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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Jordan impresses as Florida soccer starts 2-0

No. 9 Florida Gators soccer may very well have a freshman sensation on its hands, and her name is Savannah Jordan.

As the Gators (2-0) kicked off the 2013 season over the weekend with a pair of 3-1 victories – defeating the FGCU Eagles (0-1) on Friday and Oregon State Beavers (0-2) on Sunday at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL – Jordan made her presence known by scoring five-straight goals, registering a hat trick and becoming just the second freshman in program history to score twice in a season opener.

Junior midfielder Havana Solaun got things going for Florida on Friday when she booted in the Gators’ first goal of the season at 35′ from 12 yards in front of the net.

Florida then allowed FGCU to pull even just minutes before halftime at 44’ in what would be the only shot the Eagles were able to attempt all evening.

Jordan did what she should to break the tie and ensured she would win her first career collegiate match, responding by scoring a pair of unassisted goals – first at 81’ to take the lead and then at 86’ to provide a bit of insurance for her team.

In doing so, she became the first Florida freshman since 1995 – the program’s inaugural season – to score twice in a season opener (Aimee Wagstaff).

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Florida baseball continues rise; 6-2 in last eight

By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

No. 19 Florida Gators baseball (25-20, 12-9 SEC) has continued its upward momentum, going 6-2 (with two series victories) since it swept South Carolina in mid-April. Over the last two weeks, Florida has gone 3-1 both at home and on the road.

Following a big three-game sweep over a Southeastern Conference powerhouse like No. 15 USC, many teams might suffer a letdown game against a non-conference foe on the road…but not the Gators. Florida had plenty of motivation to pick up a revenge victory in Fort Myers, FL against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles after having been swept by FGCU in Gainesville, FL back in February.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner tossed 5.1 innings, a career-high, allowing only one run in UF’s 5-3 victory on April 16 before sophomore closer Johnny Magliozzi got the job done with a five-out save. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (2/4, 2 RBI, R, BB) smacked a double to help fuel a three-run seventh inning. Redshirt senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (2/4, RBI) and sophomore outfielder Justin Shafer (2/5, R) also contributed to the hit parade.

Junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford overcame a rough beginning to his Friday start on April 19 to earn his third win in an 8-6 victory over the Missouri Tigers. Crawford allowed four hits in a four-run first but settled down for the next 4.2 innings and left the game with a 6-4 lead. The Gators’ offense was not done, however, scoring two more runs on four hits to spot the relievers four runs. Magliozzi picked up another five-out save, securing a much-needed series-opening win on the road for Florida.

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3/29: Florida vs. FGCU post-game; Gators set to face Michigan in Elite Eight + videos

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) advanced to the Elite Eight for the third-straight year and seventh time in team history with a 62-50 take down of the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-11) in 2013 NCAA Tournament action at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired on Friday in the Sweet 16.

UPCOMING OPPONENT

The four-seed Michigan Wolverines (29-7) stunned one-seed Kansas in the first game from Arlington on Friday and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994. The Wolverines came from behind to force overtime and eventually took down their foes 87-85 behind 23 points from Trey Burke (all of which came in the second half and overtime). Florida holds a 1-1 record all-time against Michigan, pulling off a 79-63 win in a neutral site game on Dec. 27, 1998. (The teams met previously on March 19, 1988 – a game UF lost 108-85 at a neutral site – but the victory was vacated by the NCAA.)

Sunday’s showdown will commence at 2:20 p.m. (EDT) and air live on CBS. Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr (color commentator) and Craig Sager (sideline reporter) will be on the call for the contest.

DIGGING IN AND OUT OF AN EARLY HOLE

Florida opened Friday’s game as cold as a team could be shooting-wise, hitting just four of its first 20 shots while watching FGCU explode out to an early 15-4 lead mostly due to a pair of wide-open three pointers. The Gators not only missed open jumpers but also saw layups roll around the rim without going into the net, an incredibly frustrating situation considering UF was executing its game plan in the early going.

“I felt like we really got a lot of good looks. Obviously the focus was to go down inside to [Erik] Murphy and Patric Young. Those guys had really good looks inside. I thought from the perimeter, I think Mike [Rosario] started off 0-for-5. He had pretty good looks. We couldn’t get anything to fall for us,” Donovan said.

There was no panic from Florida, however. Donovan called a timeout, the Gators composed themselves and got right back in the game in a nick of time.

“I don’t think we panicked at all as a team. We’ve been there before. The main thing with us was starting to get defensive stops. We put together a couple defensive stops. Offense, it wasn’t our best day, but it came along,” senior guard Kenny Boynton said.

Added junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin: “We had a game to win. We had everybody encouraging each other, keeping each other’s head in the right place. When you have that, you’re not going to get that frustrated.”

“We were too determined to win this game so we just fought through, stayed together and picked it up as a whole,” Young concurred. “We had to fight through human nature in the sense of feeling sorry for ourselves that we were down. We really had to fight through. It’s easy to lay down and give up, but we were able to fight as a whole through adversity and stay together.”

Read the rest of the Florida-FGCU post-game (including videos)…
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FG-CU Later: Florida Gators roll into third-straight Elite Eight with 62-50 victory over Eagles

Despite struggling in the early going and trailing by 11 points late in the first half, the three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) triumphed in a game that was lasted until early Saturday morning and advanced to the Elite Eight for a school-record third-straight season with a 62-50 victory over the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-11) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Florida has now been victorious in its last six appearances in the Sweet 16 and faces a short turnaround as it is set to take on the four-seed Michigan Wolverines in the finals of the South Region of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

The Gators used a 16-2 half-ending run to turn an 11-point deficit into a four-point halftime lead and never trailed again. Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario led the way with a game-high 15 points, team-high five rebounds and three steals and was supported by stellar play from some of UF’s reserves.

FGCU opened up the contest red hot, jumping ahead 15-4 after an 11-0 run as Florida started 2-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 from downtown.

The Gators’ cold shooting and tight play continued deep into the first half as the Eagles maintained their double-digit lead. Through the first 12:47 of the game, Florida trailed 19-9 while going 4-for-20 from the floor, 0-for-5 from beyond the arc and just 1-for-4 from the free throw line.

Suddenly, the Gators found their shooting stroke and hit three-straight triples including two from freshman guard Michael Frazier II as part of a 16-2 half-ending run that gave them a 30-26 lead at the break. Energy and suffocating defense from junior forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete helped UF hold FGCU scoreless for nearly five full minutes and played a big part in its resurgence.

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NCAA Tournament Gameday: (3) Florida Gators vs. (15) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

Location: Cowboys Stadium – Arlington, TX [Capacity: 42,614]
Time: 9:57 p.m. EDT

TV: TBS (Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager)
SiriusXM: 93/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: NCAA.com | Mobile Video: NCAA March Madness Live
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

(3) FLORIDA GATORS (15) FGCU EAGLES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Andy Enfield
Record: 28-7 Record: 26-10
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Sun
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -14 | O/U 136.5

PRE-GAME READING MATERIAL

» Story: While FGCU soaked up praise, Florida worked on getting better in Dallas
» Notes & Quotes: Florida and FGCU prepare for Sweet 16
» Notes & Quotes: Odds and ends from Florida Gators in Texas

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 30-10 in 13 NCAA Tournaments under Donovan and has reached at least the Elite Eight in four of the last seven (two national titles). The Gators advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third-straight year with a 78-64 win over Minnesota on Sunday. Florida advanced to the Elite Eight in each of its last five appearances in the Sweet 16. The Gators have not fallen in the Sweet 16 round of the tournament since 1999.
» UF is 1-0 all-time against FGCU (94-60 on Dec. 8, 2010).
» The Eagles (2-0) are currently the only undefeated team in NCAA Tournament history. FGCU is also the first 15-seed to win two games and advance to the Sweet 16.
» Enfield (as an assistant at Florida State) was 3-2 against Donovan in his five-year stint with Florida’s in-state rival.
» Florida is 53-7 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game (27-6 in 2012-13).
» The Gators have four starters that average in double figures, while the Eagles have three including two that average more than 14.5 points per game.
» UF is 4-1 against top-25 opponents this season after going 3-5 against ranked adversaries last season with all five losses coming to top-three teams.
» Florida is 0-6 this season in single-digit decisions while FGCU is 9-3.
» The Gators are ranked first nationally in scoring margin (+18.2), third in scoring defense (53.8), fifth in field goal defense (.378), eighth in field goal percentage (.482), 14th in three-pointers per game (8.4) and 24th in assist-turnover ratio (1.32). Florida is also eighth nationally in fouling (14.2) and 214th in free throw percentage (.681).
» The Eagles are 15th nationally in steals per game (9.0). FGCU is also 225th nationally in free throw percentage (.677).

Read the rest of the Florida-FGCU gameday preview…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Wilbekin, Rosario, Young, TODAY

1 » If you think junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin winding up as a member of the Florida Gators was part of some well-orchestrated plan by head coach Billy Donovan, think again. In this feature on Wilbekin written by USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach, his father reveals that the idea of his son skipping his senior year of high school basically came up on a whim. Luckily for the Gators, Wilbekin joined the team at just the right time and is now a driving force for Florida’s defense as well as its offense as it looks to advance past the Sweet 16 on Friday.

2 » Though OGGOA has taken an extensive look at the college career of redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario, we have not had the opportunity to delve much into what happened before he arrived at Florida as a transfer three years ago. The Newark Star-Ledger’s Matthew Stanmyre penned this feature on Rosario, which notes the impact the has made at the Boys & Girls Club in Jersey City (there is now “an entire bulletin board at the Boys Club devoted to Rosario [filled with] pictures of him” from different points in his career). It also looks at the special relationship he has with assistant coach Rashon Burno whose pictures Rosario used to look at on a similar bulletin board in the Boys Club while growing up. Rosario scored a UF career-high 25 points in the Gators’ round of 32 victory and looks to continue his top-notch play for Florida in the Sweet 16.

3 » Earlier this week, junior center Patric Young spoke with The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway about his issues on the free throw line. Young, who is now shooting 50.4 percent from the charity stripe this season, was 5-for-6 (.833) from the line last Sunday after going 10-for-27 (.370) over the previous four games. “Your brain can’t tell the difference between don’t miss and miss,” he said. “So if you tell yourself don’t – I have so many different things going through my head, don’t miss, don’t airball, don’t shoot it too hard. My brain is telling me to do those things and it was a big reason why I was struggling.” He continued: “It’s just a matter of my confidence going up there. It felt pretty good knocking down some pretty clutch free throws [on Sunday].”

4 » Fans of the Gators and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles participated in a student spirit segment that aired on NBC‘s TODAY early Friday morning following a feature that was mostly about FGCU’s Cinderella run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Check out the clip below for the segment from TODAY. By the angle of the camera, it is pretty easy to tell which team had more fans up at the crack of dawn for the shoot.

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3/28: Florida and FGCU prepare for Sweet 16

The three-seed Florida Gators (28-7) advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will face the (15) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-10) on Friday at 9:57 p.m. live on TBS from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. On Thursday, both coaches and their players met with the media to discuss Friday’s showdown.

FAMILIARITY MAKES MATCH-UP EVEN BETTER

While on the surface it looks like Florida and FGCU would have no reason to know much about one another, the relationship between the head coaches makes the Gators and Eagles a more intimate match-up than most realize.

In fact, Billy Donovan and Andy Enfield are so familiar with each other that the two discussed running a scrimmage between their teams before the season began, something that obviously did not come to fruition.

“Andy had called me wanting to try to get together to scrimmage. At that time, we were looking at a couple options. They were one,” Donovan explained. “One of the things that I was really looking at as a coach going into our scrimmage was our first game of the year was against Georgetown. Just going against that Princeton style of play – and also having Air Force on our schedule as well – that’s a unique system and style of play that you don’t normally see. At that time, I decided that we needed to play against Rollins in the scrimmage to get us prepared for the Georgetown game.”

Donovan said that as part of the conversation, Enfield bragged about his team and said he expected them to have much-improved chemistry in their third year.

“I know in talking to Andy on the phone, I’m not one bit surprised of the year they’ve had because when I had a conversation with him, he was telling me how really good they were and how special he thought his team could be and that he had a lot of really good players and they were going to have a really good year,” Donovan said. “What they’ve done up to this point in time hasn’t surprised me just based on my conversation with him back in early September and October.”

Enfield is especially familiar with Florida – the team and its players – considering the job he held prior to taking over the FGCU program.

“I was an assistant at Florida State for five years. We played Florida every year. I got to see Coach Donovan, his brilliance, and see what a great coach he was as we prepared for the team,” Enfield said. “He makes adjustments during the year, during the season and even during the game. He’s as good a coach as I’ve ever seen. And the players, I know them personally because I recruited a lot of them while I was at Florida State. They’re terrific young men. I know their families. It’s very ironic that we’re playing Florida in the Sweet 16. I blame this on the Selection Committee. This should be a Final Four game, not a Sweet 16 game. [Laughing]”

GATORS NOT UNDERESTIMATING THE UNDERDOG

Florida is not heading into Friday’s game looking at their opponent as a high seed lucky to have advanced this far. Instead, the Gators see the Eagles as a formidable opponent and have been planning for them as such.

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