Florida baseball drops two of three at Miami

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 20 Florida Gators baseball (5-3) fell short on the road against the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes (4-3) over the weekend, dropping the annual three-game series between the in-state rivals but ultimately avoiding a sweep on Sunday at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, FL.

The Gators opened things up Friday night with their second loss of the season, dropping the season opener 6-4 despite scoring three runs in the first inning.

Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (4.0 IP, 5 H, BB, 3 K) took the loss for Florida, struggling after retiring the side in order and leaving the first inning with a three-run lead. Poyner (1-1) threw 71 pitches in the 6-4 loss and gave up home runs to Miami right fielder Willie Abreu in the third and center fielder Dale Carey in the fifth.

“We just have to get a better start out of our starting pitcher,” remarked head coach Kevin O’Sullivan after the loss.

Inside the batter’s box, junior catcher Taylor Gushue (4/4, RBI, 2 R) extended his hitting streak to six games. The four-hit game by Gushue was a career-best.

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Florida baseball wins season-opening series

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Winning their season-opening series could have been easier for the No. 20/23 Florida Gators, but coming out of the weekend with a 2-1 record was nevertheless a good start for a young squad that fought to the finish over the last three days.

Florida bookended the weekend with victories over the Maryland Terrapins (1-2) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, kicking things off with a 4-0 shutout Friday on opening night in the only game of the series that was televised.

Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K) delivered a solid outing as the opening night starter. Primarily used as a reliever and midweek starter during his first two seasons with the Gators, the third-year lefty made his case for a rotation spot this summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League, posting a 1.71 ERA over seven starts with the Orleans Fire. His five strikeouts Friday were a career-high, and Florida’s offense did a good job making him feel comfortable with some early runs.

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2014 Florida baseball primer: Bounce back year?

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

The unanimously top 25-ranked Florida Gators are hoping to bounce back from a disastrous 2013 campaign that saw the team go 29-27 in the regular season and get bounced out of both league and national postseason play without winning a single game.

UF also lost five players to the 2014 MLB Draft – including three top pitchers – and enters 2014 with a young but talented roster filled with up-and-coming prospects.

In the offseason, seventh-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan signed a top-notch 2014 recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game. The 15-member class makes up 43 percent of Florida’s roster, which features two fourth-year players (redshirt juniors) but not a single senior.

One year ago, the departures of nine MLB draft selections loomed large on opening night. This Friday, when UF begins the 2014 campaign with a three-game home series against Maryland, the most notable absence from the lineup card will be a current Gators outfielder in sophomore Harrison Bader. Bader was indefinitely suspended after police suspected alcohol played a role in a Feb. 2 scooter accident. Without him, Florida lacks its best hitter (.312) and one of only four designated outfielders.

Here’s what O’Sullivan (252-132) has to work with as the Gators open the 2014 campaign looking to bounce back from last season’s disappointments and begin moving in the right direction toward another College World Series berth.

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Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

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NOT Top 13 for 2013: Moments for Gators to forget

At the conclusion of each year, on Dec. 31 to be exact, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. This year, which will go down as a difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 13 for 2013 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 13 for 2013 to end your year on a positive note!

13 » OFFSEASON GARBAGE
The time between the conclusion of spring practice in April and the start of summer practice in July can be long and seemingly endless for some, especially the media, which drummed up controversy where none should have exited in May. Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis, taking part in a Gator Gathering with boosters, jokingly referred to Alabama head coach Nick Saban as “the devil himself.” The slight was made public and Saban took great offense, despite the fact that Davis was kidding. Davis got called “a classless backstabbing coward” for his joke and received other undue ridicule.

Two months later, one of the top college football headlines was a report that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer actually turned in Florida (and running backs coach Brian White) for a petty secondary recruiting violation that the NCAA deemed to be meaningless. Meyer denied his actions and got taken to task for reporting his former school, especially considering he has previously been accused of violating NCAA secondary recruiting rules in a similar fashion.

12 » LACROSSE AND VOLLEYBALL COME UP SHORT
With revenge on their minds and the program’s first national title within reach, Florida lacrosse failed to take down Syracuse on the latter’s home turf in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Orange got the best of the Gators for the second-straight season, winning 13-9 on May 18 after picking up a controversial victory in the 2012 NCAA Final Four. UF had the opportunity to make SU pay while trying to win a championship but instead sent its fourth-year players – the first senior class in program history – home with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Florida volleyball saw its 2013 season come to a crashing halt when it fell 3-2 at home to Florida State in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. One of the top seeds in the tournament and a potential national title team, the Gators allowed their in-state rival to knock them out of postseason play as UF failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. Like the lacrosse team, which sent its upperclassmen out in a disappointing fashion, the same happened to senior middle back Chloe Mann.

11 » SAME TEAM!
The moment that checked in No. 1 on ESPN’s own Not Top Plays of 2013 was simply a microcosm of Florida being unable to get out of its own way this year. Redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison and redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar blocked each other on a rushing play that actually gained some positive yardage against Georgia Southern in the second-to-last game of the season. In the same game, redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye was accused of gouging an opponent’s eyes.


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SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has long held up former South African president Nelson Mandela as one of his idols. So for Noah to easily have his best game of the 2013-14 season on the day of Mandela’s passing was certainly no surprise. On Thursday, Noah posted his second-straight double-double with 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and a season-high 15 rebounds in a 107-87 win over Miami. After the contest, he was interviewed by TNT’s Craig Sager and ended the conversation like this:

2 » The Florida Gators are expected to have major frontcourt troubles next season with big-bodied seniors – center Patric Young and forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete – all scheduled to graduate. One of its other big men is on shaky ground and a fifth, who has yet to enroll, could be a one-and-done player. Facing a potential roster that would have its two tallest players – current redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and five-star incoming F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) listed as 6-foot-8 – the Gators may have found some help in the form of current Duke redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy. The brother of Erik Murphy, Alex has decided to leave the Blue Devils at the end of the fall 2013 semester and may very well be headed to Gainesville, FL. He would have to sit out two semesters per NCAA rules and would not be eligible until next spring, but Alex Murphy would nevertheless be a much-needed addition for UF. OnlyGators.com is still working to confirm his transfer destination as of press time.

3 » Florida found another way to disappoint its fans this week. In a story overlooked for the last few days by OnlyGators.com, UF’s basketball team made headlines by displacing 50 passengers on an Atlanta, GA-bound Sunday flight when Delta decided to help the Gators by chartering a new plane for the team to Storrs, CT for its showdown with UConn. According to The Gainesville Sun, a maintenance delay grounded the plane that the team usually charters, so Delta stepped in to help at the expense of customers that had already purchased tickets on the flight. “Passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and given vouchers valid for use through Delta for future trips,” a spokesman told the paper. Florida has gone above and beyond to try and deflect any blame heading its way. The Gators have claimed ignorance regarding Delta’s decision, which he company took completely on its own shoulders.

Check out the statement and three more BITS…after the break!

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Ross hits game-winning RBI in World Series win

Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross, a spot starter for Game 5 of the 2013 World Series, came through in the clutch with an RBI double in the seventh inning that later became the difference maker for the road team on Monday evening in St. Louis, MO.

Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Boston jumped ahead by a run when Ross hit a ground rule double to left to score what would become his team’s game-winning run. He was thrown out at home two plays later after trying to tack on an insurance run for the Red Sox following a single to center by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ross has become left-handed pitcher Jon Lester’s personal catcher and led the hurler, from behind he plate, to a terrific performance on Monday (7.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 7 K).

He only spent one year as a member of the Florida Gators baseball team, joining the program as a junior transfer in 1998 after two seasons with Auburn.

Following the 1998 College World Series (the Gators were the No. 1 overall seed but lost in the first round), Ross decided to forgo his final year of eligibility. He was subsequently selected in the seventh round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ross has played for seven different teams over his 12-year MLB career and is currently in his second stint with Boston (2008). A .237 hitter who has spent most of his career as a reserve, he played in his 13th postseason game on Monday, seven of which have come this season with the Red Sox.

After the 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Ross was interviewed on the field by FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews, who was a sophomore at Florida in 1998.

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FOUR BITS: Noah, basketball, Eckstein, Robinson

1 » Despite being sidelined for a large portion of the preseason with a groin injury, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters Sunday that he is “100 percent” sure he will be active for his team’s season opener on Tuesday. Noah has not played more than 66 games in an NBA regular season since 2008-09, but he posted career-highs of 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 blocks last year.

2 » Florida Gators basketball held a “secret” scrimmage on Saturday against Georgia Tech in Valdosta, GA. Though no official score was kept and no one in attendance is allowed to discuss either the outcome or news from the scrimmage, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (citing a source) reported that both Gators point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill – stood out as the most impressive players on the court. Additionally, as expected, senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) was sidelined while junior guard Eli Carter (leg) saw limited action.

3 » Former Florida shortstop David Eckstein received a shout-out on a recent episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation, which just so happens to be OnlyGators.com’s favorite active sitcom (though it is unfathomably on hiatus at this time). The law firm plaque utilized in the last episode to air includes a number of sabermetric measurements along with Eckstein’s name. (Image courtesy of Deadspin.com)


And how did Eckstein respond? By making a fake commercial for said law firm, of course.

4 » 2014 five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) will make his verbal commitment official on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., and Florida has been after him hard as of late. Not only did Robinson pay a visit to Gainesville, FL, on Oct. 11, head coach Billy Donovan went in-home with the 20th ranked player in the nation just five days later and has definitely made an impression on the young man. Indiana is believed to be UF’s main competitor for Robinson, and head coach Tom Crean (who had assistants visit Robinson previously) smartly delayed his in-home visit with the prospect until night before he makes his decision. Robinson took his official visit to IU on Oct. 4.

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