1 » One day after it was reported by FOX 25 out of Boston that a Maybach Mercedes registered to New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes was found abandoned on the median of a highway, the former Florida Gators player was released by the team. According to FOX 25, The OnStar representative from the car “told state police the driver of the care reported hitting a deer.” However, while an injured deer was not found near the scene, another car called in that it was rear ended at approximately the same time as the crash involving Spikes’s car. Spikes signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Patriots (with up to $1 million in incentives), returning to the team that drafted him after spending a season with the Buffalo Bills. His original tenure did not end well in New England, despite his close relationship with owner Bob Kraft, and his return to the franchise was a surprise. If this story sounds relatively familiar that is a vehicle belonging to former Miami Dolphins LB Channing Crowder was also abandoned on a highway in January 2008.
By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
For the first time since 2012, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball is going back to Omaha, Nebraska, after earning a spot in the 2015 College World Series on Saturday night. Florida (49-16) overcame an early two-run deficit to earn an 11-4 victory over the Florida State Seminoles at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
UF outscored FSU 24-9 over during the 2015 Gainesville Super Regionals, pulling off a 13-5 win on Friday night.
Freshman catcher JJ Schwarz (3/4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R) led the way on offense for the Gators with two deep blasts to left field. Schwarz, Florida’s rookie phenom, owns a new school record with 18 home runs during his freshman campaign. Schwarz has hit a blazing hot 22-for-39 (.564) in postseason play, going 12-for-20 (.600) in five 2015 NCAA Tournament games. If Schwarz can keep his hot streak up next week in Omaha, UF will be tough to beat.
This year’s berth marks Florida’s ninth trip to the College World Series, its fourth in eight seasons under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan (2010-12). UF will face No. 5 Miami in opening-round action; the Gators took two-of-three games from the Canes in Gainesville from Feb. 20-22.
By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (48-16) opened the 2015 Gainesville Super Regional on Friday with a 13-5 thumping of the rival Florida State Seminoles (44-20). The Gators are now one win away from returning to the College World Series for the first time since 2012.
Florida scored early and often in the game. A four-run first inning for the Gators gave sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K) all the cushion he needed. Senior third baseman Josh Tobias (2/5, 3 RBI, R) and freshmen catcher Mike Rivera (1/3, 3 RBI, R) led UF, while freshman C JJ Schwarz (2/3, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 RBI) hit the team’s only homer, a solo shot to deep left in the fifth inning. Schwarz is now batting 19-for-35 (.543) in postseason play.
Florida Gators baseball was awarded the No. 2 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament on Monday, entering the postseason event for the seventh-straight year, but will be faced with a tough road if it wants to advance to the College World Series for the fourth time in five seasons.
The top seed in the self-hosted Gainesville Regional, Florida (40-21) will open play Friday at 7 p.m. against four-seed College of Charleston (41-17). Two-seed Long Beach State (32=24) and three-seed North Carolina (34-25) meet at 1 p.m. in the opening game of the double-elimination regional.
Every game of the Gainesville Regional will air live on ESPN3.com with action continuing through Sunday or Monday (if necessary).
The winner will take on the victor out of the Coral Gables Regional, which features Miami, Texas Tech, Columbia and Bethune-Cookman. If the Gators win, they will host a Super Regional at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
Consensus among experts analyzing Florida’s regional is that UF has an exceptionally difficult field considering it is the second seed in the nation, especially with College of Charleston in as the lowest seed in the bracket. According to Baseball America‘s Aaron Fit, tournament committee chairman Dennis Farrell explained on a conference call held after the bracket’s release that College of Charleston was placed in Gainesville and Bethune-Cookman assigned to Coral Gables due solely to driving distance.
The Gators are making their 30th all-time appearance in regional play but still looking for their first-ever national championship. Florida has reached the College World Series eight times and played for the national title twice (2005, 2011).
For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.
12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.
Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.
11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL
For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.
A three-time All-American and the 1998 National Player of the Year, Brad Wilkerson was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first Florida Gators player to receive the prestigious honor.
A unanimous first-team All-American as a junior in 1998, Wilkerson’s abilities at the plate and on the mound were some of the main reasons why Florida won two Southeastern Conference Championships in three years and advanced to the College World Series in both 1996 and 1998. His grand slam home run to defeat Florida State in the CWS is one of the standout plays in Gators baseball history, and he became the first player in NCAA history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and earn 10 wins as a pitcher (which he accomplished in 1998).
Wilkerson is first in school history to this day in career batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.531) and walks (224); he is second in home runs (55), runs batted in (214), runs (239) and total bases (499). He is also listed as part of the top-10 in seven other categories including notables like pitching wins (third with 26), strikeouts as a pitcher (fifth with 292) and hits (sixth with 266).
Following his time at Florida, Wilkerson was selected with the No. 33 overall pick by the Montreal Expos in the 1998 MLB Draft and following three years in the minor leagues spent eight playing in the majors. He earned Rookie of the Year honors from Sporting News, hit 32 home runs in 2004, smacked the last home run in Expos team history, jacked the first grand slam in Washington Nationals team history, hit for the natural cycle (in four plate appearances) and hit three home runs in a single game (2007).
Wilkerson also played for the Texas Rangers (2006-07) and spent time as a member of both the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. He signed a minor league contract with Boston in 2009 but quickly decided to retire before attempting a comeback in 2010 with Philadelphia that only lasted one month.
Wilkerson is a member of the seventh class of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, which began honoring players in 2006, and was inducted in a ceremony that took place Saturday in Lubbock, TX. He is one of four members of the 2012 class, which also includes Nomar Garciaparra, Lou Brock and Frank Sancet (coach).
1 » Could Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal be the decided target of the Washington Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28? That appears to be the case after Washington completed a trade on Wednesday that sent a small forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to New Orleans for SF Trevor Ariza and power forward/center Emeka Okafor. By adding two talented, starting-caliber frontcourt players, the chances that the Wizards would select a forward like Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (if he was even available) have been reduced significantly, meaning Beal could very well be the top player on their board with the draft just over a week away.
2 » Speaking of Beal, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote Wednesday about what weakness Beal needs to improve on ($) in order to have a productive NBA career.
Beal’s screen-and-roll ability in Billy Donovan‘s screen-and-roll-oriented offense was average at best. Often when challenged by the screener’s defender (usually a big man), Beal was not able to take him on and beat him off the dribble. Ultimately, Beal shot just 35 percent in the screen-and-roll, and his overall points produced for himself or his teammates was a paltry 0.7 points per possession.
Part of the reason Beal struggled in the screen-and-roll is that he is a straight-line driver. I don’t doubt that he has been working hard on his ballhandling creativity. If he is going to be more than a one-dimensional jump-shooter, he’ll be handling the ball a lot, especially because the NBA’s 24-second shot clock demands it.
3 » The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field begin Friday in Eugene, OR with 17 total current and former Gators hoping to earn the opportunity to compete in the2012 London Olympics. Among those participating in the trials over the next 11 days are 10 current Florida student-athletes including: senior/junior Dwight Barbiasz (high jump), junior Omar Craddock (triple jump), junior/senior Jeff Demps (100-meter dash), freshman Marquis Dendy (long jump), freshman Dedric Dukes (200-meter dash), sophomore Ebony Eutsey (400-meter dash), sophomore Eddie Lovett (110-meter hurdles), sophomore Cory McGee (1,500-meter run), junior Tony McQuay (400-meter dash) and junior Jeremy Postin (hammer throw). Former Gators set to compete include: Hazel Clark (800-meter dash), Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), Kerron Clement (400-meter hurdles), Gray Horn (decathlon), Calvin Smith (400-meter dash), Wes Stockbarger (discus throw) and Christian Taylor (triple jump).
5 » With just a handful of game remaining in the 2012 College World Series, which Florida was eliminated from on Monday, the end of the athletic season is nearly here which means the final standings for the 2012 Capital One Cup will be official shortly. As of press time, the Gators lead the men’s standings with 89 points (baseball has not been counted yet). The only way that Florida can lose their top spot is if Arkansas (currently ranked 17th with 39 points) wins the entire CWS (adding 60 points to their total) and UF is ranked eighth or worse when the final poll. In that scenario, the Gators would finish second by one point (99-98).
6 » The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team announced Monday that Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford has been selected to play for the squad this summer. Crawford is one of six Southeastern Conference players to earn placement on the team, which consists of freshmen and sophomores from some of the nation’s top programs. He finished the 2012 season with a final record of 6-2 along with a 3.13 ERA and the team’s first solo no-hitter for in 21 years.
It appears to be difficult for some to say these words but considering they are neither profane nor mendacious, they will be published right here: Florida baseball failed.
It really is as simple as that.
“Failure” is not a dirty word or an insult to effort. It is a factual result.
When someone or something does not meet a set objective – in the Gators’ case that was bringing home the program’s first national championship (read: title or bust) – they failed in their mission. That’s what happened on Monday – whether you like it or not.
“Failure” a word you use to describe a circumstance such as when the most talented and consensus No. 1-ranked team in the country for the preseason, much of the regular season and heading into the postseason not only gets swept out of the College World Series in two games but also falls short of capturing either their conference regular season or tournament crowns in the same year.
It is how you characterize a season that was supposed to change the shape of the program forever (making national titles an expectation, not an aspiration) but instead provided yet another depressing memory on the sport’s biggest stage.
Florida’s junior class has done a lot of great things for the program, but it did not transform it. UF had advanced to the CWS and lost on numerous occasions before they ever committed to the team. Their challenge was to win the program’s first national championship. That’s not a challenge conquered, it is one that remains unobtained.
None of this is to say the Gators did not have a nice season but since when is success determined in Gainesville, FL by anything other than conference and national titles?
Florida won 47 games this year, swept Florida State and Miami, and was dominant both through their first 21 games (20-1) as well as in Gainesville Regional and Super Regional action (5-0) to earn a spot in the CWS.
But UF also concluded the regular season on a 20-15 stretch, lost the SEC Tournament by imploding in the ninth inning (giving up five runs with a 4-3 lead against Vanderbilt) and had the rug pulled out from under them in their first two CWS games.
Gators fans have seen other teams fail at the mountaintop this athletic season. Florida gymnastics came within 0.075 points of a national title and lacrosse came within two stick checks of one as well. That’s what happens sometimes. One team wins; the rest lose. One succeeds; the rest fail. There are no participation medals at this level.
UF baseball never got the chance to suffer a heartbreaking loss like those two programs. South Carolina owned them in the CWS opener Saturday, and Kent State capitalized on every single opportunity that was presented to them on Monday.
Question head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s decisions over the two games all you want. Would the Gators have maintained their lead against South Carolina if he pulled junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson before he imploded in the fifth inning on Saturday? If he left Johnson in to bat in the top of the ninth with two on and no one out on Monday, would he have hit into a double play or tied/won the game for Florida? What if he went with his ace all season long, junior righty Hudson Randall, in the opening contest – a 9 p.m. night game that he would not have left early due to heat-related symptoms?
Decisions have to be made in sports – in the dugout, on the bench, on the field and on the court. You never know if they’re right or wrong until after you make them and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind.
Give this team credit though: The Gators fought hard until the final pitch of the game.
Florida had their opportunities to save their season on Monday. The Gators had six of nine lead-off hitters get on base including three-straight to end the game but struggled mightily both with runners on the bags and those in scoring position.
UF committed early errors, lost their starter due to a health issue and saw his replacement give up eight hits and throw two wild pitches, the latter of which scored what wound up being the game-deciding run in the fourth inning. Yet Florida’s bullpen was stellar down the stretch and gave the Gators a chance to get back in the game.
Florida was also dealt their share of bad luck in addition to the aforementioned issue with Randall. UF may have been the top-ranked team, but they also found themselves in the toughest bracket and opened the CWS against the two-time defending national champions. The Gators saw home runs fall as fly outs, line drives get caught by diving Golden Flashes and obvious balls get called as strikes at home plate.
But that’s how it goes. Them’s the breaks
Sometimes the ball rockets out of the park; sometimes the wind forces it back a foot. Sometimes the umpire sees a call as clear as day; sometimes you wonder if he’s watching another game entirely. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.
Sometimes you succeed; sometimes you fail.
That’s how baseball works.
That’s how sports goes.