

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Teddy’s Catch: Florida has hit a rough patch

A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster put together a solid senior campaign in 2009 with seven homers, 25 RBIs and 11 walks while batting .321 and earning 29 starts (including 15 at catcher, 12 at designated hitter and two at first base). No longer with the team and now serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets, he has joined OGGOA as a baseball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season.

Here on Wednesday the Florida Gators baseball team still sits atop the recent top 25 polls as the No. 1 team in the country but UF is lucky that ranking came out on Monday because it certainly does not reflect their recent performance.

Florida began their long eight-game road trip by travelling to Columbia, SC for a three-game series in which they managed to squeak out two wins. Then it was down to Jacksonville, FL for a victory over another top-five team in Florida State and things were looking up for UF with a 3-1 start to their trek.

That was until the Gators travelled to Oxford, MS for their second away series in as many weeks. After giving up a run in the final inning of Sunday’s rubber match, Florida had managed only one win against a top-20 opponent in Ole Miss. This disappointing weekend, as you now know, was followed by what can only be described as a lackluster effort against North Florida in Jacksonville on Tuesday.

While the wheels may appear to be falling off, the last few games are relatively typical of any baseball team on the back end of a long road trip. Even though you get to return to Gainesville, FL between games/series, you are going to class and catching up on work that you’ve missed while trying to find some time to relax at home. Sometimes it is tough to wrench up the energy and motivation for what many consider to be “meaningless” mid-week games. This is not a valid excuse, but it happens to every team – college or professional. The four losses may be ugly even if three came to ranked opponents, but it is easy to forget that the Gators beat the Gamecocks on the road twice and followed that up by taking their second game of the season from the Seminoles.

Continue Reading » Teddy’s Catch: Florida has hit a rough patch

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No. 1 Florida baseball drops first series this season to No. 16 Ole Miss in Oxford

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (24-4, 6-3 SEC) dropped their first series of the 2012 campaign and first regular-season series in 11 months by losing two of three games over the weekend to the No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (20-8, 5-4 SEC) in Oxford, MS.

Florida found themselves fighting from behind the entire weekend, dropping the series opener to Ole Miss 3-0 on Friday, overcoming a one-run deficit to pull away with a 9-4 win on Saturday and losing a late lead in a 7-6 walk-off defeat on Sunday.

Gators junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (3-1, 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, BB, 4 K) gave up three earned runs in the bottom of the first inning on Friday but threw five strong innings to conclude his outing. His teammates were unable to make up for his rough start, however, only registering three hits (two singles and a triple) while on their way to being shutout for the first time since March 8, 2011.

It did not take long for Florida’s bats to come alive as the team combined to tie a season-high with 17 hits in the second game of the series on Saturday. The Gators took a one-run lead in the top of the first but kept swinging back and forth with the Rebels, falling behind 2-1 through four innings and 3-2 through five. UF took the lead for good in the top of the eighth, scoring six runs on six hits including a three-run homer by junior left fielder Vickash Ramjit (3/5, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R). Junior left-hander Brian Johnson (4.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R [2 ER], BB, K) got the start, but freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi (4-0) picked up the victory by registering just one out in the seventh.

Florida fell behind early once again on Sunday with sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (1.2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, BB, K) struggling in his start. However, junior LHP Steven Rodriguez replaced him and steadied things for the Gators, striking out six in four shutout innings. His teammates capitalized on his steady arm by tying the game 5-5. A four-run fourth inning began with a solo shot by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2/5, HR, RBI, R), and junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (3/4, HR, RBI, 2 R, SB) added a solo homer of his own in the sixth.

Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) gave Florida a lead for the first time with UF’s third solo dinger of the game in the top of the seventh, but Ole Miss rallied to tie the contest in the bottom frame. The game appeared to be headed towards a tie as travel time restrictions would have cut off the contest following the ninth inning, but the Rebels took advantage of a throwing error by Tucker with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth for the walk-off victory. Junior closer Austin Maddox (2-1) picked up the loss after giving up two hits in the final frame.

The Gators will look to end their eight-game road trip on a high note when they take on North Florida in Jacksonville, FL on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Florida is 4-3 in the first seven games of the road trip.

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No. 1 Florida tops No. 4 FSU 4-1 in Jacksonville

A three-run sixth inning led No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (23-2) to a 4-1 victory over the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (21-4) in front of 10,751 fans on Tuesday night at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL. The win was Florida’s second against their in-state rival this season and clinched the three-game season series that is spread over 27 days in three separate locations.

The Gators defeated the Seminoles 9-2 on March 13 and will travel to Tallahassee, FL on April 10 to play the final game of the series.

Senior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson got the start for UF and began the contest on fire by allowing just one hit over his first three frames. However, Larson (3.2 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 4 K) encountered some resistance in the top of the fourth as a lead-off double came around due to some solid base running and questionable fielding decisions. He was replaced by sophomore left-hander Daniel Gibson (1.2 IP, H, 2 BB, K), who got the final out of the inning to limit the damage.

Florida stranded pairs of runners on base in the fourth and fifth. Gibson struggled in the top of the sixth, giving up a leadoff walk and a single before throwing two passed balls and an intentional walk to load the bases. Freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi entered the unenviable situation but was able to force a grounder that the Gators’ defense turned into a 5-4-3 double play to get out of the inning unscathed.

The momentum appeared to swing at that point as Florida capitalized in the bottom of the inning. With two on and two out, freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (1/3, 2 RBI, R, BB) lofted a ball just over the center fielder’s head and legged it out into a triple to score both base runners. He reached home one batter later when junior left fielder Vickash Ramjit (2/4, 2 RBI) hit a sharp single to right to give the Gators a 4-1 lead.

Magliozzi (3-0, 0.2 IP) earned the victory as junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (2.0 IP, H, 2 K) and junior closer Austin Maddox (S8, 1.0 IP, 2 K) shut the door on FSU.

The victory marked UF’s first over Florida State in Jacksonville since 2007. It was also the first time the Gators had defeated the Seminoles in a regular season series since 2009. Turgeon and senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/4) each registered their first career triples in the contest.

Florida now has 13 come-from-behind victories in 2012 as well as a 10-2 record against ranked opponents (7-1 against top-10 teams).

The Gators are now halfway through their eight-game road trip and will pick it up on Friday for the beginning of a three-game series against Ole Miss in Oxford, MS.

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