TWO Video BITS: Moultrie’s bunt homer, Tebow

1 » The United States won its sixth-straight World Cup of Softball on Monday, defeating Australia 3-0 in Oklahoma City, OK thanks to a two-RBI double by Samantha Fischer and an “inside the park home run” off of a perfectly placed bunt by former Florida Gators centerfielder Michelle Moultrie. Already up 2-0, the Americans extended their lead by another run when Moultrie’s bunt was fielded and thrown well past the first baseman and rolled alongside the right field wall. She went home-to-home in approximately 12 seconds and provided a highlight play that none will soon forget. “In big games like this, any time they give you a little bit, you have to take as much as you can and try to do what you can for your team,” Moultrie told the Associated Press.

Unfortunately Moultrie and her teammates will not have the opportunity to showcase their skills on what was once the sport’s biggest stage as softball was voted out of the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee in 2005 because of a lack of participation and competition gap. A bid is currently being put together to add softball (along with baseball) back to the games in 2020. Instead, the United States will play in some other events and try to win their eighth-straight world championship in an starting July 13 in Canada. (Japan, the other top team in the world along with the U.S., did not participate in the World Cup for “financial reasons,” according to the AP.)

2 » As part of the new NCAA Football 13 video game produced by EA Sports, users are able to place former Heisman Trophy winners on any team they so choose. To go along with this new feature, the company has been producing a number of commercials to promote the gameplay option including this one of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in a Georgia Bulldogs uniform. The end of the commercial also has a short clip of Herschel Walker in a Gators uniform.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Hunter, Every, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (31-9, 11-7 SEC) won their second-straight weekend series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (24-17, 8-10 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won the series opener 3-2 in 16 innings on Friday before dropping Saturday’s contest 5-3 and needing a victory Sunday to clinch the series. The Gators started with a 1-0 lead via a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) in the bottom of the second, tied the game 2-2 in the fourth thanks to a RBI double by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott and fell behind 3-2 in the top of the sixth after the Bulldogs rallied. However, Florida would match and exceed that rally in the bottom frame, scoring four runs including three coming from a homer to right by Pigott (3/3, HR, 4 RBI, R, BB) to take a 6-3 lead.

Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (3.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K) got the start for the Gators but struggled with his command in the fourth. Florida’s bullpen allowed two more earned runs over the next 2.2 innings but was able to close out the contest with 3.1 scoreless innings including junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez striking out three of the five batters he faced. Senior RHP Greg Larson improved to 6-0 with the victory, and junior RHP Austin Maddox notched his 11th save of the season.

2 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics may have come up just short of winning the overall national championship on Saturday but that did not stop freshman Kytra Hunter from picking up her second individual 2012 NCAA Championship on Sunday. Hunter, who won the NCAA all-around title (first in school history) on Friday with a final score of 39.725, captured the NCAA vault title on Sunday with a score of 9.8750. Hunter also came within a hair (0.0125) of taking the floor exercise championship as well.

3 » Speaking of heartbreaking losses, former Florida golfer Matt Every (-7) finished two spots back of Ben Curtis (-9) in the 2012 Valero Texas Open on Sunday, losing out on the title and a $1.116 million championship purse. Every did, however, bring home $545,600 for tying for second place and was not the only former Gators golfer to win big money as Brian Gay (-5) tied for fourth and banked $244,125 and Billy Horschel (+14) came in 75th and won $12,090.

4 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons – averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while starting 56-of-62 games as a rookie so far – was recently profiled in the video below. Hours after this initial posting Parsons posted one of the best lines of his young NBA career, scoring a personal-best 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block.

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Florida women’s tennis takes down Georgia 4-1, wins third-straight SEC Tournament title

No. 3 Florida Gators (21-1) women’s tennis captured the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs (21-4) to bring the title back to Gainesville, FL for the third-straight season and eighth time in the last 11 years.

Competing at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center in Oxford, MS, Florida worked hard to clinch the doubles point and take an early advantage. Junior Caroline Hitimana and sophomore Olivia Janowicz lost the first doubles match 8-1, but the No. 1 duo of junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen and No. 19 pairing of junior Lauren Embree/senior Joanna Mather each won their respective matches to give UF a 1-0 lead.

No. 23 Mather followed her doubles win with a dominant singles victory (6-4, 6-4), putting the Gators ahead 2-0. The Bulldogs got a point back as Lilly Kimbell defeated sophomore No. 68 Alex Cercone (6-3, 2-6, 6-3) but lost it just as quickly when No. 10 Embree came from behind to finish off No. 7 Chelsey Gullickson (3-6, 6-4, 7-5).

With three matches remaining, UF was looking for one more point to clinch the title while UGA was hoping to win three-straight in a major comeback effort.

Florida would not give Georgia that opportunity as No. 121 Hitimana earned a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory to clinch the win for the Gators.

No. 1 Will led her singles match (6-7, 7-5, 4-2) at the conclusion of the event, and No. 51 Oyen was fighting for a victory in her contest as well (4-6, 7-5, 5-5).

UF women’s tennis has now won 18 SEC Tournament titles and captured the SEC regular season championship 26 times in the team’s history. Florida will make its 30th appearance in the NCAA Tournament on May 11 as the Gators look to defend their national title.

Photo Credit: Sean Cartell

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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics did everything they could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six on Saturday but came just short of earning their first national title as the Alabama Crimson Tide edged Florida 197.850-197.775 to win the 2012 NCAA Championship. One of four teams in 31 years to win the national title, Alabama captured their sixth in school history by a 0.075 margin thanks to a stellar 49.500 effort on the balance beam in the final rotation. The Gators led the Crimson Tide by 0.025 heading into the final rotation; however, Florida posted a 49.400 on the floor exercise, allowing Alabama to leap them and earn the championship. All is not lost for the Gators as UF’s individual gymnasts will compete for event national titles on Sunday. Freshman Kytra Hunter already won the NCAA Championship in the all-around on Friday.

2 » Looking to carry some momentum from the 16-inning marathon win Friday night, No. 1 Florida baseball (30-9, 10-7 SEC) was not as fortunate Saturday night falling 5-3 to the Georgia Bulldogs (24-16, 8-9 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. UF led 2-1 after the first inning thanks to a two-run bomb by senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, HR, 2 RBI, R, SB) but found themselves in a 4-2 hole after UGA rallied for three runs in the top of the third. A solo homer by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/4, HR, RBI, R) cut the Gators’ deficit to a single run in the bottom of the fourth, but Bulldogs’ starter Michael Palazzone and reliever Blake Dieterich combined to no-hit Florida over the final five innings of the game. Georgia’s timely pitching and clutch defense handed the loss to junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (5-2, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5 K). UF has not swept a weekend series in over a month hopes to pick up a series win in the rubber match on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2).

3 » No. 1-seed Gators women’s tennis (20-1) swept the No. 4-seed Ole Miss Rebels (17-8) in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday, using a 4-0 victory to propel them into the finals on Sunday against No. 3-seed Georgia. Florida captured the doubles point in entertaining fashion having split the first two matches 1-1 before the No. 1 duo of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen earned a 9-8 (7-5) victory. Singles action was a more of a breeze for the Gators with No. 23 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 10 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-0) and No. 51 Oyen (3-6, 6-1, 6-0) picking up three wins to end the match. UF, which improved to 25-0 all-time in SEC Tournament quarterfinals action on Friday, is now 23-2 in the semifinals and competing for their 18th conference tournament title.Florida defeated Georgia 4-3 on March 4 in Athens, GA in the teams’ sole meeting this season.

4 » No. 3/4 Gators softball (41-5) completed their sweep of the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-23) with a 7-1 victory on Saturday at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida and FIU were scoreless through four innings with Gators sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (24-3) holding the Golden Panthers hitless for most of the contest. Florida jumped ahead 1-0 in the fifth on a RBI double by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/3, RBI, BB), but Rogers allowed FIU to even things up in the top of the sixth. Junior RF Ensley Gammel (1/2, HR RBI, R) put the Gators ahead for good in the sixth with a solo homer that spurned a six-run bottom of the inning including two RBIs by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3, 2 RBI, R, BB) and another solo bomb by freshman left fielder Jessica Damico (1/1, HR, RBI, R). Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 7 K) completed the outing and her team’s third-straight weekend series sweep.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, gymnastics, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (30-8, 10-6 SEC) prevailed in a 16-inning marathon on Friday, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (23-16, 7-9 SEC) 3-2 in the teams’ series opener at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida gave up a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth as Georgia tied things up but neither team posted a run in the following 16 frames. Finally the Gators ended the game by forcing the Bulldogs to commit the first error of the contest for either team. Junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit walked with one out, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved over to third thanks to a wild pitch. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana stepped up to the plate with hopes of driving Ramjit home but struck out swinging; however, Fontana’s third strike was dropped and an error by the catcher (a bad throw to first) allowed Ramjit to cross the plate. Right-handed relievers junior Austin Maddox and senior Greg Larson tossed the final 8.2 innings of the game. Maddox struck out five and allowed four hits in 5.2 innings, but Larson (5-0) earned the win after striking out two in three no-hit innings to conclude the contest. Friday’s game was the longest UF has participated in since 1996.

2 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics finished second in Session II of the 2012 NCAA Championships on Friday, advancing to the 2012 NCAA Super Six for a chance to win the first national title in team history. UF finished with a final score of 197.650, just 0.025 behind session winner Alabama. Freshman Kytra Hunter also captured the NCAA all-around individual national title – the first in team history – with a 39.725 in the event. The Gators will compete for the team national championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. (streamed live on ESPN3.com) and the rest of the individual titles on Sunday.

3 » No. 1-seed Florida women’s tennis (19-1) swept the No. 8-seed Tennessee Volunteers (14-12) in 2012 SEC Tournament second-round action on Friday, advancing to the semifinals where they will face No. 4-seed Ole Miss on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Gators easily won the doubles point and got three quick wins from sophomores No. 68 Alex Cercone, No. 51 Sofie Oyen and No. 121 Olivia Janowicz to end the contest relatively early. Florida will participate in the semifinals for the 25th time in school history, continuing their undefeated streak (25-0) in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The No. 4-seed Gators’ men’s tennis team (14-9) was not as fortunate, falling 4-1 to the No. 5-seed Ole Miss Rebels (13-7) and eliminating themselves from the event.

4 » No. 3/4 UF softball (40-5) swept a doubleheader against the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-22) on Friday and will look to close out the series with a victory in game three on Saturday. Florida won the early contest 7-4 behind the offense of freshman left fielder Briana Little (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) and closing ability of freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (S2, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 K). The Gators used the strong arm of freshman RHP Lauren Haeger (12-2, CG, 5.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K) to help them coast to a 9-0 shutout victory in the evening game. Haeger (1/4, HR, R), freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2/3, 2 R, BB), sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/1, HR, R, 2 BB) and junior catcher Kelsey Horton (1/3) contributed two RBIs each in the contest.

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SIX BITS: Walker, softball, Nelson, gym, lax

1 » Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker was honored on Senior Day before Sunday’s game. Because the game aired on CBS and the broadcast began following the ceremony, most fans did not get to see Walker enter the court with his mother to a loud ovation from his fans. The entire clip, including the video highlight package of some of Walker’s best plays in orange and blue, can be viewed below courtesy of GatorVision.tv:

2 » No. 3 Florida softball improved to 19-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to nine games after winning six contests from Thursday-Sunday by a combined score of 53-1. UF defeated Eastern Michigan 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday before beginning the Lipton Invitational, which the team hosted in Gainesville, FL. The Gators again beat EMU on Friday (16-0) and followed that up with a thrashing of Gardner-Webb (9-0) in the evening. Florida beat GWU a second time on Saturday (14-0), adding a win against Tennessee State (8-0) later that afternoon and a victory over Campbell (4-0) on Sunday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (10-0) earned two wins striking out 19 batters and giving up one earned run in 17.0 innings (she also made one relief appearance). Freshmen RHPs Alyssa Bache (3-0) and Lauren Haeger (6-1) each added two victories with neither giving up a single run and the latter mowing down 15 batters in 10.0 innings. The Gators’ offense was impressive all weekend long, but two players in particular stood out for their powerful performances. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie went 12/20 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and three stolen bases over the six games, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton matched her with four dingers of her own alog with 14 RBIs, six runs and three walks. UF will play five road games this week including two against Mississippi State and three at Tennessee.

3 » It is looking more and more like Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson will be wearing different colors in 2012. With no reports of negotiations for an extension occurring between Nelson and Cincinnati brass, the local media expects that he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next week. Should that occur, it is believed that the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans will make a run at him. The Dolphins in particular look like a promising landing spot for Nelson considering former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who helped resurrect Nelson’s career in Cincinnati, was hired as Miami’s new defensive coordinator after the season.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (10-1) earned a nail-biting victory on the road Sunday against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2). The Gators defeated the Cornhuskers 196.95-196.825, earning two individual event victories while only winning one of the four overall events. junior Ashanée Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson each won the vault with a score of 9.90, while junior Marissa King took home the balance beam victory with a 9.925 mark. Florida’s sizable win in the beam (49.325-48.950) was enough to push them past Nebraska in the overall score. UF will take on No. 7 Utah in their regular season finale on Senior Night on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

5 » No. 4 Gators lacrosse (4-2) dropped their second game to a top-10 ranked opponent this season, falling 12-11 in double overtime to the No. 9 Syracuse Orange (2-2) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Behind 6-4 at the half, Florida rallied over the final three minutes of the second period, scoring three-straight goals to knot the contest at 10 as the whistle sounded. SU got on the board first in overtime, but UF matched their visitors again to force a sudden death second overtime period. The Orange did not take long to make their move, scoring at 5:05 to end the game. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led the Gators with three goals (including the tying score in the first overtime), an assist, six draw controls and five ground balls (a season high for the team), while junior attacker Kitty Cullen had an off game with only one goal in 10 shots. Despite scoring fewer goals than their opponent, Florida had more shots than Syracuse (39-26) and committed fewer turnovers (9-20). UF is scheduled to face Georgetown on the road Wednesday before returning home to host Temple on Saturday.

6 » Both involved in close matches, No. 15 Gators women’s tennis and No. 10 Florida men’s tennis wound up with different outcomes when taking on the No. 5/6 Georgia Bulldogs’ women’s and men’s squads over the weekend. Florida’s women improved to 8-1 by taking down Georgia 4-3 on the road. The Gators won two of three matches to earn the doubles point with victories from the No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather. No. 1 Will fell in singles action to No. 11 Chelsey Gillickson, but No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree and No. 39 Oyen were all victorious to earn the overall win.

Florida’s men rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up with Georgia 3-3 but simply could not complete the comeback victory. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by taking down two of the three ranked duos for the Gators. The No. 8 pairing of junior Billy Federhofer and senior Nassim Slilam won their match, but the No. 18 duo of junior Tripper Carleton and sophomore Spencer Newman and the No. 43 team of sophomore Andrew Butz and junior Bob van Overbeek both fell 8-4. Singles wins by Carleton, Slilam and sophomore Michael Alford tied the match, but No. 51 van Overbeek fell to No. 3 Wil Spencer 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 in a final that lasted 2:28.

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Florida women win SEC Indoor track & field title

No. 6 Florida Gators women’s track and field captured their seventh conference indoor title and second since 2010 on Sunday, winning the 2012 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship in Lexington, KY with 132 total team points.

Florida took down the No. 2 LSU Tigers (109) and No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks (99) in the women’s competition for the school’s first league title of the 2011-12 season. The No. 1 Razorbacks (151) got a measure of revenge on the men’s side by topping the No. 2 Gators (137) and No. 24 Georgia Bulldogs for the other SEC Indoor title.

Despite Florida winning the women’s championship, only one Gators student-athlete won an individual title on that side of the competition. Sophomore distance runner Florence Ngetich captured the 5,000-meter title in 16:12.64.

The men, on the other hand, lost the overall championship but won three individual titles. Sophomore hurdler Eddie Lovett defended his 60-meter hurdles title with a time of 7.78 seconds, junior jumper Omar Craddock won Florida’s fourth-straight SEC Indoor triple jump championship with a distance of 16.44m/53-11.25, and senior thrower Kemal Mesic won the shot put title (19.89m/65-3.25) for the third SEC Indoor meet in a row.

One significant disappointment on the men’s side came as junior sprinter Jeff Demps failed to win the 60-meter dash for the third consecutive season, finishing his attempt in 6.64 seconds, 0.01 seconds behind the victor.

Florida has two more meets next month before competing in the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships from March 9-10.

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Georgia embarrasses Florida 76-62 in Athens

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators entered Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs hoping to prove that they could continue to be a dominant force in the Southeastern Conference even with their best defender out for the season with a broken foot. Instead of showcasing that confidence, Florida (22-7, 10-4 SEC) was upset and embarrassed by Georgia (13-15, 4-10 SEC) 76-62 at the Stegman Coliseum in Athens, GA.

UF started slow on both ends of the court, beginning the game by going 0-for-7 from three and trailing 21-11 with 7:48 left in the first half following a 9-3 run by UGA.

The Gators used a 12-5 scoring stretch to get within three of the Bulldogs with 2:49 left in the first half, but Georgia outscored Florida 10-4 over the final few minutes to take a nine-point lead at the break.

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 16 with 10 minutes left but the Gators answered with a 7-0 run to get within nine with 8:10 left in the game. A three-pointer by UF junior guard Kenny Boynton cut UGA’s lead to five points with 1:51 as part of a 9-2 Florida run, but Georgia outclassed their oppoennt down the stretch to earn a 14-point victory.

The Gators shot a paltry 21.7 percent (5-of-23) from downtown and hit just 22-of-60 shots from the field on Saturday. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, shot 52.9 percent from the floor and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc, earning 16 assists on 27 baskets compared to just eight on 22 for their opponents.

Florida outrebounded Georgia 33-28 (13-5 offensively) but turned the ball over 12 times compared to just 10 for their hosts.

Four Bulldogs scored in double figures on Saturday while only three Gators did the same. Freshman guard Bradley Beal led Florida with 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting but was 0-for-4 from downtown. UF junior G Kenny Boynton hit 3-of-7 attempts from three but, like senior point guard Erving Walker (14 points), was just 4-of-11 from the field.

Florida will look to end their season on a better note next week. UF travels to Vanderbilt on Tuesday before hosting No. 1 Kentucky on Sunday in Gainesville, FL.

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