Gators softball sweeps Gainesville Regional, No. 1 Florida to host Kentucky in Super Regional

No. 1 Florida Gators softball on Sunday advanced to the Super Regional portion of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, earning a 1-0 eight-inning win over the Florida Atlantic Owls in the final game of the Gainesville Regional.

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was tremendous for the Gators throughout the regional round at Pressly Softball Stadium. Haeger not only threw an eight-inning two-hitter on Sunday in the regional finale, she was also responsible for Florida’s game-winning run, smacking an RBI double with two outs in the top of the eighth.

Continue Reading » Gators softball sweeps Gainesville Regional, No. 1 Florida to host Kentucky in Super Regional

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FOUR BITS: Florida softball earns No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament; Gators in the postseason

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators softball (50-6) earned the top national seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and as such will host the Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, for the 13th consecutive season. Florida will see the Florida A&M Rattlers (18-37), Florida Atlantic Owls (37-17-1) and Hofstra Pride (37-12-1) come to town for the double-elimination tournament, which begins on Friday. The winner of the Gainesville Regional will face the victor from the South Bend Rgional, which features No. 16 Notre Dame, Kentucky, Northwestern and Ball State. The Gators are the defending 2014 NCAA Champions, capturing the first national title in program history.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Florida softball earns No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament; Gators in the postseason

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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.

Continue Reading » Florida baseball ends skid, routs FAMU, FAU

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FOUR BITS: baseball, McCray, violations, Macklin

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (11-1) continued their early season dominance, thrashing the visiting Florida Atlantic Owls (8-5) on Tuesday evening at McKethan Stadium. Florida topped FAU 16-1 in the contest, taking a 9-0 lead through two innings and cruising the rest of the way. Freshman left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner got the spot start and picked up the first victory of his young career, striking out three batters while allowing one run (unearned) on three hits in four innings. Junior catcher Mike Zunino (3/3, 5 RBI, 2 R) smacked two home runs in the game, hitting a two-run shot in the first and a three-run bomb in the second. Senior center fielder Tyler Thompson (2/4) added a homer of his own and matched Zunino with five RBIs and two runs. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, 2 RBI, 3 R) and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (2/3, RBI, R) were also efficient from the plate, adding to the Gators’ impressive total. Florida will step back on the diamond Wednesday night when they host Florida A&M at 7 p.m.; the game will air live on Sun Sports (check your local listings).

In other baseball news…freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday. Gushue hit .400 with two homers, four RBIs and three runs over the weekend in Coral Gables, FL.

2 » The New Orleans Saints are currently under investigation by the NFL league office for maintaining a bounty for hard hits and knockout plays maintained by former defensive coordinator Greg Williams. Williams, a member of the team’s coaching staff from 2009-11, was with the squad for their Super Bowl XLIV season. Also on the team that year was former Gators defensive end Bobby McCray, who had incredible postseason and wound up hitting a pair of veteran quarterbacks – Minnesota’s Brett Favre and Arizona’s Kurt Warner – exceptionally hard in their respective matchups during the playoffs. The NFL fined McCray $25,000 for some of his hits on Favre, including one which caused an eruption on the Saints’ sideline. According to Sports Illustrated, “an on-field microphone directed toward the sideline caught an unidentified defender saying, ‘Pay me my money!’” following the play.

3 » Florida has self-reported a total of 12 secondary violations to the Southeastern Conference since April 2011, the Orlando Sentinel reported on Tuesday. Spread amongst the football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, volleyball and swimming programs, 10 of the 12 violations included some form of impermissible contact with four instances being incidental pocket dials. Most punishments, whether mandated by the school or convergence, included lengthened non-contact periods with the particular recruits. One notable exception was the women’s basketball team taking part in an “off-campus, team-building exercise” with each player forced to pay $12 for participating and coaches losing two hours of instruction per student.

4 » Power forward Vernon Macklin has not seen much court time this season with the Detroit Pistons as he stuck depth-wise behind four/five other players, but he told the Detroit Free Press this week that he has kept a positive disposition in spite of his not being able to play on a nightly basis. “It’s tough, but it’s not hard to stay focused because I got guys like Ben Wallace and Greg [Monroe] and those guys talking to me a lot and telling me to get my work in,” he told the paper. “It’s not really hard to stay focused. I just got to understand that I’m going through a bump in the road right now. But I’m going to get better and keep on learning, and one day I will be able to play.”

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Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

From time to time, OGGOA 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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we try to catch them with Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Remember back in April when Florida Gators forwards junior Erik Murphy and redshirt freshman Cody Larson were arrested for allegedly trying to break into a car? Since then the felony chargers were reduced to misdemeanors for both parties and Murphy accepted a plea deal that netted him fines, community service and a few other minor penalties. Larson’s situation, on the other hand, is not even close to resolved. The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway reports that he will have a Oct. 31 sentencing date to determine what legal action will be taken against him. He had previously entered a not guilty plea but could change it on the day of sentencing. As individual Florida basketball drills begin this week and practice starts on Oct. 15, according to Brockway, Larson’s status remains up in the air. The duo is currently indefinitely suspended from the team, though the expectation is that Murphy will be reinstated now that his legal situation is settled.

» Gators baseball received a commitment Wednesday evening as outfielder Max White chose to continue his career in Gainesville, FL. Also a left-handed pitcher, White is recovering from shoulder surgery and chose Florida over LSU, Central Florida, N.C. State, Maryland and North Florida, according to the Sun. “I have always wanted to play for Florida,” he told the paper. “To be in the situation where all of my hard work could possibly lead me to play for them — that is a great feeling. I just want to keep at it and I especially do not want them UF to see me slack off.”

» Florida head football coach Will Muschamp is known for his fiery demeanor on the sidelines. This fan video shot from the season opener against Florida Atlantic shows a mini-tantrum he threw during the game.

Read the rest of the Gator Bites (and watch four videos) after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

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9/3: Gators vs. Owls post-game news & notes

With the No. 22/23 Florida Gators‘ 2011 season opener against the Florida Atlantic Owls now in the books, OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s 41-3 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

ABSENCES AND INJURIES

Perhaps the most important moment of the evening came before the game started when Florida announced that sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was ineligible and would not play. The Gators will not allow Floyd to rejoin the team until he is cleared by the NCAA, and the University of Florida would not immediately provide many specifics.

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) and redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring) were questionable going into the game and wound up inactive. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely (shoulder) ended up playing after it was originally thought he would miss the contest. Sophomore WR Robert Clark (hamstring) did not dress either.

Florida did not escape the Florida Atlantic contest unscathed. Sophomore running back Trey Burton appeared to injure his hip in the first quarter and did not return, likely for precautionary reasons. Redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson, catching a ball low to the ground, suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit that popped his off and left him on the ground holding his head. Thompson rose and left the field under his own power but did not return.

THE DEMPS AND RAINEY SHOW

The Gators’ offense rolled on Saturday due in large part to dominant performances by running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey. The duo combined for 272 yards of offense and five total touchdowns with Rainey grabbing three on a rush, reception and special teams return on a punt block by sophomore WR Solomon Patton.

The pair ran up the middle and off-tackle, caught passes in the flats and were simply all over the field making both explosive cuts (Demps) and awe-inspiring spin moves (Rainey). Demps even ran the opening kickoff back 88 yards for a touchdown until it was called back due to a holding penalty.

BRANTLEY’s STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Hoping to shake the rust off and rebound from a rough first season as a starter, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played quite well on Saturday, completing 21-of-30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. However, Brantley also threw two interceptions in the contest. His first was tipped and eventually brought down, but his second was picked off in the end zone as he tried to fit the ball into traffic for a touchdown.

Florida’s offense, though dynamic, did not go deep into the playbook on Saturday and many of Brantley’s completions were on short passes. That being said, he also made some impressive throws and definitely showed an increased level of confidence, something he can improve on each week.

SECONDARY YOUNG BUT DEFENSE STOUT

Not only did the Gators hold the Owls to three points, they barely let them move the ball until the game was already over. Florida held FAU to just 30 rushing yards and 137 yards of total offense on Saturday. Though UF did not achieve any turnovers in the contest, they succeeded in turning a first-and-goal from the four into a 27-yard field goal and did not let Florida Atlantic capitalize on either of the other two interceptions they grabbed.

The young secondary – consisting of safeties sophomore Matt Elam and freshman De’Ante Saunders as well as cornerbacks sophomore Jaylen Watkins, sophomore Cody Riggs and freshman Marcus Roberson – played well but did make some mistakes.

Redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell each had a sack, while redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins led the Gators with five total tackles including a powerful hit felt by the entire stadium. Elam, Howard and redshirt junior LB Lerentee McCray each had four tackles.

OTHER NOTES

» Muschamp said after the game that Florida’s blue jerseys would be their standard going forward but that seniors on the team wanted to wear the orange on opening night. A Gainesville, FL native himself, Muschamp often used to see the Gators don orange jerseys at The Swamp.

» Redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger started at left guard ahead of redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne and redshirt freshman Chaz Green began the game at right tackle instead of redshirt junior Matt Patchan.

» Florida honored soccer stars Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts of the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team during a break in the first quarter. The crowd chanted “U-S-A” for the duo, which has been in Gainesville all weekend.

» Former safety Ahmad Black, who was waived by Tampa Bay on Saturday, was on the sideline for the game. Former defensive end Kevin Carter was an honorary captain.

» The Gators sold out 137 consecutive home games before Saturday’s contest, which was only filled with 88,708 fans, according to UF.

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Gators chomp Owls 41-3 in Muschamp’s debut

No one really doubted that the No. 22/23 Florida Gators would take down the Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The question was how Florida’s offense and entire team would look in its first game since former head coach Urban Meyer resigned.

Will Muschamp’s new squad got off to a quick start, overwhelming Florida Atlantic on both sides of the ball and eventually capturing a 41-3 victory.

The Gators started out with an explosive kickoff return for a touchdown by senior running back Jeff Demps; unfortunately it was called back due to a holding penalty and the team had to start from scratch. They subsequently drove the ball down the field, but a snap over the head of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley eliminated some of their gains and forced redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to kick a 51-yard field goal, which he made.

After forcing a three-and-out, Florida completed a 12-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Brantley tossing a 14-yard swing pass to redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey for his first of three touchdowns Saturday.

The Owls did not run more than three plays in a series in their first four possessions, allowing the Gators to get the ball back quickly and put more points on the board. A 35-yard run by Demps on the first play of the second quarter resulted in Florida’s second touchdown of the game, and a thrilling 14-yard touchdown run including a dynamic spin move by Rainey capped a nine-play, 91-yard drive.

UF’s victory was not without a few mistakes. Freshman QB Jeff Driskel, inserted late in the second quarter for Brantley, sailed a ball for an interception on his first career pass. FAU drove the ball inside the five but was pushed back and settled for a 27-yard field goal. On the Gators’ subsequent possession, Brantley had a pass tipped for a pick but Florida Atlantic missed a 34-yard attempt and the half ended with Florida leading 24-3.

Putting a drive together to start the third quarter, the Owls got four first downs but were forced to punt at midfield. Sophomore wide receiver Solomon Patton was able to block the attempt, and Rainey picked it up, returning it all the way for the touchdown. With the score, he became just the third player in the country since 1996 to notch a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game.

Again threatening to score late in the third quarter, the Gators failed to do so after committing their third turnover of the evening. Brantley – via multiple completions to Demps and Rainey and a few stellar rushes by the same two players – drove Florida from their 14 to FAU’s six. However, on first and goal, he was picked off in the back of end zone trying to fit the ball into traffic.

Forcing a punt to start the fourth, the Gators began taking it to the Owls again. Brantley’s 17-yard pass on third-and-seven to redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson kept the drive alive, and Demps’s 20-yard rushing touchdown completed Florida’s 78-yard series.

Eleven total players caught passes from Brantley and Driskel, the latter of whom returned late in the fourth quarter and led the team on a 10-play, 52-yard drive capped by a 29-yard field goal by Sturgis.

Demps and Rainey were dominant all game, combining for 272 yards of offense and five total touchdowns. Brantley finished 21/30 for 229 yards and one touchdown, but his two interceptions – including one negating a scoring opportunity – will certainly be a concern for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis heading into preparations for next week.

The Gators posted 468 yards of offense Saturday compared to only 137 from the Owls. (UF outgained FAU 264-62 in the first half alone.)

The announced attendance of 88,708 broke the University of Florida’s 137-game sellout streak, but Florida did win their 22nd straight season opener.

Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who will retire at the end of this season after a storied career, lost his fifth-straight game in Gainesville and has not led his team to victory at Florida Field since 1983 (31 years).

The Gators will remain at home for their next contest, a 7 p.m. showdown with Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 10. The game will air live on FSN.

Check back with us later for news, notes and quotes following the game.

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No. 22 Florida Gators vs. FAU Owls Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 72°F, partly cloudy
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPNU/ESPNUHD
SiriusXM: 205
Online Audio: GatorVision.tv
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(22) FLORIDA GATORS FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Howard Schnellenberger
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Sun Belt
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -34.5; O/U 50

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators after a long offseason? No problem. OGGOA has been here the entire time. Check out the links below and do your homework on the team’s offseason before the final exam Saturday evening.

Latest depth chart | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

As first reported by OGGOA last Friday, former Florida dazzler now ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was in Gainesville, FL on Monday to interview Muschamp. The segment will air live on College GameDay (which starts at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN) and will be followed by a discussion between Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso about Muschamp and what impact he will have on the team in 2011 and going forward.

A clip of Andrews’s interview with Muschamp is available below:

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 1-0 in the all-time series against Florida Atlantic, defeating them 59-20 in 2007, the only time the teams squared off.
» The Gators have never lost a game against a current member of the Sun Belt and are 13-0 against such opponents.
» Florida is 77-27 all-time to start the season and 62-6 in the friendly confines of Florida Field. The Gators have won 21 consecutive season openers, the second-longest streak in the country (Nebraska, 25) and best in the SEC by 10 games.
» Muschamp will take the field with Florida as the team’s head coach for the first time on Saturday. He has never served as a head coach on the collegiate level before and, at 40-years-old, is the second-youngest to hold said position in the SEC (Dan Mullen, 39).
» On the other side, Schnellenberger will be beginning his 27th year at the helm of a college football program – his last as he will retire at the conclusion of the 2011 season. He is 157-140-3 all-time and 57-63 at FAU since taking over the team 11 years ago.
» After defeating the Gators the first three times he faced them with Miami (1979-81), Schnellenberger has failed to notch another win. All four of his losses (1982, 1983, 1992, 2007) were games played in Gainesville, where he has not won in 31 years.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida has won 88 percent of its home games (117-16) since 1990, the best home winning percentage in the nation. In that period, the Gators are 55-4 against non-conference opponents and 92-4 against unranked teams.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Florida Atlantic have only met on one other occasion – Nov. 17, 2007 – when the Gators stomped the Owls 59-20. Quarterback Tim Tebow went 25/34 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and an interception through the air and also rushed 11 times for 31 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Andre Caldwell did most of the receiving with 13 catches for 164 yards, but tight end Cornelius Ingram corralled a pair of touchdowns and 60 receiving yards. After UF scored 21 unanswered points in the first quarter, FAU answered back with 13 points to start the second quarter. However, the Gators outscored the Owls 38-7 the rest of the way to hold on for the victory.

INJURIES

» Active: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back)
» Questionable: Redshirt junior cornberback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder), redshirt junior receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Inactive: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Brantley…who completed only 60.8 percent of his passes (200-of-329) for 2,061 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2010 butis said to have been revitalized by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s pro-style system.
» Running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey…who are co-starters in the backfield and two of the most dynamic and explosive players in the SEC. Demps and Rainey, both of whom missed game time in 2010, combined for 917 rushing yards (6.4 yards per carry) and five touchdowns on the ground as well as 332 receiving yards and three scores through the air.
» Sophomore Trey Burton…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. Elam played in all 13 games in 2010 and is looking to make a name for himself this year.
» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell…who steps into a brand new position somewhat unique to Muschamp’s defense. Powell only started one game as a true freshman but will be entrenched from the get-go in 2011 as a hybrid player.
» Sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd…who is a defensive tackle but moved to defensive end this year to help the team. Floyd also started one game as a true freshman but plenty of pressure on his massive shoulders as a full-time starter in 2011.
» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard…who is the man in the middle for the Gators and is the most experienced player (17 starts) on his side of the ball.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. His consistency on special teams should help the Gators be more confident overall.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC
» RB Alfred Morris…who was the team’s leading rusher in 2010 with 928 yards and seven TDs. A redshirt senior, Morris is being counted on as the Owls’ primary playmaker.
» QBs Graham Wilbert…who will make his first start for FAU. The signal caller battled for his job all spring and summer but is very inexperienced only having thrown five passes in his college career.

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