FOUR BITS: Young, Johnson, soccer, education

1 » Florida Gators four-star power forward commitment Patric Young has been selected to be a member of the USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team. Picked as one of 12 of the nation’s top players age 18 or younger, Young will be under the leadership of Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel while competing for the 2010 FIBA U18 Championship for Men from June 26-30 in San Antonio, TX.

2 » Also earning national recognition is Florida freshman pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson, who was invited to tryout for the 2010 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team from July 5-11 at the National Training Complex in Cary, NC. Johnson hopes to be one of 22 players selected for the final roster, which will compete until Aug. 7.

3 » Gators soccer released its 2010 schedule Wednesday, and the match-ups ahead for the women do not appear to be any easier than they have been in previous seasons. Florida is set to face nine teams who competed for the 2009 NCAA Championship – the ninth time in program history that their schedule is so top-heavy. The Gators will begin on Aug. 20 against Miami in Gainesville, FL, and will face notable teams of Florida State, Duke and North Carolina on the road before beginning their Southeastern Conference slate. In the middle of the season, Florida will play five consecutive road games; the team does not have a home stand longer than two games after Sept. 3.

4 » Seeing as most of OGGOA’s readers either attended the University of Florida, hoped to attend UF or have children at the school, it is important to note that the university was ranked No. 15 on Wednesday when U.S. News & World Report released their list of the top public institutions in the United States. No SEC schools finished ahead of Florida and, of course, they were tied with the University of Texas for the 15th slot. Other notable rankings include Georgia (21), Auburn (T39), Alabama (T43), Florida State (T48), Tennessee (T52), and LSU, Arkansas and Kentucky (all T64).

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FOUR BITS: Easley, Crowder, den Dekker, UCF

1 » When the New York Post asked Florida Gators five-star freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley what his goals are when he heads to Gainesville, FL, next week, his response was straight-forward: “start right away and get to that BCS championship game.” Easley – who was honored with a student-athlete award on Monday after finishing high school with an 85 grade average while compiling 73 tackles and 16 sacks as a senior – says that he is excited for his future. “It’s getting crazy,” he said. “I’m going to be doing what I’ve been watching all my life.” Earning praise from his teachers, administrators, coaches and peers, Easley is on the fast track to success and may realize that as soon as Sept. 4 against Miami (OH).

2 » Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, entering his sixth season in the NFL, is facing a bit of adversity this offseason after the team signed high-priced free agent LB Karlos Dansby and traded for back-up LB Tim Dobbins to compete with him for one of the inside positions. Though Crowder has not been a source of game-changing plays yet in the NFL, his consistent play and locker room presence is one of the driving forces of the team’s defense. Crowder sat down with the Sun-Sentinel for a wide-ranging interview which can be viewed below. As OGGOA has contended for years, Crowder is easily the best interview in the NFL. Enjoy.

3 » In college baseball, deciding to remain in school after being selected in the MLB Draft is an increasingly difficult decision – especially when the lure of money is being thrown around. But according to Gators senior outfielder Matt den Dekker, returning to school could not have gone any better. “This is definitely the best moment in my career,” den Dekker said after defeating Miami last week to advance to the 2010 NCAA College World Series. “Coming back was the best decision I could have made.” The choice also improved his draft stock, seeing as he moved up from a 16th-round pick in 2009 to the No. 152 overall pick just over a week ago as selected by the New York Mets.

4 » As OGGOA first reported via Twitter early Wednesday, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan and Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones will be holding a joint press conference in Orlando, FL, on Thursday at 3 p.m. to officially announce the neutral-site game to be played at the brand new Amway Center on Dec. 1. The game will be the first college basketball contest played at the $480 million facility and will hold added significance on two levels for Donovan. Most notably, he will be going up against his former long-time assistant in Jones for the first time since he left the program for the top job at Marshall after the 2007 NCAA National Championship season. Donovan also will be coaching in the new home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the team he once agreed to coach before backing out just days later and signing a new contract with Florida in 2007.

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Errors doom Miami as Florida advances to 2010 NCAA College World Series with 4-3 win Saturday

Advancing to the 2010 NCAA College World Series for the first time since 2005, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (47-15) defeated the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes (43-20) 4-3 in extra innings Saturday after Miami tied a postseason school record with seven errors including three in the final two innings.

As the away team at McKethan Stadium in the second game of the 2010 Gainesville Super Regional, Florida was down 3-2 with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning. Hurricanes shortstop Stephen Perez was charged with a throwing error on a routine ground out hit by Gators freshman catcher Mike Zunino (0-3), which advanced all runners and scored the tying run.

Florida would blank Miami in the bottom frame and move on to extra innings where Gators freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-5) led-off by reaching base on a misjudged fly ball by Canes right fielder Chris Pelaez. Fontana advanced to second and later to third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore RF Daniel Pigott before being driven home by a RBI-double down the right field line by freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (1-5) two batters later with two outs.

UF went up 4-3 and held on to the lead as sophomore reliever Greg Larson earned his third save of the season with a strikeout in 0.2 innings. Freshman pitcher Steven Rodriguez (2-0) earned the win in relief after cleaning up the bottom of the ninth inning and earning an out in the tenth.

Both starting pitchers produced fantastic outings as Gators freshman Hudson Randall posted five strikeouts and only allowed two earned runs on three hits in 6.2 innings, and the Hurricanes’ Chris Hernandez allowed one earned run while striking out four and letting up both three hits and three walks in 8.1 innings.

Florida led 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring the first run in the fifth after two errors helped senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (1-2, three walks) cross home plate; den Dekker scored again in the seventh when freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-3, two RBI) hit an RBI-single to right center field with two outs.

Men were on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when head coach Kevin O’Sullivan removed Randall for closer Kevin Chapman, who immediately gave up a three-run shot to Miami OF Nathan Melendres (1-3, three RBI) to give the Hurricanes their first and only lead of the game.

Florida’s hopes of ending the best-of-three series early looked to be doomed until a string of errors erased UM’s one-run lead.

The Gators continued a 15-game home winning streak and are now 30-9 all-time at home during NCAA play with the victory Saturday. Miami still leads the all-time series 124-99-1, but Florida has mounted a 62-45-1 record in Gainesville and defeated their in-state rivals four times in five games (7-1, 6-9, 4-2, 7-2, 4-3) this season. O’Sullivan is 4-0 against the Canes all-time in NCAA action.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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One down, one to go: Florida trips up Miami 7-2

A dominating performance from sophomore starting pitcher Alex Panteliodis coupled with an onslaught of runs in the third and fourth innings propelled No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (46-15) to a 7-2 victory over the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes (43-19) in the opening game of the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.

A complete game effort from Panteliodis (11-2), including a career-high 12 strikeouts and a streak where he retired the final 14 batters he faced, allowed Florida’s bullpen to rest and remain available for game two of the best-of-three series on Saturday at 7 p.m.

In addition to forcing 12 batters to whiff, Panteliodis scattered three hits over nine innings and only allowed one walk during the affair.

Stepping up at the plate for the Gators were freshmen third baseman Austin Maddox (1-5, run) and catcher Mike Zunino (1-4), who tied for the team lead with two RBI apiece. Outfielders sophomore Tyler Thompson (1-3, solo home run) and senior Justin Pigott (2-4) each scored two runs, and sophomore Preston Tucker (0-2) walked thrice.

Miami committed two errors Friday night, both of which led to unearned runs not attributed to Hurricanes starter David Gutierrez (5-3), who was pulled from the game after allowing seven hits and one earned run in four innings. Catcher Yasmani Grandal scored the team’s only runs on a two-RBI homer in the fourth inning.

UF out-hit UM 9-3 and left more runners on base, too (9-1).

Game two of the Gainesville Super Regional will feature freshman Hudson Randall (8-3, 2.97 ERA) taking the mound for the Gators against junior Chris Hernandez (10-3, 2.77 ERA) for the Canes. If Florida wins, they will move on to the 2010 NCAA College World Series; should they lose, game three will be played Sunday at 7 p.m.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional Gameday: No. 4 Florida Gators vs. No. 11 Miami Hurricanes

Location: McKethan Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 5,500]
Game Times: [1] Fri. – 7 p.m. (EST); [2] Sat. – 7 p.m.; [3] Sun. (if nec.) – 7 p.m.

TV: [1] ESPN/ESPNHD; [2-3] ESPN2/ESPN2HD
Online: ESPN3.com
OGGOA Live Updates: via Twitter

No. 4 Florida Gators No. 11 Miami Hurricanes
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Jim Morris
Record: 45-15 Record: 43-18
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

HISTORY:
» Miami leads the all-time series 124-97-1 over Florida but has a losing record in Gainesville, FL, with UF leading 60-45-1.
» The Gators are making their fourth Super Regional appearance in school history – all have been within the last seven years. The Hurricanes will play their 10th Super Regional, last beating the Orange & Blue in the event with a two-game sweep in 2004.
» Florida is 28-9 (.757) at McKethan Stadium during NCAA play, sweeping the Gainesville Regional two years in a row and knocking Miami off in 2009.
» The Canes have won the head-to-head NCAA match-up 12 of 17 times, ending the Gators’ season on eight different occasions.
» Florida faced Miami in a three-game regular season series in Coral Gables, FL, earlier in 2010, winning two of three games (7-1, 6-9, 4-2) for the first time since 2007.
» Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 5-6 against the Hurricanes all-time, 3-6 during the regular season and 2-0 in NCAA play.
» Strength of schedule: Florida’s was third in the country, trailing Miami and Alabama.

KEEP AN EYE ON…
» Gators starting pitchers…sophomore Alex Panteliodis (10-2, 3.39), freshman Hudson Randall (8-3, 2.97) and freshman Brian Johnson (6-4, 3.97) are a combined 16-2 (.889) with a 2.40 ERA at McKethan Stadium in 2010.
» Freshman sensation Austin Maddox…a third baseman who can play three other positions, has garnered numerous awards while leading the Gators in RBI (68), multiple-RBI games (20), home runs (17) and sacrifice flies (five).
» Sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker…who leads Florida in batting average (.375, 15-40) over the last 10 games with eight RBI, five runs and five extra-base hits (two homers). He also is tops on the team with 16 doubles on the year.
» Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker…a speed demon leading UF with a 23-for-29 conversion rate on stolen bases, he is tied for fifth on the program’s career list with 65 stolen bags and leads the 2010 team in batting average (.361), runs (62) and hits (84).
» Junior closer Kevin Chapman (3-0)…has a team-low 1.28 ERA (42.1 innings) in 29 appearances. He is tied for second in the SEC with 11 saves. As a team, Florida’s 17 saves are one shy of the team’s single-season record (1991).
» The Gators bullpen…which is 16-2 with 17 saves and a 4.20 ERA in 240 innings, while its starters are a combined 29-13 with a 3.86 ERA in 289 innings.
» The ACC Player of the Year…junior catcher Yasmani Grandal leads Miami (and the ACC) in batting average (.411) slugging percentage (.729) and on-base percentage (.538). He is also tops on the Hurricanes in hits (88) and total bases (156), and second in home runs (14) and RBI (58).
» UM’s junior starter Chris Hernandez (10-3)…who is the team’s most dominant pitcher and a flame thrower, leads the ACC in ERA (2.77) and wins.

STREAKS:
» The Gators’ 45 wins so far in 2010 is the program’s highest victory total since the 2005 NCAA College World Series runner-up team finished 48-23.
» Florida is currently riding a 13-game home winning streak.
» The Gators have outscored opponents 420-266 in 2010, are 34-4 (.895) when scoring first and 11-11 (.500) when their opponents do. Florida is 33-3 (.917) when out-hitting opponents and 9-12 (.429) the other way around. UF is also 9-3 (.750) in one-run games, 39-0 when leading after six innings, 43-0 aver seven and 42-0 after eight.
» Florida has committed an SEC-low 50 errors in 60 games and boast a .978 fielding percentage – good for tops in the conference and seventh nationally.
» The Gators’ season totals of 107 doubles and 80 home runs are the most since the 2005 team (113 and 85, respectively).
» Florida is batting .311 against left-handers and .299 against righties.

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FOUR BITS: All-American, All-Tourney, charity

1 » Florida Gators shortstop Nolan Fontana, pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson, third baseman Austin Maddox and pitcher Hudson Randall were all named to the 2010 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team as chosen by Collegiate Baseball on Wednesday. All four players were also selected for the 2010 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team, with Maddox leading the pack by earning 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

2 » Gators softball’s freshman utility player Brittany Schutte was named to the 2010 NCAA Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team on Tuesday. Her 6-9 performance with three home runs in three games was an outstanding accomplishment that made her the first Florida freshman in school history to be given this honor.

3 » Gators football is set to host the third annual Gator Charity Challenge on Friday, July 30, at 7 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The event features members of the team, representing six different charities, squaring off against each other in three strength competitions (such as tire rolling). All of the organizations this year are affiliated with Shands Hospital – Shands Cancer Hospital, American Cancer Society, STOP! Children’s Cancer, Ronald McDonald House, American Heart Association and March of Dimes – and are being captained by seniors safety Ahmad Black, defensive tackle Brandon Antwine, linebacker Lorenzo Edwards, LB A.J. Jones, DT Terron Sanders and defensive end Duke Lemmens, respectively.

4 » The NCAA’s Academic Progress Rates (APR) have been released for the 2008-09 school year, and Florida is looking good in its rankings. The Gators are situated at No. 3 in their multiyear APR (2005-08) in both football (971) and basketball (956), behind only Vanderbilt (No. 1 in both), Georgia (No. 2 football) and Alabama (No. 2 basketball).

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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Chapman, den Dekker selected in 2010 MLB Draft

Two Florida Gators seniors – reliever Kevin Chapman and outfielder Matt den Dekker – were selected on the second day of the 2010 MLB Draft on Tuesday.

Chapman, picked No. 119 overall by the Kansas City Royals, is a left-handed pitcher with a high-90s fastball and solid temperament. The Gators’ closer this season, he has earned 11 saves and posted a 1.28 ERA and 0.99 K/9 in 42.1 innings.

The New York Mets selected den Dekker with the No. 152 overall pick in the draft. Having already posted a .361 average with 13 home runs and 48 RBI this season, den Dekker improved 11 rounds after being pick No. 475 in 2009 by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As many as five other Florida baseball players could be selected in this year’s draft, which may go as deep as 50 rounds.

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FOUR BITS: Super Regional, LaPorta, MLB Draft

1 » No. 4 Florida Gators baseball will begin action in 2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional at 7 p.m. on Friday at McKethan Stadium against either No. 11 Miami (FL) or No. 20 Texas A&M. The two teams look to finish their weather-suspended game Tuesday at 1 p.m. for the right to travel to Gainesville, FL, later in the week.

2 » As OGGOA reported via Twitter on Monday, former Gators first baseman Matt LaPorta has been optioned by the Cleveland Indians to Triple-A Columbus. LaPorta, who started the season up with the team after being called up late last year, was only hitting .218 with one home run and seven RBI in 35 games.

3 » Day one of the 2010 MLB Draft came and went without a single Florida player being selected. Two seniors in particular – outfielder Matt den Dekker and closer Kevin Chapman – are looking to be selected somewhat early in the process. For more on Gators in the draft, check out OGGOA‘s post from Monday.

4 » Two former Florida baseball commitments – outfielder LeVon Washington and pitcher Karsten Whitson – are also up for selection in the draft and were profiled by The Gainesville Sun on Tuesday. Learn about their respective journeys to the big show.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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