UF baseball, softball struggle in rough weekend

Both holding high national rankings going into the weekend, Florida Gators baseball and softball each faltered over a three-day stretch, combining to drop five of six games to a pair of top-tier Southeastern Conference opponents

OGGOA has compiled short summaries of each of the weekend contests below as well as information on what the two teams have ahead of them this week.

BASEBALL

Facing the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks (18-5, 4-2 SEC) at McKethan Stadium over the long weekend in Gainesville, FL, No. 1 Florida (21-4, 4-2 SEC) was topped 9-2 in Friday’s opener and edged 4-3 in the series finale on Sunday. In between, the Gators took a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-1) dropped his first decision, allowing six earned runs on eight hits and a pair of walks in 5.1 innings on Friday. He gave up four runs in the top of the third and was pulled in the top of the fifth before additional damage could be done. Florida was scoreless until the bottom of the ninth, when senior second baseman Josh Adams and junior pinch hitter Jeff Moyer knocked in runs.

The Gators were engaged in a pitching duel Saturday with sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (4-0) tossing the first complete game of his career as the team took a 2-1 decision. Randall struck out four and did not allow a single earned run in the outing. Forrest Koumas and Matt Price combined to give up only three hits and a single unearned run for the Gamecocks, striking out eight UF batters in the process. Sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R) crossed the plate twice for Florida, initially scoring after being hit by a pitch and sacrificed home by sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-3, RBI).

Florida did themselves in on Sunday, coughing up a 3-0 lead and eventually losing 4-3 due to miscues and poor pitching. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson got the start for the Gators and pitched well, striking out five and giving up an earned run on two hits and a pair of walks. Relievers junior Nick Maronde and sophomore Austin Maddox each gave up unearned runs in the sixth, and junior Tommy Toledo (2-2) allowed South Carolina to score the game-winner in the eighth. After allowing the lead-off batter to hit a double and hitting the next man with a pitch, Toledo threw an intentional walk to load the bases and walked in the winning run on a full count. Washington (1-3, RBI, R, BB), Adams (0-3, RBI) and freshman third baseman Zack Powers (1-3, RBI) all knocked in runs for Florida while sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, R) did the best he could.

SOFTBALL

Though they undoubtedly tried, softball performed even worse than baseball did over the weekend. The No. 2 Gators (30-4, 7-3 SEC) were swept at home at Pressly Softball Stadium by the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (27-4, 8-3 SEC) and were outscored 28-13 over the three games. With star senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (bicep) on the bench since March 12, freshman RHP Hannah Rogers and sophomore RHP Ensley Gammel struggled against one of the best offenses in the nation.

Down 6-0 in the fifth on Friday, Florida exploded with a six-run frame including home runs from senior first baseman Megan Bush (2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-3, HR, RBI, R) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R). Bush homered again in the sixth to put the Gators ahead 7-6, but Gammel gave up two homers and four runs in the top of the seventh to blow the lead. She pitched a complete game but gave up 10 earned runs on 12 hits and nine walks in the outing.

Gammel (0-2) produced a similar performance just one day later, allowing 10 earned runs on seven hits and 10 walks in five innings. In addition to being down 6-5 through six, the Gators allowed seven runs in the top of the seventh to put the contest out of reach. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R), Bruder (2-4, RBI, R), Bush (0-3, RBI) and sophomore C Brittany Schutte (1-3, RBI) all hocked in runs for Florida.

Rogers (16-2) tried her hand at the Bulldogs on Sunday but also failed in her efforts, tossing a complete game but giving up five earned runs on nine hits. Georgia led the entire way, outscoring UF 5-0 until Bush (1-3, HR, RBI, R) hit her third homer of the series in the bottom of the fifth.

The Gators will look to rebound from their disastrous weekend with a number of contests over the next week. Baseball will take on Florida State in a rubber match on Tuesday in Jacksonville, FL prior to taking on Tennessee in a three-game weekend series at home, while softball will face South Florida on Wednesday before heading to Lexington, KY for a three-game series against Kentucky over the weekend.

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lacrosse, gymnastics

1 » Florida Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was honored with the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year award on Friday for the second-straight year. Holloway, who has led Florida to back-to-back NCAA Indoor Championships over the last two seasons, continues to rack up the national and regional awards. One of his assistants on the men’s team, Dick Booth was awarded National Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA as well.

2 » The state of Mississippi was no match for No. 2/3 Florida softball (30-1, 6-0 SEC) this week as the Gators took down the Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-14, 2-2 SEC) at home in a pair of contests during the week and swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-21, 0-6 SEC) in a three-game road series over the weekend. Florida outscored Ole Miss 37-6 over the course of the three games and made the most out of nearly every opportunity.

Senior first baseman Megan Bush set a new school record and now has a 19-game hitting streak after turning in a spectacular performance in which she combined to go 6-9 from the plate with 10 RBI, three runs and four walks. On the hill for the Gators all weekend was freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1), who started all three contests and did not allow a single earned run all weekend. In 9.0 innings, Rogers only gave up five hits, three unearned runs and three walks while striking out nine batters. Also turning in stellar performances in the three-game set were senior second baseman Aja Paculba (4-10, 6 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (3-11, 5 RBI, 4 R, BB) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (4-6, 4 RBI, 5 R, 6 BB).

3 » Continuing to excel in only their second year in existence, No. 8/10 Gators lacrosse (8-1) took down another ranked opponent by defeating the No. 11/14 Syracuse Orange (2-4) 16-11 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns tied her career high (and school record) with six goals; she also notched an assist for a season-high total of seven points. Florida received plenty of scoring help from sophomore midfielders Kitty Cullen and Brittany Dashiell, each of whom contributed hat tricks. Since losing an overtime contest to North Carolina on Feb. 12 to start the regular season, UF is on an impressive eight-game winning streak.

4 » Competing for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, No. 1 Florida gymnastics (17-2, 5-1 SEC) dropped a heart-breaker to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide 197.225-196.975. The Gators won the bars and floor exercises, but the Crimson Tide used greater total margins in the vault and beam to improve their team total and capture the crown. After the event, Florida’s Rhonda Faehn was named 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for the fourth overall and second-straight time, and Alaina Johnson was awarded with 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year.

5 » Failing to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Gators women’s basketball (19-14) accepted a bid to the 2011 Women’s National invitation Tournament and defeated the UMBC Retrievers (20-12) 59-47 in first-round action on Friday. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Jones scored a game-high 18 points for Florida, which will ply Florida Gulf Coast (28-3) in the second round on Monday at 7:05 p.m.

6 » No. 13 UF men’s tennis (11-5, 4-1 SEC) dropped a pair of head-to-heads over the weekend as they were defeated by the No. 3 USC Trojans (14-2) 4-3 on Thursday and Rebels (9-4, 3-2 SEC) 4-3 on Saturday. No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix lost all four of his events including both singles matches and both doubles matches as the No. 46 duo with teammate sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, lax win Thursday

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (5-0) kept their hot streak going Thursday with a solid 4-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles (2-2) in the first of a three-game series taking place at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (2-0, 0.00 ERA) shined, retiring the first 17 hitters he faced in a bid for a perfect game; unfortunately he ended up giving up a hit in the sixth and combined with sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez (S1) to toss a two-hit shutout. Johnson’s streak of retiring 27-consecutive batters through two games also set a school record. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) led the way at the plate, with sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (1-4), Johnson (1-3, R) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) also registering a RBI each. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0, 1.50 ERA) takes the mound for game two of the series, Friday at 5 p.m.

2 » Thursday wasn’t all about basketball and baseball as No. 4/5 Florida softball trashed the Indiana Hoosiers (5-6) 7-0 in their first game of the day at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers tossed a complete game shutout for the win, only giving up two hits and three walks while striking out seven. The Gators scored two in the third, four (with two outs) in the sixth and one more in the seventh to put away the Hoosiers. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-3) led Florida offensively by driving in a pair of runs. Freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle, sophomore designated hitter Samantha Holle and freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan each walked twice and were rewarded by their teammates for their efforts, crossing the plate a combined four times.

3 » The early win was nice, but UF softball (11-0) faced a tougher opponent in the evening. Down 4-3 to the No. 11/12 Texas Longhorns (10-2) late Thursday night, the Gators rallied to tie the game first in the seventh and again in the eighth before pulling out a 6-5 victory in nine innings. Senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (0.36 ERA), the team’s ace, got the start and played nearly the entire game, striking out seven while allowing two earned runs, seven hits and four walks in 8.1 innings. She was replaced in the ninth by Rogers (5-0, 0.49 ERA), who struck out both batters she faced to preserve a 5-5 tie into the bottom of the inning.

Tied at three runs apiece in the top of the seventh after the Longhorns scored an unearned run, RF Taylor Hoagland homered to center to give Texas a one-run advantage. Now down 4-3, Florida’s Moultrie (2-3, 2 RBI, R) tripled to center field to score junior Ellie Langley from third base (she replaced sophomore Kelsey Horton, who hit a pinch-hit leadoff single). Trailing 5-4 in the eighth, a single by senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-4, 2 RBI, R) scored senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) from second. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Moultrie hit a walk-off single to score sophomore Ensley Gammel from second and give the Gators the victory.

4 » While baseball and softball had the fun at night, No. 17 Florida lacrosse (3-1) got the day started off right for the Gators with a 16-6 trouncing of the UMBC Retrievers (1-1) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Seven different players scored for Florida with sophomores midfielder Kitty Cullen (five goals) and attacker Ashley Bruns (four goals) once again leading the way.

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SIX BITS: Softball signees; Strong as head coach; Poole, Jr.; Spurrier; big plays; special teams

1 » Following big signings by the Florida Gators baseball, volleyball and women’s basketball teams, softball head coach Tim Walton announced Thursday that two highly coveted high school players have signed national letters of intent to play for the Orange and Blue starting in 2010. Utility player Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, FL) and shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, CA) are both extremely talented women who will bring a lot to the program. For more on their accomplishments, check out this article on GatorZone.

2 » Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is garnering heavy interest from the Memphis Tigers for their head coaching vacancy, according to reports. OGGOA believes Strong should not take the job if offered, simply because we feel he deserves and can receive the head job at another big-time program rather than a second-tier school (football-wise). Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley shares similar thoughts while Miami Herald beat writer Joseph Goodman thinks Memphis would be a good fit. “I just have to work and continue to do this job right now,” Strong said when asked about the rumors. “My whole focus is making sure our defense goes out and plays well.”

3 » In recruiting news… Four-star small forward Stacey Poole, Jr., the son of former Gators standout Stacy Poole (who ranks as the team’s No. 4 all-time scorer), has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats and head coach John Calipari. Poole is one of the best forwards in the country and the first signee for Kentucky’s 2010 recruiting class.

Three more BITS about Spurrier, big plays and special teams after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Softball signees; Strong as head coach; Poole, Jr.; Spurrier; big plays; special teams

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