Gators baseball walks off with 5-4 win over Hurricanes in Gainesville Regional action

The rivalry may have been taken to another level Saturday as No. 2 Florida Gators baseball and the Miami Hurricanes squared off at McKethan Stadium in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Florida (47-16) came back from a two-run deficit and eventually took a 5-4 victory on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to advance to the regional finals and send Miami (37-22) to an elimination game.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for the Gators but was pulled after six innings of solid work. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo (5-3) pitched a strong ninth inning and came away with the victory.

Scoreless for two innings, Miami got on board first in the third to take an early 1-0 lead. The Hurricanes started the inning with a double and sacrificed a bunt and fly to bring the runner home. UM added a second run in the fourth, scoring a lead-off single with a one-out stand-up double.

Feeling the pressure, Florida succeeded in tying the game in the bottom of the inning. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) got things going with a double, and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino followed suit to send him home and reduce the Gators’ deficit. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (2-4, RBI) kept the double parade going, smacking a ball to deep right to score Zunino (2-4, RBI, R) and knot the game up at 2-2.

UF kept the scoring run going in the fifth as sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana connected on a single to score redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit, who led off the inning with a double. Fontana would advance to second on a bad throw and move over to third when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-3) singled. Continuing his hard-hitting afternoon, Tucker stepped into the box and doubled off the right field wall to plate Fontana and give Florida a 4-2 lead.

Miami looked to be going down in the top of the sixth but salvaged the frame to get on the board and draw the game closer. RF Dale Carey hit a clutch two-out double down the left field line to get on base and was singled home by third baseman Brad Fieger to put the Canes just one run behind the Gators. UM capitalized again in the seventh as second baseman Zeke DeVoss began the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and came around to tie the game on a single by LF Rony Rodriguez.

The visitors threatened in the top of the eighth and ninth, but great pitching from Toledo (1.0 IP, K, H) negated a lead-off double in the latter inning to get Florida out of a jam. Gators junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott started the bottom of the inning by getting on base because of an error by the shortstop, advanced to second on a balk and was joined on base by Ramjit (1-3, R, BB), who was walked. The duo moved to second and third after a wild pitch and were joined on the bags when P Daniel Miranda walked his second batter of the inning, sophomore 3B Cody Dent (0-3, BB).

With all the pressure on him, Fontana (2-5, RBI, R) stepped up to the plate and hit a game-winning single to left, scoring Pigott (0-4, R) and sending Florida into the Gainesville Regional championship game on Sunday.

The Hurricanes have now lost seven-straight games to the Gators and 10 of the last 11. Four of Florida’s runs were scored due to opportunities provided by UM errors.

Miami will face Jacksonville at noon with the winner taking on UF in the finals at 4 p.m., live on ESPNU. The Gators only need one more victory to advance to the Super Regional, while either Miami or Jacksonville would have to defeat Florida twice.

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Florida routs Manhattan 17-3 in NCAA regional

The truth is that the Manhattan Jaspers never had much of a chance on Friday, squaring off against No. 2 Florida Gators baseball in the second game of the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (46-16) scored five runs in the first inning, four in the second and seven in the third to demolish Manhattan (34-18) 17-3 in the late afternoon game and advance to the winner’s bracket.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (8-0) got the call Friday and delivered in spades, striking out three and only allowing two hits in 3.1 innings. He was pulled early simply because of the advantage UF held after three innings.

The Gators’ offense supported him early and often, posting a five-spot in the bottom of the first inning to kick things off. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-6, RBI, R) led off the inning with a single and was moved over to second when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-4, 2 RBI, 3 R) was hit by a pitch; junior right fielder Preston Tucker singled home Fontana and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino plated Smith.

An infield single and subsequent error gave junior left fielder Tyler Thompson a spot on second and scored both Tucker and Zunino; Thompson (4-4, RBI, 3 R, BB) crossed the plate shortly after when junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott smacked a single to left.

Florida added four more runs the next inning, beginning with three via back-to-back home runs. Tucker launched a two-run shot to right-center, and Zunino (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R) followed him by hitting his ball to almost the exact same spot. Pigott (4-5, 3 RBI, R) earned another RBI a few batters later, singling to right field and sending senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-5, 2 R) home to give the Gators a 9-0 lead.

Tucker (3-6, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R) did what he could to keep the momentum going, smacking another two-run homer in the third. Florida led 11-0 at that point but added five more runs in the inning to hold a 16-0 advantage through three. Sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox was pulled in the top half of the inning after spraining his foot. His availability going forward is currently unknown.

Manhattan’s starter, John Soldinger, left the bases loaded with no one out upon exiting in the top of the third. He tossed two innings and surrendered an astonishing 15 earned runs on 16 hits with three homers, two walks, two hit batters and one strikeout.

Replacing Whitson, freshman RHP Keenan Kish was looking solid until the fifth inning when he gave up four hits and allowed three unearned runs, reducing the Jaspers’ deficit to 16-3. The Gators rallied to add another run in the seventh, which marked the end of Kish’s career-long outing of 3.2 innings. He struck out three and walked one.

With the victory, Florida moves on to the winner’s bracket to face Miami (37-21) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. The winner will advance to the finals of the Gainesville Regional, while the loser will face the victor of the elimination game between Jacksonville-Manhattan at noon to determine who will take the other spot in the finals.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Johnson, Heat, Macklin

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s new memoir, Through My Eyes was released Tuesday, but the number of fans who camped outside (yes, spent the night) waiting for him at a Books-A-Million absolutely stunned the Heisman Trophy winner. “It’s extremely humbling,” he told The Florida Times-Union. “I take it as a huge responsibility that people care that much about me and [I] really try to make it worth it for them, really try to make them feel special for doing it.” Tebow also spoke with the paper a little bit about the content of the book, which OGGOA should receive from the publisher for review on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just about football stories,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s more about inspiring kids to go out there and try to live their dream, and go after it and live with passion. That’s a lot of what it’s about, so hopefully, people will take it that way.”

2 » Back in Gainesville, FL after suffering a minor concussion during the No. 2 Florida Gators baseball team’s elimination game in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, AL, sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson is doing his best to recover quickly and get back on the field. Speaking with Florida Today, Johnson’s father said his son “is fine” and underwent a number of tests on Monday to evaluate his post-concussion symptoms. He is considered day-to-day for the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The paper reports

He had base line testing while playing for a U.S. all-star team last summer so doctors are able to do comparisons, to make sure he returns to normal before playing again. UF is also consulting with noted Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Michael Collins.

3 » Discussing with Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller their time playing for Florida, the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick got the duo to open up about how head coach Billy Donovan ended up helping them form a bond. It all started when he called both players into his office. “Coach Donovan, was like, ‘You know, if the season started today, I couldn’t play neither one of you guys,'” Haslem told Skolnick. “That wasn’t the exact words he used. You got to get your, um, ‘S’ together. Because I just thought I was doing the best academic job in the world, and obviously I wasn’t. And neither was [Miller]. I don’t know what his excuse was. But, at that point, Mike and I bonded from there.”

Haslem even had Miller’s back when an incident occurred with an unnamed football player. “I had a football player that, um, that didn’t really like me,” Miller said with a smile. “For unknown reasons. And UD put an end to that.” Haslem remembered, “Yeah, I just let the guy know, if you got a problem with Mike, you got a problem with me. The guy never bothered Mike again.”

4 » Talk surrounding the 2011 NBA Draft from a Gators perspective has mostly focused on forward Chandler Parsons, who could be picked anywhere from the teens to the mid-second round. Parsons, who has been going around the country doing private workouts after successfully competing in the NBA Combine and select group camp in Minnesota, is not the only former Florida player eligible to be selected. Center Vernon Macklin, according to the Indianapolis Star, is one of six former college players working out for the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Macklin is projected to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted.

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FOUR BITS: baseball bracket, softball in WCWS

1 » Awarded the No. 2 seed in the nation on Monday, Florida Gators baseball also received its opening round match-ups for the Gainesville Regional as part of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Being hosted at McKethan Stadium, the regional will feature one-seed Florida (45-16), two-seed Miami (36-21), three-seed Jacksonville (36-22) and four-seed Manhattan (34-17). Action begins Friday, June 3 with Florida-Manhattan and Miami-Jacksonville contests taking place; both games will air live on ESPNU at 4 p.m. and noon, respectively. The Gainesville Regional will span the weekend unless an “if necessary” finale is forced for Monday evening with the winner going on to face the victor of the Atlanta Regional in Super Regional action. The Gators will host the Super Regional if they advance out of their opening round bracket.

2 » The first team in Southeastern Conference history to advance to four consecutive Women’s College World Series, No. 4 Florida softball (52-10) begins action on Thursday when they take on No. 5 Missouri (52-8) in Oklahoma City, OK at 9:30 p.m. live on ESPN2. Opponents in the second contest, set for Friday or Saturday, will be either No. 1 Arizona State (55-6) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma (42-17); the winners of the two games will play Friday evening and the losers will square-off Saturday afternoon. The Gators, located in the bottom bracket of the WCWS, will be able to decide their fate by the end of the weekend as the championship series begins Monday, June 6.

3 » Just days after leading the Gators to the 2011 NCAA Championship in women’s tennis, sophomore Lauren Embree was forced to retire from the Final Four of the NCAA Singles Championships on Sunday due to a painful toenail and skin issue on her foot. Embree, who has been on absolute fire during the NCAAs, forfeited a tied match with Stanford’s Stacy Tan that was knotted at a set apiece (7-5, 3-6). If she had stayed in the match and won, she would have had the opportunity to compete for the individual title.

4 » Also ending their season was the men’s No. 17 doubles team of senior Alexandre Lacroix and sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. Dropping a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) match to No. 3 Bradley Klahn/Ryan Thacher of Stanford, Lacroix and Bangoura concluded a terrific year with a semifinals appearance. With no eligibility remaining, Lacroix will depart Florida as the school’s all-time leader in doubles wins (104) and overall wins (214).

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Florida softball responds from 3-2 loss to run-rule UCLA 11-3, advance to NCAA Super Regionals

It was a tale of two games for No. 3 Florida Gators softball (50-10), which struggled to hit the ball early in the day but hit the cover off it in the late afternoon to win the Gainesville Regional and advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Regionals. Florida fell in a come-from-behind 3-2 win by the UCLA Bruins (36-19) but powered their way to victory in the second contest, earning an 11-3 decision at Pressly Softball Stadium.

Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher got the start for Florida in the first game and got out of numerous jams until being pulled with two runners on in the bottom of the fifth. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers relieved her but ended up allowing one of Brombacher’s runners to score before the inning was over.

The Gators offense responded immediately, utilizing a walk and hit-by-pitch to score twice on in the top of the sixth. Florida called a double steal to place junior pinch runner Lauren Heil (in for senior first baseman Megan Bush) on third and freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle on second with one out.

Senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (0-1, RBI), the next batter, hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Heil; an error at third forced by Colye (1-1, R, BB, 3 SB) sliding into the baseman’s foot let the ball loose and allowed her to score the Gators’ second run of the inning.

After getting through the sixth, Florida entered the bottom of the seventh looking to end the game. UCLA would have none of it, getting their lead-off runner on base and scoring her two batters later on a RBI single. The Bruins’ rally continued as UCLA loaded the bases with two outs. A single to right-center by right fielder Amy Crawford plated 1B Andrea Harrison, gave the Bruins the victory and forced a second and final game.

Florida only registered one hit in the opening game and failed to take advantage of their numerous base running opportunities. The Gators stole seven bags in the contest but left six runners on base, many of whom were in scoring position.

Rogers drew the start in the second game and was clutch early, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the first. Florida rewarded her for her efforts, loading the bases in the bottom of the inning and getting on the board right away.

Bush smacked a two-RBI single to score junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie and senior second baseman Aja Paculba, and Coyle followed with an infield single that was thrown home but bobbled for an error to allow two more runs and put the Gators ahead 4-0. DeFelice (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) did not want the fun to end and jacked a two-run bomb to left with one out to give Florida an early 6-0 advantage. Moultrie (2-4, RBI, 2 R, 2 SB) and Paculba (2-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) followed by returning the favor from earlier in the inning with one-RBI and two-RBI singles to give the Gators a 9-0 lead.

The next two innings were all Rogers, who struck out the side in the top of the second and was faced with another bases loaded jam in the third. Instead of panicking, she forced a 1-2-3 double play and ended the third with a strikeout, her fifth of the afternoon.

Florida tacked two more runs on in the fourth when Coyle (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, SB) stepped up with junior PR Ellie Langley on base (in place of sophomore RF Brittany Schutte) and hit a homer to left to put her team ahead 11-0. Rogers (32-6) was roughed up a bit in the top of the fifth and gave up three runs but eventually tossed three more outs and earned a win against UCLA in a five-inning, run-ruled game hours after taking a tough loss. She allowed seven hits and notched six strikeouts in the second game.

The victory advances the Gators to the Super Regional, which will be hosted in Gainesville, FL as Florida takes on No. 13 Oregon beginning Fri., May 27.

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Florida softball wins twice, set for regional final

Hosting the Gainesville Regional as part of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, No. 3 Florida Gators softball (49-9) earned a pair of victories over the weekend and advanced to the regional final set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Pressly Softball Stadium.

Florida got the tournament started by shutting out the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (33-25) 8-0 in five innings on Friday. With senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (18-2) on the mound, the Gators took care of the Wildcats early by rallying for four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Florida added two more scores each in the third and fifth innings to cruise to victory.

Brombacher (5.0 IP, 5 K, 3 H, BB) tossed a gem for the Gators, only allowing three hits while striking out five and receiving plenty of help at the plate from her teammates. Freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (2-2, HR, 3 RBI, R) led UF offensively, but the Gators also got stellar performances from junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-3, 2 RBI, R) and sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI, R).

The result was the same on Saturday though the effort to earn it was much greater. Florida stayed aggressive in front of the home crowd and defeated the No. 14 UCLA Bruins (34-18) 4-2.

UCLA led early, utilizing a two-run homer from left fielder B.B. Bates in the first inning to put UF on its heels. However, the Gators responded quickly by scoring single runs in the bottom of the first, second and third to jump ahead 3-2.

Senior first baseman Megan Bush (1-2, RBI, BB) knocked Moultrie (1-2, RBI, R, SB) home in the first, and Moultrie returned the favor in the second with a RBI double to score freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan (0-3, R, SB), who reached on a throwing error before stealing second base. Senior second baseman Aja Paculba (1-1, 2 R, BB, SB) reached on a walk in the third, stole second and advanced to third on an illegal pitch before scoring on a passed ball.

Florida tacked on one more run in the bottom of the fifth as Paculba hit a single with one out and eventually scored on a wild pitch. The Gators notched five stolen bases on the afternoon as freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (31-5) allowed two unearned runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in a complete game effort.

UF will face either UCLA or Jacksonville in the regional final on Sunday.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, softball, Haslem, Weis

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has a wide variety of interests these days, but up until this point no one has dared question his work ethic or dedication to football. Then comes running back LenDale White, who asked Tebow publicly last week to join the voluntary workouts being put on by veteran safety Brian Dawkins in Denver. Tebow has previously worked out with teammates (especially his wide receivers) both in Denver and Jacksonville, FL but was finishing up a round of appearances including at his own charity golf tournament and for Jockey in New York, NY.

Thursday he returned to Denver and was one of 13 players to show up at the workout – the only quarterback on his team to do so. According to The Denver Post‘s Lindsay Jones, Tebow got there an hour early to throw passes and stayed for the duration. “This part is more important to show that we’re all together. I know a lot of us have been throwing and catching and doing what we need to do other places, but I think this is big, just to show that we’re together,” he said. “You can come together a few times to show, ‘Hey, we’ve got each other’s backs.'”

2 » Six members of No. 3 Florida Gators softball were honored Thursday with selections to the 2011 Louisville Slugger/National Coaches Fastpitch Association All-Southeast Region Teams. Senior outfielder Kelsey Bruder, senior first baseman Megan Bush, freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers and sophomore utility player Brittany Schutte were voted onto the First Team, while junior OF Michelle Moultrie and senior second baseman Aja Paculba earned Second Team honors. Florida begins 2011 NCAA Tournament action by hosting the Gainesville Regional beginning Friday at 6 p.m. against Benthune-Cookman.

3 » Playing his first significant minutes for the Miami Heat since making an early recovery from a Lisfranc injury of his foot, power forward Udonis Haslem was a major spark off the bench on Wednesday. Haslem entered the game, started 4-for-4 from the field and finished with 13 points and five rebounds (three offensive) on 50 percent shooting. He was also a huge help in the post for Miami, which lacks strength and dominance down low, by limiting the offensive rebounds that the Chicago Bulls were able to grab. Game three of the Eastern Conference Finals is set for Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

4 » Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis may be getting paid handsomely by Florida ($765,000 in salary this year), but he is also still receiving checks from his last college job with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune printed on Friday, Weis has been paid $7.3 million by Notre Dame since he was terminated in 2009 including a $6.6 million lump sum upon being fired. He will continue receiving payments from the school through Dec. 2015 (when his 10-year contract extension was supposed to end).

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2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional Gameday: No. 4 Florida Gators vs. No. 11 Miami Hurricanes

Location: McKethan Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 5,500]
Game Times: [1] Fri. – 7 p.m. (EST); [2] Sat. – 7 p.m.; [3] Sun. (if nec.) – 7 p.m.

TV: [1] ESPN/ESPNHD; [2-3] ESPN2/ESPN2HD
Online: ESPN3.com
OGGOA Live Updates: via Twitter

No. 4 Florida Gators No. 11 Miami Hurricanes
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Jim Morris
Record: 45-15 Record: 43-18
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

HISTORY:
» Miami leads the all-time series 124-97-1 over Florida but has a losing record in Gainesville, FL, with UF leading 60-45-1.
» The Gators are making their fourth Super Regional appearance in school history – all have been within the last seven years. The Hurricanes will play their 10th Super Regional, last beating the Orange & Blue in the event with a two-game sweep in 2004.
» Florida is 28-9 (.757) at McKethan Stadium during NCAA play, sweeping the Gainesville Regional two years in a row and knocking Miami off in 2009.
» The Canes have won the head-to-head NCAA match-up 12 of 17 times, ending the Gators’ season on eight different occasions.
» Florida faced Miami in a three-game regular season series in Coral Gables, FL, earlier in 2010, winning two of three games (7-1, 6-9, 4-2) for the first time since 2007.
» Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 5-6 against the Hurricanes all-time, 3-6 during the regular season and 2-0 in NCAA play.
» Strength of schedule: Florida’s was third in the country, trailing Miami and Alabama.

KEEP AN EYE ON…
» Gators starting pitchers…sophomore Alex Panteliodis (10-2, 3.39), freshman Hudson Randall (8-3, 2.97) and freshman Brian Johnson (6-4, 3.97) are a combined 16-2 (.889) with a 2.40 ERA at McKethan Stadium in 2010.
» Freshman sensation Austin Maddox…a third baseman who can play three other positions, has garnered numerous awards while leading the Gators in RBI (68), multiple-RBI games (20), home runs (17) and sacrifice flies (five).
» Sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker…who leads Florida in batting average (.375, 15-40) over the last 10 games with eight RBI, five runs and five extra-base hits (two homers). He also is tops on the team with 16 doubles on the year.
» Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker…a speed demon leading UF with a 23-for-29 conversion rate on stolen bases, he is tied for fifth on the program’s career list with 65 stolen bags and leads the 2010 team in batting average (.361), runs (62) and hits (84).
» Junior closer Kevin Chapman (3-0)…has a team-low 1.28 ERA (42.1 innings) in 29 appearances. He is tied for second in the SEC with 11 saves. As a team, Florida’s 17 saves are one shy of the team’s single-season record (1991).
» The Gators bullpen…which is 16-2 with 17 saves and a 4.20 ERA in 240 innings, while its starters are a combined 29-13 with a 3.86 ERA in 289 innings.
» The ACC Player of the Year…junior catcher Yasmani Grandal leads Miami (and the ACC) in batting average (.411) slugging percentage (.729) and on-base percentage (.538). He is also tops on the Hurricanes in hits (88) and total bases (156), and second in home runs (14) and RBI (58).
» UM’s junior starter Chris Hernandez (10-3)…who is the team’s most dominant pitcher and a flame thrower, leads the ACC in ERA (2.77) and wins.

STREAKS:
» The Gators’ 45 wins so far in 2010 is the program’s highest victory total since the 2005 NCAA College World Series runner-up team finished 48-23.
» Florida is currently riding a 13-game home winning streak.
» The Gators have outscored opponents 420-266 in 2010, are 34-4 (.895) when scoring first and 11-11 (.500) when their opponents do. Florida is 33-3 (.917) when out-hitting opponents and 9-12 (.429) the other way around. UF is also 9-3 (.750) in one-run games, 39-0 when leading after six innings, 43-0 aver seven and 42-0 after eight.
» Florida has committed an SEC-low 50 errors in 60 games and boast a .978 fielding percentage – good for tops in the conference and seventh nationally.
» The Gators’ season totals of 107 doubles and 80 home runs are the most since the 2005 team (113 and 85, respectively).
» Florida is batting .311 against left-handers and .299 against righties.

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