SIX BITS: Beal, Benedict, Blakely, SEC, Walker

1 » Attending an offseason basketball camp put on by New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams, ESPN’s Andy Katz got another look at Florida Gators freshman guard Brad Beal and again came away impressed – but not because of his shooting.

Beal has been touted as a pure shooter, and he showcased a bit of that ability Saturday afternoon. But he was arguably most impressive off the ball. Beal crashed the glass from the weak side for a series of offensive rebounds and putbacks, using his 6-foot-7 wingspan (which is sort of crazy for a guy measured by camp staff at 6-foot-3.5) to rise to the rim and finish plays against taller defenders. Billy Donovan‘s team desperately needs a more consistent outside shooting presence. Beal should easily provide that. But he may also bring some bonus abilities to the floor, too.

2 » Former five-star recruit Brent Benedict, a redshirt freshman with the Georgia Bulldogs has been granted an unconditional release by the school, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This is news for Florida fans because Benedict was once highly recruited by the Gators and is said to be heavily considering transferring to the University of Florida. Though he is a talented player, Benedict is still recovering from a terrible knee injury he suffered during his senior year of high school. His knee was completely reconstructed, and Benedict also had to fight through nerve damage in order to return to the field. The AJC reports that “Benedict claimed in march to be ‘100 percent’ recovered from that injury and was medically cleared to play, but he continued to show effects … even in summer workouts.”

3 » Four-star running back Mike Blakely, who similarly received an unconditional release from Florida when he expressed his desire to transfer, may be eligible to play for the Auburn Tigers as soon as 2011 if the school gets its way. According to the Mobile Press-Register, Auburn compliance director Rich McGlynn has petitioned the NCAA to make Blakely eligible immediately due to the fact that he never suited up for the Gators after undergoing shoulder surgery in Gainesville, FL. “We have filed a wavier in an attempt to see if we can have Mike be immediately eligible and we’re in that process right now,” he told the paper.

4 » The Southeastern Conference has sent a proposal to the NCAA outlining significant changes it would like implemented in the recruiting process, according to CBSSports.com’s Bryan Fischer. In short form, some of the changes the SEC and commissioner Mike Slive are proposing include: (a) allowing text messaging between coaches and recruits, (b) earlier first off-campus contact, (c) no Twitter monitoring for who you can follow/be followed by, (d) coaches can receive phone calls from recruits, parents or coaches at any point, (e) eliminate “quiet” period and expand other three recruiting periods, (f) banning seven-on-seven camps and other “non-scholastic” events.

5 » With their 2011 recruiting class now in the fold and the 2012 class coming along nicely, the Gators have begun reaching out to 2013 prospects with the hopes of bringing them on board. Most notably, Florida is making a strong push for the No. 3 overall prospect in the nation according to Rivals, 6’9” 205-pound power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, FL). According to InsideTheGators.com, Walker has UF in his top five along with Baylor, Kentucky, Ohio State and Syracuse. Walker told ITG’s Tim Gould that Kentucky’s prowess for developing NBA talent interests him but that the Gators talk about him being a program-changer who can make a major impact on the court from day one. He is not planning on making a decision in the near future but could potentially be a huge get for Florida.

6 » UF’s loss in the 2011 College World Series Championship Series not only cost the school its third national championship of the 2010-11 season, it also put the state of Florida out a few dozen bucks. Governor Rick Scott made a bet with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley that the Gators would prevail in the event. Because Florida lost, Scott will send a key lime pie from Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe in Key West, FL to Haley. If UF had won, Scott would have received a barbecue dinner from Haley.

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Roth silences Gators as Gamecocks sweep College World Series with 5-2 victory Tuesday

After a pair of throwing errors cost them the opening game of the 2011 College World Series Championship Series on Monday, No. 2 Florida Gators baseball hoped to reverse their fortunes on Tuesday with a second crack at the defending champion No. 2 South Carolina Gamecocks. Instead, an error in the third propelled a three-run inning and played a large part in South Carolina (55-14) defeating Florida (53-19) 5-2 to win their second-straight NCAA National Championship.

The Gamecocks captured the final national title played at Rosenblatt Stadium in 2010 and earned the first contested at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE as the Gators moved to 0-4 in the CWS Championship Series in school history (0-2 vs. Texas in 2005).

South Carolina also won their 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament game dating back to 2010 and improved to 4-1 against Florida in 2011.

Junior right-handed pitcher Michael Roth (14-3) earned the start for USC and was absolutely stellar in his outing, allowing only two earned runs in 7.2 innings while giving up five hits and two walks, hitting a pair of batters, and striking out six.

UF countered with freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (8-1), who hoped to match Roth pitch-for-pitch and succeeded through the first two innings before struggling mightily with his command in the third.

Whitson started the inning by giving up a stand-up double down the left field line to South Carolina shortstop Peter Mooney, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. He was then plated when second baseman Scott Wingo hit a sacrifice fly to right.

With two outs and runners on first and second, first baseman Christian Walker smacked a chopper to the left side that Florida sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana flubbed, scoring another for the Gamecocks. South Carolina added one more in the inning as an infield single by designated hitter Brady Thomas plated the second unearned run of the inning, putting the Gamecocks ahead 3-0.

Having retired eight-straight batters, Roth was tagged for a solo homer cranked to left by Gators sophomore catcher Mike Zunino in the fourth, reducing Florida’s deficit to 3-1.

UF looked to even things up in the fifth after getting runners on first and second with nobody out. Freshman third baseman Cody Dent was sent to bunt the runners over but fouled out into a strikeout on a 1-2 count; senior center fielder Bryson Smith followed by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning without the Gators plating a run.

USC hoped to increase their lead in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases after Whitson (4.2 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 4 K) allowed a pair of two-out singles and hit a batter. He was then pulled for junior RHP Tommy Toledo, who struck out the next batter to save the inning and leave the bases full.

Florida tried to get things going in the sixth, once again getting their first two batters on board. However, a strikeout and consecutive ground outs stranded the runners on second and third in scoring position to conclude the frame.

South Carolina added to their lead in the latter portion of the frame, as Mooney hit a solo homer off Toledo by sending a rocket to right.

The Gators had one more chance in the top of the eighth when Zunino hit a one-out double to right-center and advanced to third on a ground out. Senior second baseman Josh Adams singled to right to score Zunino and reduce the Gamecocks’ lead to 4-2. Unfortunately for UF, junior pinch hitter Tyler Thompson struck out looking to end the frame, stranding Adams on first.

USC tacked on one more run in their final frame, sending a lead-off single from first-to-third on an infield grounder and wild pitch before plating him with a single to right. Head coach Ray Tanner then brought on closer Matt Price, who earned his 20th save of the season and second in as many days.

Florida concluded the 2011 season with a school single-season record 53 wins while also reaching the CWS Championship Series for just the second time in school history. The Gators also won the Southeastern Conference regular season championship and tournament title while boasting the league’s Player of the Year in Zunino.

2011 CWS All-Tournament Team
Third baseman Cody Dent
Center fielder Bryson Smith

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2011 College World Series Championship Series: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 4 South Carolina – Game 2

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (4) SO. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Ray Tanner
Record: 53-18 Record: 54-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.43 ERA)
South Carolina: Junior RHP Michael Roth (13-3, 0.98 ERA)

HOME TEAMS

Game 1: Florida | Game 2: South Carolina | Game 3: South Carolina

HISTORY and STREAKS

» South Carolina is 3-1 against Florida in 2011 and 39-29 all-time. USC is also 5-1 all-time against UF in games played at neutral sites.
» The Gamecocks are the defending CWS champions after capturing the title in 2010. The Gators have never won a national title in baseball and are participating in the final series for the second time in school history (2005).
» With a series victory, Florida would be the first team in SEC history to win national championships in football, basketball and baseball. Only two other FBS schools have done so, both in the Big Ten (Michigan, Ohio State).
» South Carolina has won 15-straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2010.
» The Gators recently set the school’s single-season wins record (53).
» Florida is 8-2 in NCAA action this year.
» The Gators have won 13 of 15 weekend series played this season with one of their two losses coming to the Gamecocks. Florida has captured 27 consecutive series when winning the opening game.
» UF is 39-8 this year when scoring first and 43-4 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 35-6 when hitting a home run and 22-5 when playing error-free.
» The Gators have scored 208 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 28-1 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 37-2 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 8-16 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» UF is 45-2 when scoring 4+ runs and 46-1 when leading after seven innings.
» Florida and South Carolina are the only two teams to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» The Gators are in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Florida and South Carolina boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Gamecocks in batting average (.309-.295), runs scored (452-412), hits (741-664), home runs (68-45), RBI (418-375), slugging percentage (.465-.430), stolen bases (56-40) and fielding percentage (.975-.974). However, USC holds advantages over UF in walks (283-241), ERA (2.49-2.97) and batting average against (.227-.243).

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida was leading a pitchers duel 1-0 through the first 7.2 innings of the opening game of the CWS Championship Series on Monday. South Carolina came back with a run in the top of the eighth and scored a game-winning run in the top of the 11th due to consecutive throwing errors by UF. The Gators failed to convert a number of scoring opportunities, often negated by stellar defense from the Gamecocks.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.364), hits (95), homers (18), runs (73), slugging (.655)…and strikeouts (52). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior first baseman/right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 74 RBI. Tucker is hitting .312 with 55 runs, 15 homers and 28 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the team’s strongest fielder who recently overcame an 0/17 slump. Fontana, as the leadoff hitter, is hitting .291 with 57 runs, 49 RBI and a team-high 52 walks. He had at one point hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Sophomore closer Austin Maddox…who has made 21 relief appearances (27.0 innings) and has compiled a 0.67 ERA with 21 Ks and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .280 with six HR and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-1, 2.09 ERA)…who has made a team-high 36 appearances this season and earned two saves in 43 innings pitched. He has amassed 55 strikeouts against only nine walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .475 (19-for-40) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 14-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .329 with 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 17 walks this season.
» Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott…who was hitting .412 with 10 RBI, 10 runs and a pair of walks in NCAA competition going into Monday’s game. Pigott is batting nearly 70 points higher than his season average when it matters the most.
» South Carolina 1B Christian Walker…who is hitting .356 with 10 homers and 62 RBI this season. He has been the team’s best hitter all season.
» Gamecocks catcher Brady Thomas…who had a stellar 2010 CWS and is batting .314 with 70 hits, 42 RBI and 23 walks this year.
» South Carolina closer Matt Price…who has 19 saves on the season with a 1.87 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. Price threw during an incredibly long outing on Friday, tossing 95 pitches in 5.2 innings.

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Errors doom Gators as Gamecocks win 2-1 in 11

The No. 2 Florida Gators maintained a one-run lead for most of the game but a combination of clutching hitting and excellent defense from the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, along with a pair of throwing errors from Florida, propelled South Carolina to a 2-1 victory in 11 innings on Monday in game one of the 2011 College World Series Championship Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.

The Gamecocks (54-14) trailed for the first 7.2 innings of the game but scored a run in the eighth and another in the 11th to hand the Gators (53-18) their second loss of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. South Carolina thwarted multiple opportunities Florida had to score, getting out of a bases loaded, no-outs jam and completing a play at the plate to maintain a tie and ultimately earn the victory.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the call for the Gators and was nearly flawless in his outing, tossing 7.2 shutout innings before giving up a run in the top of the eighth. He struck out six (in the first six innings), gave up three hits and walked one; at one point, Randall retired 18 of 19 batters (including 10 in a row).

The Gamecocks rolled out freshman Forrest Koumas, who was impressive striking out four in 5.2 strong while allowing three hits and a walk. He was replaced by Tyler Webb and John Taylor (8-1), who combined to pitch 4.1 shutout innings in his stead.

Florida got on the board first, manufacturing a run in the bottom of the third. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson led off with a walk to start the inning, advanced over to third base on a ground out and wild pitch, and scored when freshman third baseman Cody Dent flied out to left on a sacrifice.

It took South Carolina five innings to respond, but the Gamecocks created a similar scoring opportunity of their own. Randall walked shortstop Peter Mooney, the first batter he faced in the eighth, and found him on third after a sacrifice bunt and fly out to right-center. Second baseman Scott Wingo followed with a hard single up the middle to tie the game 1-1 and send Randall to the showers.

The Gators found themselves with a prime opportunity to win the game in the final frame of regulation. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino got on with a walk to start the ninth, and Florida loaded the bases on a single and intentional walk with no outs. However, the Gators hit consecutive groundouts to Wingo to end the inning without plating a single run. Thompson’s grounder resulted in a force out at home plate, and junior right fielder Daniel Pigott hit into a 4-2-3 game-saving double play to end the ninth.

Both teams had a chance to put things away in the 10th but ultimately failed. South Carolina got a pair of runners on base via two singles, but junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde recorded the final two outs of the inning. Dent singled for Florida in the bottom of the inning but was ultimately thrown out at home on a hard hit single by Zunino to left.

After a line out to start the 11th, Maronde (0-1) gave up a single to first baseman Christian Walker. When he was replaced by junior RHP Greg Larson, Walker attempted to steal second and succeeded after Zunino threw the ball into the outfield. Trying to get Walker out at third, senior center fielder Bryson Smith committed the second throwing error of the play, allowing the batter to score and the Gamecocks to take a 2-1 lead.

South Carolina called on closer Matt Price and, just two days after throwing 95 pitchers over 5.2 innings, Price (S 19) retired three of the four batters he faced.

The Gators and Gamecocks will go head-to-head in game two of the CWS Championship Series on Tuesday at 8 p.m. (ESPN). Projected Starters: Florida – Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.43 ERA), South Carolina – Michael Roth (13-3, 0.98 ERA)

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2011 College World Series Championship Series: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 4 South Carolina – Game 1

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (4) SO. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Ray Tanner
Record: 53-17 Record: 53-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (11-3, 2.24 ERA)
South Carolina: Freshman RHP Forrest Koumas (6-1, 3.07 ERA)

HOME TEAMS

Game 1: Florida | Game 2: South Carolina | Game 3: South Carolina

HISTORY and STREAKS

» South Carolina is 2-1 against Florida in 2011 and 38-29 all-time. USC is also 4-1 all-time against UF in games played at neutral sites.
» The Gamecocks are the defending CWS champions after capturing the title in 2010. The Gators have never won a national title in baseball and are participating in the final series for the second time in school history (2005).
» With a series victory, Florida would be the first team in SEC history to win national championships in football, basketball and baseball. Only two other FBS schools have done so, both in the Big Ten (Michigan, Ohio State).
» South Carolina has won 14-straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2010.
» UF and USC are both 3-0 in the CWS thus far.
» The Gators recently set the school’s single-season wins record (53).
» Florida is 8-1 in NCAA action this year with their sole loss coming on a walk-off by Mississippi State in the Super Regionals.
» The Gators have won 13 of 15 weekend series played this season with one of their two losses coming to the Gamecocks. Florida has captured 27 consecutive series when winning the opening game.
» UF is 39-7 this year when scoring first and 43-3 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 35-6 when hitting a home run and 22-5 when playing error-free.
» The Gators have scored 209 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 28-0 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 37-1 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 8-15 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» UF is 45-2 when scoring 4+ runs and 46-0 when leading after seven innings.
» Florida and South Carolina are the only two teams to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» The Gators are in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Florida and South Carolina boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Gamecocks in batting average (.309-.295), runs scored (452-412), hits (741-664), home runs (68-45), RBI (418-375), slugging percentage (.465-.430), stolen bases (56-40) and fielding percentage (.975-.974). However, USC holds advantages over UF in walks (283-241), ERA (2.49-2.97) and batting average against (.227-.243).

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox (foot) – Able to pitch; hitting to be determined
Sophomore DH/LHP Brian Johnson (head) – Able to hit; pitching to be determined
South Carolina 1B Christian Walker (wrist) – Questionable

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.366), hits (94), homers (18), runs (73), slugging (.661)…and strikeouts (51). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior first baseman/right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 74 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .313 with 55 runs, 15 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the strongest fielder on the team who recently overcame an 0/17 slump. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .296 with 57 runs, 49 RBI and a team-high 52 walks. He had at one point hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Maddox…who has made 20 relief appearances (26.0 innings) and has compiled a 0.69 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .280 with six homers and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-0, 1.93 ERA)…who has made a team-high 35 appearances this season and earned two saves in 42 innings pitched. He has amassed 54 strikeouts against only nine walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .472 (17-for-36) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 13-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .325 with 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 16 walks this season.
» Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott…who is hitting .412 with 10 RBI, 10 runs and a pair of walks in NCAA competition. Pigott is batting nearly 70 points higher than his season average when it matters the most.
» Walker…who is hitting .355 with 10 homers and 62 RBI this season for South Carolina. He has been the team’s best hitter all season.
» Gamecocks catcher Brady Thomas…who had a stellar 2010 CWS and is batting .314 with 70 hits, 42 RBI and 23 walks this year.
» South Carolina closer Matt Price…who has 18 saves on the season with a 1.91 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. Price threw during an incredibly long outing on Friday, tossing 95 pitches in 5.2 innings.
 

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Gators fight to top Commodores 6-4, advance to College World Series Championship Series

The No. 2 Florida Gators and No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores were evenly matched all season long. Though Florida held the head-to-head wins advantage, Vanderbilt made them fight for each of them and did the same on Friday, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 tie before the Gators (53-17) pulled away from the Commodores (54-12) and advanced to the 2011 College World Series Championship Series with a 6-4 victory after more than three hours at TD Ameritrade Park.

Florida beat Vanderbilt five of the six times that the two (of three) Southeastern Conference champions squared off in 2011 including twice in the CWS and thrice overall during the postseason. The Gators advanced to the school’s second-ever championship series, having last played for the national title in 2005.

After getting the first two outs of the game, Florida junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis allowed Vanderbilt first baseman Aaron Westlake to power a homer to right to put the Commodores ahead a run early in the game.

The Gators stranded two in the bottom of the second, and VU did the same in the top of the third, helping Panteliodis get out of a jam. UF freshman third baseman Cody Dent helped take some weight off his shoulders in the bottom of the inning, smacking a lead-off, stand-up triple to right-center.

Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana walked to put runners on the corners, and junior 1B Preston Tucker dribbled a ball down the first base line to score Dent from third even though he was tagged out.

Florida took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a small rally. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-3, R, BB) and junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-4, R) hit one-out singles to left, and Dent was walked to load the bases. Fontana, stuck in a 0-17 hitting slide, hopped the ball up the middle to score two, giving the Gators a 3-1 lead.

Sophomore right fielder Daniel Pigott kept the momentum going in the sixth, starting the inning off for Florida with a double. The bases were then loaded with no outs after Dent was walked and Fontana had a bunt bobbled; a subsequent 6-4-3 double play scored Pigott from third and put the Gators up 4-1 through six.

Before the seventh could begin, Panteliodis (6.0 IP, ER, 3 H, HBP, 3 K) was replaced by junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo. Panteliodis concluded his outing by retiring the last eight batters he faced and 11 of the final 12 Commodores who stepped to the plate. He also had three 1-2-3 innings on the afternoon including the fifth and sixth.

Toledo (0.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H) stepped in and allowed one-out and two-out singles to put runners on the corners before a single to left reduced Vanderbilt’s deficit to 4-2. With two down and runners on first and second, he was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde, who walked consecutive batters to load the bases and let another run cross the plate. Stuck in a pickle with the bases loaded, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again and brought out junior RHP Greg Larson, who immediately forced a fly out to right to end the inning.

Florida went down in order in the bottom of the inning, and O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again, bringing in sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez. After striking out Westlake, Rodriguez gave up a single to center and a chopper up the middle to put the tying run on second and the potential winning run on first.

Trying to stop the bleeding, O’Sullivan made yet another pitching change and called upon sophomore RHP Austin Maddox, who had not pitched since May 29 after injuring his foot. Commodores third baseman Jason Esposito legged out an infield single to short to load the bases, and Maddox hit the following batter on the foot to keep the bases loaded and tie the game up 4-4.

Fontana saved more runs from scoring by diving to his left to grab a liner for the second out of the inning, and a ground out just one batter later stopped the bleeding.

The Gators got things going again in the eighth. Pigott (2-4, 2 R) led off with a single, and Florida loaded the bases on picture perfect bunts from Dent and Fontana (2-3, 2 RBI, BB) – both down the third-base line. At that point, Vanderbilt decided to pull starter Sonny Gray (12-4, 7.0 IP, 5 ER, 12 H, 5 BB, 8 K) and dip into their bullpen.

Senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-5) popped out, but Tucker (1-5, 2 RBI) followed by hitting a floater to deep left, scoring one and keeping the bases loaded. The next batter, sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-5), went down on strikes, but a wild pitch strike three allowed Dent (2-2, 2 R, 2 BB) to steal home, giving the Gators a 6-4 lead and continuing the inning.

Maddox returned for the final three outs of the ballgame and got the first two batters out before allowing Westlake to double to right-center, putting the game-tying run at the plate. However, just a few pitches and a fly out later, Maddox (3-0, 1.2 IP, 2 H) clinched the championship series berth for Florida.

UF will face either No. 1 Virginia or No. 4 South Carolina in the College World Series Championship Series beginning Monday at 8 p.m. Game two is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. and game three (if necessary) for Wednesday at 8 p.m. All three contests will air live on ESPN and ESPN3.com with full coverage here on OGGOA.

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2011 College World Series: Florida vs. Vanderbilt II

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 2:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (6) VANDY COMMODORES
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Tim Corbin
Record: 52-17 Record: 54-11
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.95 ERA)
Vanderbilt: Junior RHP Sonny Gray (12-3, 2.12 ERA)

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 4-1 against Vanderbilt in 2011 including 2-1 on the road and 2-0 at neutral sites. UF is 124-63-1 in the all-time series between the two teams.
» The Gators recently the school’s single-season wins record (52).
» Florida is 39-7 this year when scoring first and 42-3 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 35-6 when hitting a home run and 21-5 when playing error-free.
» UF has scored 207 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 28-0 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 37-1 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 7-15 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» The Gators are 44-2 when scoring four runs or more and 45-0 when leading after seven full innings.
» Florida is making its seventh appearance in the CWS and third since 2005. UF has never won a national championship in the sport of baseball.
» The Gators are one of two teams (South Carolina) to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» UF is in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Vanderbilt finished the regular season tied with Florida atop the SEC East with a 22-8 conference record. UF topped VU in the SEC Tournament.
» The Commodores are making their first-ever appearance in the CWS.
» Florida and Vanderbilt boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Commodores in hits (728-704), home runs (68-50), RBI (414-409) and slugging percentage (.465-.453). However, VU holds advantages in the majority of categories including batting average (.315-.308), runs scored (455-446), stolen bases (80-56), walks (194-123), ERA (2.38-2.95), strikeouts (557-525) and batting average against (.215-.242).
» For the first time in CWS history, three teams from the same conference (and same division) are among the final four to play for the title.

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox (foot) – Able to pitch; hitting to be determined

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.369), hits (93), homers (18), runs (73), slugging (.671)…and strikeouts (49). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 72 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .315 with 86 hits, 55 runs, 15 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the strongest fielder on the team who has also broke out offensively. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .291 with 72 hits, 57 runs, 47 RBI and a team-high 51 walks. He had hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Maddox…who has made 19 relief appearances (24.1 innings) and has compiled a 0.74 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .380 with six homers and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-0, 1.93 ERA)…who has made a team-high 34 appearances this season and earned two saves in 42 innings pitched. He has amassed 54 strikeouts against only seven walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .516 (16-for-31) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 12-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .329 with 53 hits, 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 16 walks this season.
» Vanderbilt junior 1B Aaron Westlake…who leads his team’s power surge with 17 homers this year. He is also hitting .343 with 55 RBI, 58 runs scored and has team-highs in walks (47) and slugging percentage (.629).
» Commodores junior third baseman Jason Esposito…who is batting .341 and is just as dynamic offensively as his teammate with nine homers, 55 runs scored, 15 stolen bases and a team-high 59 RBI.
» VU closer Navery Moore (4-2, 1.21 ERA)…who has made 28 appearances this season and amassed 11 saves via 25 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, MLB, basketball, CWS

1 » Former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was kicked off the team by head coach Will Muschamp following multiple brushes with the law, has officially signed a scholarship with the North Alabama Lions, where he will play under head coach Terry Bowden. “I talked to everybody that I could possibly talk to at Florida, who had a relationship with him,” Bowden told ESPN.com. “From Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp to Jeremy Foley, they all said he is a guy who made a mistake. But it does not represent his character or his time at Florida. They all thought he deserved a second chance.” North Alabama actually represents Jenkins’s fourth chance.

2 » A pair of former Florida baseball players are in the process of being removed from the disabled list by their respective MLB teams. Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis (hamstring) came off the 15-day list Wednesday and will continue to serve as a utility player with the squad. Texas Rangers relief pitcher Darren O’Day (hip) has been out much longer after having surgery in late April. He was placed on the 60-day list and will likely rejoin Texas on Tuesday.

3 » With the NCAA recently coming down hard on the Kentucky Wildcats for celebrating head coach John Calipari’s “500th” victory, the Gators have decided to adjust their men’s basketball record books due to sanctions levied against the team for the actions of former head coach Norm Sloan. “According to the NCAA infractions report, Sloan paid child support to keep one of his players out of jail and paid transportation from Gainesville to Boston to allow one of his players to work as a counselor at a summer basketball basketball camp,” The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway explains. The player in question is presumed to be Vernon Maxwell, who has his final two seasons with the team erased from the media guide. Florida has placed asterisks next to NCAA Tournament games and adjusted their books .

4 » Already 4-1 against the No. 6-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores this season (2-1 on the road, 2-0 at neutral sites), No. 2 Gators baseball will once again take on their Southeastern Conference East division rivals in the semifinals of the 2011 College World Series on Friday at 2 p.m. Florida (52-17) is one win away from advancing to the Championship Series, while Vanderbilt (54-11) would need to defeat UF twice in order to move forward. OGGOA will have complete coverage of the upcoming CWS game, including a full preview, throughout the day on Friday.

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