Takeaways: JJ Schwarz helps Florida Gators baseball bounce back to win four straight

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 10 Florida Gators (28-9, 9-6 SEC) rebounded from last week’s disappointing road trip (1-3 vs. Florida State and Missouri) by displaying an abundance of offense and sweeping its four-game homestand against the Stetson Hatters and South Carolina Gamecocks. Florida scored in every inning of its 22-2 win over Stetson on Tuesday. Gamecocks pitchers did not fare much better against the Gators as UF outscored USC 38-10 in the series (14-3, 12-5, 12-2) to notch its first SEC sweep of the season.

Here are five takeaways from Florida’s near-flawless week:

1. Binging on taters: Freshman catcher JJ Schwarz made this week one he will never forget with four home runs in five at bats on Tuesday night against Stetson. But that wasn’t enough for the rookie slugger, as he punished South Carolina pitchers for three more round-trippers over the McKethan Stadium fences during the weekend series. Schwarz is one of many college players enjoying the NCAA’s new baseball with modified seams, which was introduced this year. A recent report showed a 39 percent increase in home runs this season as of April 1. Even with the inflated numbers, it’s noteworthy that Schwarz’s seven round-trippers this week tops the six home runs hit last season by former catcher Taylor Gushue to lead the Gators.

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JJ Schwarz sets Florida Gators program record with four home runs in a single game

Just 34 games into his collegiate career, freshman catcher JJ Schwarz on Tuesday accomplished something no player in the 101-year history of Florida Gators baseball had before when he smacked four home runs in a single game against the Stetson Hatters.

Schwarz, who entered Tuesday’s contest batting .277 with five homers and 30 RBI on the season, jettisoned the ball out of the park in each of his first three at bats. In his fifth turn at the plate, he rocketed a fourth ball over the McKethan Stadium wall, becoming the first Florida baseball player – and second Southeastern Conference player (Bill Sandry, Kentucky, 1982) – to crush four home runs in one game.

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Takeaways: Florida baseball struggles on road

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (24-9, 6-6 SEC) has gone 3-4 in its last seven games since OnlyGators.com was last able to check in following its win over Stetson on March 24. UF posted a flat 3-3 split in its last two conference series with the Alabama Crimson Tide and Missouri Tigers, book-ending a tough 8-3 loss to the Florida State Seminoles in Jacksonville on Tuesday.

In the Alabama series opener, a back-and-forth game swung in the Tide’s favor with a three-run 10th inning that pushed them ahead 12-9. The Gators evened the series with an 8-1 win in the second game of a doubleheader, and they used a late rally to win game three 7-4, claiming the series. Eight walks against Florida State allowed FSU to even the season series. While Florida looked to bounce back with a 5-1 win against Mizzou, UF was outscored 15-4 over the final two contests to drop the series.

Here are five takeaways from the last seven games:

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Takeaways: Florida baseball bookends losses at Ole Miss with wins over Florida State, Stetson

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (21-5, 3-3 SEC) bookended the last week with high notes but ran into some trouble in the middle games, going 3-2 against the Florida State Seminoles, Ole Miss Rebels and Stetson Hatters in its last five games.

Florida began the seven-day stretch with a 14-8 win over No. 11 FSU, the Gators’ fifth straight win against its in-state rival. UF then dropped its series opener 4-1 to Ole Miss and lost the first game of a Saturday doubleheader 5-2 before claiming a 8-4 victory in the series finale to hold off a sweep. The Gators then ended their short road swing with a rally-aided 9-6 win against Stetson on Tuesday in Deland, Florida.

Here are five takeaways from the last five games:

1. It starts with pitching: In Florida’s two losses at Ole Miss, its starters put the team in an early hole on the road, which spells trouble at every level of baseball. For the second week in a row, sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (3-2, 2.48 ERA) has given up at least one home run in the first inning. Against Tennessee last week, Shore settled down to pitch five more frames; this time, Shore (3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, WP) was unable to get through four innings. Sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (4-2, 4.73 ERA) struggled even more. Puk (2.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 2 WP) was unable to make it out of the third inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, ensuring another long day for the bullpen.

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Takeaways: Pitching, freshmen keep Florida Gators baseball steady through SEC opener

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

Over the last two weeks, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (18-3, 2-1 SEC) split a home-and-home series, cleaned up at home against two non-conference opponents and won its first Southeastern Conference series of the season.

Florida came up short in its first major road test of the season, falling 4-3 to the No. 14 UCF Knights in Orlando on March 4, though the Gators regrouped and won the rematch 10-2 in Gainesville the following evening. Florida then went on to sweep the Maine Black Bears in its final non-conference weekend series (5-0, 6-1, 5-3) and avoided any midweek letdown with a pair of wins against the Fairfield Stags (8-7, 6-1).

The Tennessee Volunteers dominated Florida for eight innings in the Gators’ SEC home opener and eventually claimed a 6-3 win, but UF captured the series with a 8-3 victory on Saturday and 9-4 rubber-match win on Sunday.

Here are five takeaways from the last two weeks:

1. Lefty longmen provide a big boost: Much has been said of the Gators’ strong weekend rotation, but Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has made great use of the versatility offered by his southpaws including senior Bobby Poyner (0-1, 3.13) and junior Danny Young (1-0, 0.63). On Saturday against Tennessee, Poyner (4.0 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 K) relieved sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K) in the sixth and stayed on for the remaining four frames to collect his second save of the season. Young (5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, ER, BB, 7 K) notched a career-high seven strikeouts in five dominant innings of long relief to earn the win in UF’s win over UT on Sunday. Poyner and Young’s ability to go the distance at any time in a game should help O’Sullivan keep his bullpen arms fresh this season.

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FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week after spending time in both the Arena Football League and Fall Experimental Football League last season. Okine, who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans last May, did not make the team’s regular-season roster. He picked up 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the AFL’s Orlando Predators.

2 » Florida head coach Jim McElwain made a statement with his 2015 recruiting class, proving that the Gators were not only able to close strong but also add some out-of-state commitments to the fold. Overall, UF locked up five players from the state of Georgia – including rising athlete Chris Williamson – last cycle after not grabbing a single Peach State prospect in 2014. McElwain this week told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Michael Carvell why he has made Georgia such a priority. “I think [it was due to a] couple things,” McElwain said of why UF had success recruiting the area. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited the area in the past. That obviously helps. But for us, our thought is [to lock down] a five-hour radius around Gainesville. And with that being said, that goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

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Florida infielder Mark Ellis retires from baseball

A 17-year veteran who played for four MLB franchises during his career, 37-year-old second baseman Mark Ellis officially retired from baseball on Tuesday.

Ellis, who primarily played third base for the Florida Gators from 1996-99, was a three-year starter for UF and the Most Valuable Player of the 1998 Gainesville Regional, where he hit .500 with three home runs and 10 RBI.

Ellis had at least one hit in 28 of 31 career postseason games for Florida and holds school records for runs scored in a career (240), most home runs in a single game (three), most stolen bases in an inning (three), most homers from the shortstop position in a single season (14, 1998) and most career doubles in the SEC Tournament (six).

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Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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