TWO BITS: Baseball falls, tennis defeats FSU

1 » While Florida Gators fans in Gainesville, FL were busy cheering on the No. 14 basketball team to their first Southeastern Conference regular season title since 2007, those in Tampa, FL were in agony watching No. 5 Florida State Seminoles baseball (8-0) put together a five-run third inning and hold on to defeat No. 1 Florida (7-1) 5-3 on Tuesday. Taking part in the Florida Four event at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the two teams renewed their rivalry with FSU once again coming out on top. UF junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo (0-1) was brushed off the mound quickly after giving up three earned runs on two hits and three walks in 2.1 innings. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis came in to stop the bleeding with one out in the third but coughed up four hits and a walk to allow Florida State to complete their impressive rally.

The Gators added a single run in the bottom of the third as junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) singled home freshman third baseman Zack Powers (1-4, R) and posted two more in the sixth on a rally with a RBI each from sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-3, RBI, BB) and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-4, RBI). Scott Sitz (2-0) earned the win for the Seminoles, and closer Mike McGee (S1) got the save.

2 » Earlier in the day, No. 1 Florida women’s tennis (11-1) spanked No. 22 Florida State 6-1 on the road at Scott Speicher Tennis Center in Tallahassee, FL. The No. 1 doubles pairing of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Alex Cercone led the way for the Gators with an 8-1 victory. Florida’s two other duos – No. 58 freshman Olivia Janowicz/junior Joanna Mather and No. 75 sophomores Lauren Embree/Caroline Hitimana were also victorious. No. 7 Will fell in singles competition, but No. 26 Embree, No. 35 Cercone, No. 34 Janowicz, No. 125 Hitimana and freshman Sofie Oyen all won their individual matches.

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New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a Florida Gators booster, passes away at 80

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has passed away. He was 80.

Steinbrenner, who will be remembered for leading the Yankees to 11 American League pennants and seven World Series victories as its principal owner, ceded day-to-day control of the team to his sons Hank and Hal Steinbrenner in 2006 as his health began to fail and he spent more time in Tampa, FL.

Purchasing the team for $8.7 million in 1973, Steinbrenner’s shrewd business acumen, tough decision making and unparalleled demand for success raised the Yankees’ value to over a $1.5 billion at the time of his passing.

He had notable disagreements with the commissioner’s office, fellow owners, managers and even his own players but also made significant and game-changing baseball moves in his career including being the first owner to sell his team’s television rights, turning the Yankees into a worldwide brand, signing free agents like Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Alex Rodriguez, and building the most lavish stadium in baseball history.

Steinbrenner’s son Hal, the franchise’s co-chairperson, general partner and de facto public face who earned a Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida in 1994, is one of the reasons his father decided to become a full-fledged Bull Gator and generous contributor to the Florida Gators program.

Though Steinbrenner did donate the lights at McKethan Stadium to the school in 1977, his largest contribution is the Steinbrenner Band Building, which was made possible by a generous gift commitment (believed to be in the seven-figures) from the family in 2002. Completed in the spring of 2008, it is located adjacent to the Music Building and serves a number of purposes for The Pride of the Sunshine, The University of Florida Fightin’ Gator Marching Band.

He also donated $260,000 in 1989 to help UF build the College of Veterinary Medicine’s large animal hospital and another $400,000 in 2005 which went toward the purchase of an equine imaging machine. Steinbrenner owned stables and horses.

Recently, George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, hosted The Florida Four, a two-game baseball tournament featuring arguably the four best schools in the state including the Gators. It was something Steinbrenner had hoped to see before he passed on, and he had the chance to do just that on March 2.

“As a past collegiate coach, it is George Steinbrenner’s dream to create this event for Tampa,” said Felix Lopez, the Yankees’ senior vice president.

A native of Ohio, the only time Steinbrenner did not root for Florida was during the 2006 BCS National Championship; instead, he cheered on his Ohio State Buckeyes.

“I wish the University of Florida luck in the championship game,” Steinbrenner said at the time, “but I have to say that I’m rooting for Ohio State.”

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No. 5/6 UF baseball falls to No. 6/3 FSU in Tampa

Taking part in the inaugural Florida Four collegiate baseball tournament at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, No. 5/6 Florida Gators baseball (5-1) was looking for their first win of the season against the rival No. 6/3 Florida State Seminoles (7-0). Unfortunately for the Gators, a seven-run first inning by the Seminoles put them out of it early; Florida State would cruise to a 10-5 victory in the first of four regular-season games between the teams that will run into conference play (Mar. 16, Mar. 30, April 13).

Sophomore starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (0-1) was shelled for five earned runs on three hits in the bottom of the first; he was removed before Florida even recorded an out. Freshman Hudson Randall replaced him, giving up two more earned runs. FSU did not leave a single player on base in the first, getting their final out after first baseman Jayce Boyd smacked a two-run home run.

The Gators got on board for the first time in the third inning as freshman catcher Mike Zunio smacked a solo homer to center field. UF would not score again until the top of the ninth, when they rallied for four runs off of relief pitcher Andrew Durden.

Geoff Parker (1-0) picked up the win for the Seminoles by only giving up six hits and one earned run in 5.1 innings.

Florida heads down to Coral Gables, FL, for a three-game series against the in-state rival No. 16/11 Miami Hurricanes beginning Fri., Mar. 5 at 7 p.m.

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Gators and Noles set to square off at Florida Four

For the first time in history, four universities from the state of Florida will compete in The Florida Four, a two-game baseball tournament being held at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, on Tues., March 2, 2010. The No. 5/6 Florida Gators (5-0) will square off against the No. 6/3 Florida State Seminoles (6-0) in the second game of the event, which begins with the Miami Hurricanes (5-1) taking on the South Florida Bulls (1-5) at 4 p.m. The winners of each game do not face each other.

“We’ve been working with the [New York] Yankees for a few years now to bring another premier event to our community,” Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission Rob Higgins said in an organizational press release. “We hope it serves as launching pad to Omaha for the four programs. This is a story that will start in March and we hope continues on to June.”

“On behalf of the World Champion New York Yankees, it is with great pleasure and pride that we welcome The Florida Four Baseball Classic to George M. Steinbrenner Field. As a past collegiate coach, it is George Steinbrenner’s dream to create this event for Tampa”, said Felix Lopez, the Yankees’ Senior Vice President. “We welcome the great schools of Florida to our facility and look forward to continuing this event for years to come.”

Following their participation in the event, the Gators will travel to Coral Gables, FL, for a three-game series against the Hurricanes. Florida will face Florida State at home on March 16 and on the road on March 30 and April 13. The Gators swept the Bulls 6-2, 9-1, 7-6(10) in their season-opening three-game series Feb. 19-21.

Tuesday’s Gators/Seminoles game will air in Florida. Check your local listings.

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