Gators to begin MLB season; softball’s draftees

With Opening Day for MLB beginning at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday, the Florida Gators boast six former players on rosters across the league.

2B Mark Ellis – Oakland Athletics
A nine-year veteran, Ellis is Oakland’s opening day starter at second base. He will bat in the lower half of the order seeing as he finished the 2010 season batting .291 with five home runs and 49 RBI in 436 at bats.

1B Matt LaPorta – Cleveland Indians
Praised by the coaching staff for his defensive prowess in the infield, LaPorta is still trying to improve his hitting at the professional level. An offensive force coming out of UF, he only batted .221 with 12 home runs, 41 RBI and 46 walks in 376 plate appearances in 2010 but will start for Cleveland this season.

RHP Darren O’Day – Texas Rangers
A force for Texas during the playoffs, O’Day struggled with his command this spring. He made a team-high 72 relief appearances last season and will likely be the primary reliever in 2011. O’Day finished 2010 with a 6-2 record and 2.03 ERA in 62.0 innings.

RHP Bryan Augenstein – St. Louis Cardinals
Augenstein pitched in seven games (two starts) for Arizona in 2009. He will likely be St. Louis’ long reliever out of the bullpen in 2011.

C David Ross – Atlanta Braves
A nine-year veteran like Ellis, Ross will be the back-up behind home plate for star catcher Brian McCann. He played in 59 games for Atlanta in 2010, batting .289 with a pair of homers, 28 RBI and 20 walks in 121 at bats.

OF Ryan Raburn – Detroit Tigers
Played at UF as a freshman before transferring.
In his seventh professional season, Raburn will be Detroit’s opening day starter in left field. With the Tigers supporting a large number of outfielders on their roster, Rayburn may not start every day but will be given as many at bats as possible. He ended the 2010 season batting .280 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI in 371 plate appearances.

Three of Florida’s senior softball players were drafted in the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch Draft on March 18. Left fielder Kelsey Bruder and first baseman Megan Bush were picked in the second round, while second baseman Aja Paculba was selected in the fifth. Bruder (No. 5 overall) will play for the USSSA Pride in Orlando, FL where former Gators outfielder Francesca Enea was picked last year and won a title in 2010. Bush (No. 6 overall) is joining the Akron Racers in Akron, OH, and Paculba was picked by the NPF Diamonds of Hermitage, TN. Florida head softball coach Tim Walton also leads the Pride and won the league’s title in his first season.

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FOUR BITS: Henne, Grossman, Augenstein, wins

1 » Miami Dolphins and former Michigan Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne, who defeated former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in his final college game – the 2008 Capital One Bowl – claims the two-time National Champion and Heisman Trophy winner will not be successful in the NFL. “My judgment is that he’s not an NFL quarterback,” Henne said during an interview on WQAM in Miami, FL. “I’ll leave it at that.” As a Dolphins fan it pains me to say this, but some would argue whether or not Henne fits that distinction himself. You can listen to the interview here.

2 » Two roster moves affecting former Gators occurred Wednesday as QB Rex Grossman signed a free-agent contract with the Washington Redskins and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Bryan Augenstein was optioned by his team to Triple-A Reno. Grossman will team up with new Redskins head coach and former Florida offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan as well as his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who coached Grossman last season with the Houston Texans.

3 » Still rolling through the 2010 season is the No. 6/13 Gators softball team (20-3, 4-1 SEC), which defeated the Auburn Tigers (15-9, 2-3 SEC) 7-0 and 5-4 in a doubleheader Wednesday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Junior Stephanie Brombacher tossed both games, extending her record to 16-3 by picking up two victories. Junior outfielder Kelsey Bruder supported her with a combined 3-6 performance including two home runs and a game-winning double in the second game – a come-from-behind victory.

4 » Led by a six-goal and four-assist performance by freshman attacker Ashley Bruns, Florida lacrosse (4-3) took down the Marist Red Foxes (2-3) 22-3 Wednesday evening at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. The Gators outshot their opponent 37-10, only allowing three shots the entire second half.

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