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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Florida baseball sweeps Alabama; Bruder helps Gators softball top Crimson Tide (twice)

Each competing against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Gainesville, FL over the weekend, the Florida Gators baseball and softball teams combined to defeat their opponent five of six times – all in exciting fashion. No. 5/5 Florida baseball outscored Alabama 18-3 over a three-day span, while No. 8/9 Gators softball won back-to-back games against the Crimson Tide after being shutout in the series opener.

BASEBALL

Coming off a tough road loss to Central Florida where head coach Kevin O’Sullivan emptied the bullpen, Florida upended Alabama 7-0 in the first game of the weekend series on Friday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (7-1) continued to pitch with confidence, scattering four hits in 6.1 innings for the victory. After manufacturing a single run in the third inning, the Gators rallied to score a total of six in three consecutive innings. Junior first baseman Preston Tucker (1-5, HR, 3 RBI, R) and senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hit a pair of homers, while sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-5, RBI) couldn’t be kept off the bases. Florida amassed 14 hits in the game and saw seven different players cross the plate.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (6-1) got the call for the Gators on Saturday and, after allowing a single run in the first and solo shot in the top of the second, held the Crimson Tide scoreless for his final three innings to pick up the win. Junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman RHP Keenan Kish combined to strike out six over the final four innings of the contest to solidify anther victory for Florida. The offense did their part to make Johnson feel comfortable early, rallying for pairs of runs in their first two frames to negate Alabama’s production. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) and junior pinch hitter Ben McMahan (1-1, HR, RBI, R) each hit homers and Adams (1-3, 2 RBI) continued his hot streak at the plate.

The Gators (31-10, 14-4 SEC) completed the weekend sweep by squeaking out a 2-1 victory over the Crimson Tide (25-18, 8-10 SEC) on Sunday. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson(5-0) looked fantastic, striking out seven and only giving up three hits over 6.2 innings. Whitson held Alabama without a single run until his finally batter capitalized with two men on base to smack an RBI. He was promptly pulled for Rodriguez who, along with juniors RHP Anthony DeSclafani and LHP Nick Maronde (S2), closed out the victory for Florida. Fontana (3-4, 2 RBI) knocked in both runs, hitting a double to score junior right fielder Daniel Pigott (1-3, R) in the third and a single to help junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-2, R) cross the plate in the fifth.

With the three victories, the Gators have now defeated the Crimson Tide in eight of their last 10 meetings and can look ahead to a home series against Ole Miss next weekend.

SOFTBALL

Still fighting her way back from an arm injury, senior ace RHP Stephanie Brombacher (15-1) drew the start Friday but coughed up two runs (one earned) after tossing three shutout innings for her first loss of the season. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who had been handling the pitching duties in Brombacher’s stead, was roughed up in her four innings as well, striking out six but allowing three earned runs on three hits and three walks. Alabama starter Kelsi Dunne (21-2) looked strong in the effort, limiting Florida to only three hits in seven innings while striking out six.

Not allowing themselves to get down after such a tough loss, the Gators responded in a big way in the next two games, ending both with exciting finishes. Senior LF Kelsey Bruder, who has been nearly unstoppable at the plate recently, hit a walk-off three-run home run on Saturday followed by a walk-off infield single on Sunday (in extra innings) to send her team to two victories.

Brombacher got the call again Saturday, pitching 6.1 innings and striking out four but also allowing four earned runs. The Gators were faced with a 2-0 deficit early but rallied with back-to-back homers by senior 1B Megan Bush (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R) and senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R) in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead. Brombacher allowed a solo shot in the fifth to tie the game and gave up a two-run bomb in the seventh to put the Crimson Tide ahead 5-3 before Rogers came in to get the final two outs. Florida benefited with a lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning, and junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, R, 2 BB) followed with a single through the right side to put the game-winning run at the plate. With one out, Bruder (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hammered the first pitch she saw to pick up the win (see video below).

Bruder’s weekend heroics were not done, however, as she came through in the clutch once again on Sunday. Rogers and Dunne each pitched fantastic games on the day, holding shutouts through regulation. A fielding error in the top of the eighth allowed two Alabama batters to score, but Florida rallied to tack on two runs (including a RBI by Bruder) in the bottom of the inning to keep the game going. After Rogers (25-5) retired the side one-two-three in the top of the ninth to complete the longest outing of her career, Bruder (2-5, 2 RBI) found herself back at the plate with the winning run in scoring position. On a 1-0 count, she smacked a single to second base to score freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-4, R) from third and give the Gators (40-8, 15-7 SEC) an impressive extra innings victory over the Crimson Tide (42-7, 16-6 SEC).

Florida will get a week of rest before jumping on the road to face South Carolina in a three-game weekend series. The Gators will then play four-straight home games to end the regular season the following week.

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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (11-1, 5-1 SEC) suffered its first defeat of the season on Friday, falling 196.70-196.10 to the No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3, 5-1 SEC) in Fayetteville, AR. Florida captured three individual events with sophomore Ashanée Dickerson winning the vault and floor exercise and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto taking home the even bars; however, Arkansas surpassed UF in their team totals and came out on top. The Gators final match before the 2011 SEC Championships begin on March 19 is against Utah next Friday in Salt Lake City, UT.

2 » Florida’s other top-ranked team, No. 1 baseball, had better luck Friday, taking down the Boston College Eagles 9-3 in the second game of the teams’ three-game series. The Gators (6-0) scored three runs in the seventh inning alone to escape a 3-3 tie and move past the Eagles (2-3) for the victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1.64 ERA) got the start for Florida and tossed four innings of shutout ball before giving up an earned run in the fifth and getting pulled at the end of the inning. The Gators led 2-1 at that point on a solo homer from junior right fielder Preston Tucker (3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R) in the third and an RBI from junior first baseman Ben McMahan (2-2, RBI) in the fourth. Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone allowed a batter on via a bunt in the top of the seventh and junior RHP Greg Larson, coming into relieve him, let another batter hit himself on base. Freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, trying to get out of the inning, struck out his first batter before giving up a two-RBI triple to clear the bases and put Boston College up 3-2.

Looking to get out of a jam, Florida utilized the infamous hidden-ball trick to get the final out of the inning. With Eagles shortstop Brad Zapenas (2-4, 2 RBI) on third after his game-tying triple, freshman third baseman Zach Powers corralled the ball as Gibson pretended to wind up. Once Zapenas took a lead, Powers tagged him out, ended the inning and stopped the bleeding. The Gators responded with a three-run bottom of the seventh including a RBI each from Tucker (via a bases loaded walk), sophomore catcher/1B Austin Maddox (1-5, RBI) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (3-5, 3 RBI, R). Florida added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth with sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-1, RBI, R) doubling down the left field line to score sophomore C Mike Zunino (BB, R) and Johnson singling through the left side to bring home sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (1-2, 2 R, 3 BB) and Washington. Gibson (1-0) earned the win after juniors RHP Tommy Toledo and LHP Alex Panteliodis combined to strikeout three in 1.2 innings.

3 » No. 4 Gators softball (13-0) earned a pair of victories Friday at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, defeating the San Diego State Aztecs (5-6) 4-2 in the afternoon and the No. 2 UCLA Bruins (10-2) 4-1 in the evening. Junior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (7-0) earned the win in the early game after giving up two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (6-0), who tossed the final 1.2 innings of the San Diego State game in relief of Brombacher, threw a complete game against UCLA; she struck out 10 and only gave up a single earned run in the second inning. Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder led the way for Florida offensively, combining to go 4-6 with three RBI and a walk in the two games. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie scored three runs and notched a pair of RBI on a 4-8 outing from the plate.

4 » Struggling all season, Gators women’s basketball (16-13, 6-9 SEC) scored a much-needed 74-69 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (18-10, 9-6 SEC) on the road in Nashville, TN on Friday. Postponed a day due to severe weather, the game marked Florida’s first win on the road against Vanderbilt since 2004. Three Gators junior starters – center Azania Stewart (14) and guards redshirt Jordan Jones (16) and Lanita Bartley (15) – scored in double figures as Stewart also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. UF has now won back-to-back contests after dropping four-in-a-row to begin the month of February.

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Gators sweep Bulls; Fontana and Whitson shine

Topping the South Florida Bulls 7-2 in their season opener on Friday, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball put together back-to-back wins on Saturday and Sunday to sweep the season opening series at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (3-0) took down USF (0-3) 4-1 on Saturday and 5-0 Sunday, outscoring their opponent by a 16-3 margin over the three-game stretch.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0) took the mound for the Gators on Saturday, giving up only one run on seven hits in six innings. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (1-0), the No. 9 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, provided the most impressive performance of the weekend Sunday, striking out nine batters while only allowing one hit and registering one walk in five scoreless innings.

SATURDAY: Down one after the opening frame, Florida quickly evened things up in the bottom of the first when sophomore infielder Austin Maddox (2-4, RBI) scored sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-4, run) from third base on a fielder’s choice.

The Gators jumped ahead two innings later when junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI, run), who ended up on third after hitting a lead-off double, scored on a double play ball to give UF a 2-1 lead. Held scoreless the next three innings, Florida added single runs in the seventh and eighth.

With junior designated hitter Ben McMahan (1-3, run) on second due to a passed ball in the seventh, Pigott singled past the shortstop to give his team a 3-1 advantage. In the eighth, senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3, run) scored from third when sophomore first baseman Brian Johnson (RBI) reached base on a fielder’s choice.

Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone came in to relieve Randall after the first six innings but was pulled for junior closer Tommy Toledo (S1), who tossed 2.1 scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season.

SUNDAY: Fontana (2-3, 2 runs), leading off with a hit for the second-straight game, was also the first run to cross the plate Sunday. After doubling down the left field line, he reached home when junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, RBI) singled up the middle. The Gators piled on more two runs in the fourth when sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR) hit a lead-off homer to left and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-4, run) scored on a single through the left side by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI). Fontana scored again via a sacrifice fly by Maddox (RBI, BB) in the sixth, and McMahan (run, BB) crossed the plate in the eighth on another single by Pigott.

Completing Whitson’s stellar pitching performance was the trio of junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, who each gave up a hit but combined for four strikeouts.

Fontana posted a stunning .750 average (9-for-12) over the weekend, got on base at a .786 clip and scored five runs in three games.

Florida had 14,003 fans walk through the turnstiles over the weekend, the highest opening weekend and second-largest three-game series attendance in school history. UF’s three defeats of USF extended their winning streak to 11 against the in-state rival.

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No. 4/5 Florida baseball clinches 2010 SEC title with 5-2 victory over No. 6/7 South Carolina

Junior second baseman Josh Adams knocked in two RBI in the top of the seventh inning to propel No. 4/5 Florida Gators baseball (40-12, 22-7 SEC) to a series-clinching and 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship-winning 5-2 victory over the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks (42-13, 20-9 SEC) on Friday evening in Columbia, SC.

Stepping up to the plate at Carolina Stadium in the seventh with two outs and both sophomore outfielder Daniel Pigott and junior designated hitter Bryson Smith on base, Adams (3-4) dropped a double into right-centerfield to break the tie and put the Gators up two runs. He would once again be the hero two innings later, recording his third RBI of the night on a single to score sophomore catcher Ben McMahan.

“Finally! It’s just one of those situations where I had to come through,” Adams explained after the game when discussing his tiebreaking hit. “It was my time, and I knew that. He made a good pitch, and I fortunately got the barrel on it.”

Adams, sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-3) and freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (1-3) combined for all five of the team’s RBI and six of Florida’s eight hits, providing support to freshman starter Hudson Randall, who struggled through 5.1 innings. Relievers freshman Steven Rodriguez (1-0) and sophomore Greg Larson combined for two scoreless innings, serving as a bridge to junior closer Kevin Chapman who tossed the final 1.2 innings for his 10th save of the season.

“[Randall] battled. He’s a tough, tough kid,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said recalling the freshman’s gumption and effort. This was not one of his best starts statistically, but you’re going to have games like that and you’re going to have to make some adjustments as you go. You’re going to have to battle.”

The Gators went into the weekend series at the Gamecocks needing to win two of three games to earn their 11th conference baseball championship and first since 2005. Florida did just that by winning the two opening contests, standing victorious in 22 SEC games and setting a University of Florida single-season record in the process. They also picked up a league-high 20th division championship.

“All the credit goes to the players and the assistant coaches,” O’Sullivan said. “The players are the ones making the plays. They have to go on the road and make pitches and play the game. I’m awful proud of them to come into a place like South Carolina and play with a top five-or-six club. [We are] a younger team – inexperienced. To do what they’ve done…I’m awful proud of them.”

After recording the last out, as is customary, the Gators jumped into a dogpile in the infield. Larson came out of it smiling with a bloody nose as his coach simultaneously celebrated on the field with a brand new evaluation of his team.

“They’re battle-tested now,” he exclaimed.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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FOUR BITS: Baseball’s wins, tennis, Horn, Proctor

1 » No. 4/5 Florida Gators baseball (36-12, 19-7 SEC) took a pair of 4-3 victories from the Georgia Bulldogs (14-35, 3-21 SEC) over the weekend in their final home series at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL for the 2010 season. Friday night, freshman catcher Mike Zunino won the game for the Gators with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sophomore Alex Panteliodis earned the start but was pulled after giving up three earned run in five innings; classmate Greg Larson (3-1) came on to finish out the game, shutting the Bulldogs out the rest of the way while striking out three. Freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4) pulled in an RBI to go along with the two Zunino added over the course of the evening.

2 » Looking to capitalize Saturday, Florida won in similar fashion. Sophomore catcher Ben McMahan led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer to break the 3-3 tie and help his team edge Georgia. Sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-4, one run) and senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (1-4, two runs, RBI) led the way for the Gators offensively, with junior Kevin Chapman (3-0) picking up the relief win in 1.2 innings of work. Freshman Hudson Randall started the game, tossing 5.2 solid innings with five strikeouts and two earned runs.

Florida is tied with South Carolina atop the Southeastern Conference standings but has two more games to play (Sun. vs. Georgia, Tues. vs. North Florida) before traveling to Columbia, SC, for a three-game SEC-deciding series to close the regular season.

3 » Like it’s women’s counterpart, No. 6 men’s tennis (20-4) – which also holds the sixth seed in the event – swept the South Carolina State Huskies (11-11) 4-0 in first-round action in the 2010 NCAA Tournament at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL, on Saturday. The No. 8 doubles pair of junior Alexandre Lacroix and redshirt senior Antoine Benneteau took their doubles match; No. 7 Lacroix also won his singles contest, as did Benneteau and the rest of UF’s squad. Second-round action continues Sunday.

4 » Gators sophomore decathlete Gray Horn and senior jumper Shara Proctor each defended their titles, taking home the 2010 SEC Outdoor Championships in the decathalon and long jump, respectively. Competing at Tom Black Track in Knoxville, TN, Horn turned in a career-high 7,652 – the second-best decathalon score in UF history. He is the ninth person in conference history to win the title back-to-back and first since 1974. Horn is also the only Florida track & field athlete to win an SEC decathalon title. Similarly, Proctor won her second-straight title on the same track and became just the sixth multiple winner of the event with a victorious jump of 6.69m/21-11.50 (+1.4) – the best of her college career.

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