FOUR BITS: USA, Zunino, Whitson, Phillips

1 » USA Basketball’s under-18 team made a record-setting debut at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Friday, taking down Uruguay 156-58 on Friday evening. The Americans led 44-15 after one quarter and 84-26 at halftime before pulling off the 98-point victory in Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to USA Basketball, head coach Billy Donovan’s team set four team national records in the event including most points scored (156), largest margin of victory (98 points), most field goals made (59) and most assists (40). “I think the one thing we’ve been talking about is trying to play unselfishly, and they did that tonight. Forty assists. They were really unselfish; they played well together,” Donovan said after the game. “I was really pleased coming out of the half, and I feel we got off to a great start at the second half and then it kind of carried on. I thought overall, their willingness to pass and share the basketball was special.” Next up for the United States is Mexico; the teams will square off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in preliminary round action. USA will then take on Argentina on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the preliminary round.

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13 Gator Bites for Friday, June 13: Graham, Dendy, Harvin, Haslem, softball, MLB, Parsons

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators redshirt sophomore guard Dillon Graham on Friday tweeted that he has “finally [been] cleared” by team doctors after missing most of the 2013-14 season following surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Less than a month ago, head coach Billy Donovan said he did not expect Graham to be cleared for contact until August or September. Doctors are likely allowing Graham to work out and practice in non-contact situations at this time. “He’s missed a whole entire year of development and now you’re talking about an entire summer and into the fall without it,” Donovan said on May 22. “So, when he does get back, what is he like as a player and maybe how long does it take to get him back to maybe where he was? I think that’s going to be a long process for him.”

» Florida junior jumper Marquis Dendy on Thursday captured the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s long jump. The outdoor long jump title in school history, Dendy’s 8.00m/26-3 championship-winning mark was his best of the season. Actually, all three of his jumps would have won the crown for Dendy, who previously won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the same event. He did not even need to take the last jump but chose to do so because he was “in the moment” and also wanted to qualify nationally in the event. He returns to the field on Saturday for the men’s triple jump, an event UF has dominated in recent years.

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Six Florida Gators selected in 2014 MLB Draft; Shafer, Whitson decide to turn pro

The Florida Gators baseball team saw six of its current players selected over the weekend in the three-day, 40-round 2014 MLB Draft, though it is unknown as of press time how many of those drafted players will leave the program and turn professional.

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue was the first Florida player drafted when he was chosen in the fourth round with the 131st overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the second time in three seasons that the first Gators player picked in the draft spent his career behind the plate.

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 344th overall pick in the 11th round, was the third UF player drafted but first (of two thus far) to announce his intent to forego his remaining collegiate eligibility.

“The Red Sox saw something in me and they’re giving me an opportunity to work hard for a team that’s sticking their neck out for me,” Whitson told Steven Petrella of MLB.com on Saturday. “Some other teams are looking at [the] negative of my situation. It humbles me that Boston sees positives in a kid that still has a lot to offer.”

Leaving $2.1 million on the table to play for the Gators after the San Diego Padres picked him No. 9 overall in 2010, Whitson had a tremendous freshman season but fell off a bit as a sophomore. He then missed his true junior campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery before rebounding as a redshirt junior to go 1-1 in 14 appearances (nine starts) with a 3.86 ERA in 2014.

Junior RHP Justin Shafer was the second Florida hurler drafted and second to decide to start this pro career, signing with the Toronto Blue Jays late Sunday. The Blue Jays nabbed Shafer in the eighth round with the No. 234 overall pick.

Below are the current Florida players that were selected from Thursday-Saturday.

Round 4 – No. 131
Taylor Gushue, C
Pittsburgh Pirates


Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 215 lbs.
B/T: S/R – Class: Junior

Eligible for the draft for the first time after bypassing the 2012 process by enrolling early at Florida, Gushue was one of the youngest players available over the weekend. He displayed power with the Gators – smacking team-highs of six homers and 49 RBIs as a junior as well as five dingers in each of his first two years – and served as Florida’s permanent catcher. Some believe he projects better as a first baseman on the next level, but Pittsburgh chose Gushue because of his work behind the plate and plans to keep him there should he decide to turn pro. Gushue is expected to sign with the Pirates.

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FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

1 » The 2014 MLB Draft begins Thursday night and unlike years past, members of the Florida Gators baseball team will not have their attention diverted from postseason competition due to the program being eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Also unlike previous years, Florida does not have anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the draft, though that does not mean that draft-eligible Gators will not leave the program early (there were no seniors on the roster).

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue should be the first Florida player off the board at some point during the second day of the draft on Friday (Rounds 3-10). Juniors right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris, first baseman Zack Powers (previously drafted), left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, outfielder/RHP Justin Shafer, third baseman Josh Tobias (previously drafted) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (previously drafted) could all be selected. Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is expected to be picked and choose to a professional after dealing with injuries throughout his Gators career. Florida will also have a number of players from its 14-member 2015 recruiting class drafted.

2 » USA Today on Thursday released its college athletic department financial database, and Florida checked in sixth nationally in total revenue by bringing in more than $130 million last year. Weighed against its $107 million in expenses, UF netted over $23 million (second to Alabama’s $27 million) in 2013. Florida brought in $1 million more in ticket sales ($24.6 million) and $2 million more in contributions ($48.4 million) compared to 2012, figures that increased for the third-straight year (2011-13) after dipping in consecutive years (2009-10). The Gators also spent $1 million more on coaching and staff ($41.9 million) compared to 2012 but were nearly $2 million below its nine-year maximum of $43.7 million in 2011.

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Florida baseball swept out of Gainesville Regional

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

There is plenty of baseball left to be played in the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium – and for that matter the entire 2014 NCAA Tournament – but none of it will include the Florida Gators.

The top seed in its regional and No. 2 overall team in the event, Florida (40-23) was eliminated from postseason competition by the regional third seed North Carolina Tar Heels (35-26) on Saturday, dropping the contest by a score of 5-2.

The Gators likely felt like they were experiencing déjà vu in Saturday’s game as, for the second-straight day, UF dealt with a rain delay in excess of three hours.

This time, the game was halted in the third inning with junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, ER, 2 K) on the mound. Poyner did not return after the delay, leaving freshman lefty Kirby Snead (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) with two on and no outs.

Just like Friday night, Florida’s opponent returned from the delay with gusto and a major offensive output. North Carolina teed off on Snead for four hits, taking a 5-0 lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.

Florida chipped away at North Carolina’s lead late in the game but failed to put together a multi-run inning to give it a legitimate fighting chance.

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LSU tops Florida baseball 2-0 in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

For No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball, playing five elimination games in as many days proved to be a bit too much as the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers pulled away with a 2-0 victory on Sunday in the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

LSU (44-14-1) edged Florida (40-21) by using four pitchers in a shutout victory. A day after collecting 12 hits, the Gators managed only two in nine innings.

Both squads were scoreless through seven innings until Tigers designated hitter Sean McMullen he launched a two-run blast off of junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER).

Florida had six outs left to try to overcome the 2-0 deficit. The Gators managed to get the lead runner on base in the ninth when junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/3) walked, but he was erased on the base paths when sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (0/3) hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Sophomore center fielder Harrison Bader (0/3) was retired on a ground out to end the game.

Turgeon, Martin, Bader and junior catcher Taylor Gushue (0/3) – the first four hitters in UF’s lineup – combined for a dreadful 0-for-12 in Sunday’s tournament final. Bader entered the game 10-for-16 in Hoover.

Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson (6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, K) had his ups and downs all season for Florida but was stellar against LSU and likely pitched his way into UF’s rotation for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

The Gators on Sunday evening learned that they would host one of 16 regional sites for the NCAA Tournament, which will have its 64-team field announced live on ESPNU at noon on Monday.

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Florida Gators baseball edges Kentucky 6-5, advances to SEC Tournament title game

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Overcoming three elimination games in as many days, No. 1 seed Florida Gators (40-20) advanced to the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday with a 6-5 win over the No. 9 seed Kentucky Wildcats (35-23) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Florida rallied late in a back-and-forth contest with junior third baseman Josh Tobias (2/3, RBI, 2 R) knocking in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to pave the way for sophomore right-hander Eric Hanhold (3.1 IP, 2 H, 4 K) to collect the win in a stellar relief appearance.

The Gators looked to be in danger of getting blown out by the Wildcats in the early going, but Kentucky was simply unable to pile on the runs and put the game out of reach. A lineout double play killed UK’s momentum in the first inning, as did leaving the bases full in the second. UF was fortunate to only be down 3-0.

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Florida baseball tops Mississippi State 5-1, advances to SEC Tournament semifinals

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Avoiding elimination for the second-straight day, No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball (39-20) remains alive in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament after pulling off a 5-1 victory over the No. 5 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs (37-22) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Florida advanced to the semifinal round of the event, which is now single elimination for all remaining participants, and will take on No. 9 seed Kentucky in the late game on Saturday. UK is 3-1 vs. UF in 2014 and sent the Gators into the losers bracket of the SEC Tournament with a 4-2 win on Wednesday.

Unable to field a chopper hit by Florida freshman designated hitter Peter Alonso (1/3, 2 RBI, R) with the bases loaded, Mississippi State shortstop Seth Heck was charged with an error as UF jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage in the second inning.

The Gators never pieced together a big inning to bury the Bulldogs, stranding 10 runners on base during the contest, but they were able to tack on insurance runs throughout the night.

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