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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Florida baseball rolls over Georgia for sweep

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

It may have started with a one-run squeaker, but No. 18 Florida Gators baseball (27-13, 12-6 SEC) battered the Georgia Bulldogs (21-18-1, 7-10-1) over the weekend to secure its second-straight home series sweep and extend its overall active winning streak to six games.

The Florida-Georgia series opener set for Friday was rained out, forcing the teams to complete all three games in a span of approximately 24 hours. The Gators took down the Bulldogs 3-2 and 8-1 in a Saturday doubleheader before completing the sweep 10-3 on Sunday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida powered past Georgia in large part due to its bullpen, which was unfazed by the lack of rest and only allow one run over 11.2 innings.

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Benches clear as Florida baseball tops No. 1 FSU

Florida Gators baseball has been up-and-down this season but pulled off its second-straight victory over the top team in the nation on Tuesday when it fought through a bench-clearing scuffle and took down the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles 4-1 at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL.

Florida, which also beat Florida State 3-1 in Gainesville, FL last Tuesday, clinched the regular-season series over its in-state rival. The Gators (16-9) and Seminoles (19-5) will play the last contest in their three-game series in Tallahassee, FL on April 8.

It did not take long for UF to get on the board as junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (1/2, R, 2 BB) walked to open the bottom of the first and scored four batters later when junior first baseman Braden Mattson singled to right field.

The Gators boosted their advantage with two more runs in the sixth. Mattson (2/4, RBI, R, SB) singled to open the frame, advanced to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a throwing error by pitcher Peter Miller, who corralled a sacrifice bunt from junior right-handed starter and designated hitter Justin Shafer but let it get away on a throw to first. Shafer scored unearned as freshman third baseman John Sternagel reached on a fielder’s choice with one out, and UF ended the inning leading 3-0.

Things got testy in Jacksonville two innings later when FSU left fielder D.J. Stewart hit a dribbler down the first-base line and collided with Florida sophomore lefty reliever Danny Young, who tried to field the ball in the base path but dropped it before Stewart arrived. UF junior 1B Zach Powers took offense to Stewart’s trucking of Young and met him chest-to-chest beyond the bag. Stewart responded by shoving Powers, and the benches cleared with both teams pushing and shoving.

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Florida baseball back to .500 as bats go cold

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Playing an extended weekend schedule that likely felt like postseason play, Florida Gators baseball has likely come to the realization that seeing its season go beyond 56 games will be a difficult task going forward.

Florida (6-6), which hosted a double round-robin tournament featuring the Illinois Illini (6-6) and FGCU Eagles (6-4) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL from Thursday-Sunday, came away from the event winning just one of four games.

The event opened with a pitching duel between Gators freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore and Eagles righty Michael Murray. Shore (6.0 IP, 6 H, 7 K) had a strong outing but unluckily got the call to be on the mound during a contest in which his teammates were struggling mightily both at the plate and on the field.

Florida committed a season-high four errors, allowing two unearned runs to score, and failed to provide Shore with any run support. UF had its best shot to tie game in the bottom of the eighth with one out and runners on second and third but only managed one run – a two-out RBI single from freshman catcher Braden Mattson (1/3, RBI) – to fall 2-1 in the opener.

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Florida baseball drops two of three at Miami

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 20 Florida Gators baseball (5-3) fell short on the road against the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes (4-3) over the weekend, dropping the annual three-game series between the in-state rivals but ultimately avoiding a sweep on Sunday at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, FL.

The Gators opened things up Friday night with their second loss of the season, dropping the season opener 6-4 despite scoring three runs in the first inning.

Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (4.0 IP, 5 H, BB, 3 K) took the loss for Florida, struggling after retiring the side in order and leaving the first inning with a three-run lead. Poyner (1-1) threw 71 pitches in the 6-4 loss and gave up home runs to Miami right fielder Willie Abreu in the third and center fielder Dale Carey in the fifth.

“We just have to get a better start out of our starting pitcher,” remarked head coach Kevin O’Sullivan after the loss.

Inside the batter’s box, junior catcher Taylor Gushue (4/4, RBI, 2 R) extended his hitting streak to six games. The four-hit game by Gushue was a career-best.

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Florida baseball wins season-opening series

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Winning their season-opening series could have been easier for the No. 20/23 Florida Gators, but coming out of the weekend with a 2-1 record was nevertheless a good start for a young squad that fought to the finish over the last three days.

Florida bookended the weekend with victories over the Maryland Terrapins (1-2) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, kicking things off with a 4-0 shutout Friday on opening night in the only game of the series that was televised.

Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K) delivered a solid outing as the opening night starter. Primarily used as a reliever and midweek starter during his first two seasons with the Gators, the third-year lefty made his case for a rotation spot this summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League, posting a 1.71 ERA over seven starts with the Orleans Fire. His five strikeouts Friday were a career-high, and Florida’s offense did a good job making him feel comfortable with some early runs.

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Florida baseball falters, drops series to Auburn

By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

With the season is winding down, Florida Gators baseball (28-25, 13-14 SEC) is limping to the finish line rather than charging towards it the way head coach Kevin O’Sullivan had envisioned. UF dropped two of three games to the Auburn Tigers (31-20, 11-16 SEC) in its last home series of the regular season and once again fell below .500 in conference play. Florida has now come up short in six of its last seven Southeastern Conference contests, dropping back-to-back series to LSU and AU.

The Gators struggled to hit consistently all weekend, falling behind early in all three games. In Friday’s series opener, the Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead, notching three runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings. A four-run seventh helped UF get back in the game but ultimately did not change the outcome as AU held on for a 7-4 victory.

Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) did not have his best stuff in the series opener and Auburn took advantage. O’Sullivan yanked Crawford early, hoping his bullpen could tame the Tigers, but the move did not work.

AU busted the game open, scoring three more runs to extend its lead to 6-0. Florida fought back, but the deficit proved to be too much. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (2/5, RBI) and freshmen outfielders Harrison Bader (1/4, RBI, R) and Richie Martin (1/4, RBI, BB) knocked runners home in UF’s four-run seventh, but the Tigers kept the Gators off the board in the other eight innings.

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Florida baseball ends skid, routs FAMU, FAU

By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

Despite riding a wave of momentum (and an 11-2 record over the previous 13 games) into their latest weekend series, Florida Gators baseball (27-23, 12-12 SEC) failed its toughest test yet as it was swept on the road while taking on the No. 3 LSU Tigers (43-6, 19-5 SEC). Yet while Florida struggled away from home, the Gators got back into the swing of things as it closed its non-conference schedule this week with a pair of dominant wins over in-state opponents.

LSU snapped Florida’s streak of three-straight SEC series wins, taking all three games over the weekend in Baton Rogue, LA.

In the series opener, the Gators battled but came out on the short end of a 3-2 decision. Tigers ace Aaron Nola silenced his opponent’s bats and tossed his fourth-consecutive complete game in a 5-0 victory that clinched the series for the home team on Friday. Florida tried seven different pitchers in the series finale but none of them could contain LSU in what would eventually become a 18-6 blowout and series sweep.

The ESPNU Thursday Night Game of the Week creates a dilemma for SEC managers. Do you start your ace in game one or let him go Friday night (game two) to keep him in his regular routine? Tigers coach Paul Mainieri saved his top starter, Nola, for Friday, but Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan opted to go with his ace, junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford, in Thursday’s series opener. Crawford (5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) did enough to keep Florida in the game but struggled with his command, only throwing 56 of his 98 pitches for strikes.

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