FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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2012 Florida Gators baseball: Just win, baby.

Though basketball has national title aspirations and both softball and lacrosse are getting started on what should be a pair of exciting campaigns, no squad is more hyped entering this season than the unanimously top-ranked Florida Gators baseball team.

Florida went all the way to the 2011 College World Series championship series a year ago before falling to South Carolina, a team they will go back-and-forth with throughout the 2012 Southeastern Conference slate. With so many starters returning to the team and an exceptional freshman class signed to fill in the gaps, the Gators have only one true goal in 2012 – win a national championship.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators baseball: Just win, baby.

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Three drafted Gators shun MLB for 2011-12

Eleven Florida Gators baseball players were selected in the 2011 MLB Draft in June, a school record for the University of Florida. Three of those 11 players – outfielders Preston Tucker and Tyler Thompson as well as right-handed pitcher Greg Larson – have returned for their senior seasons and a shot at the College World Series.

Tucker was picked with the No. 498 overall pick in the 16th round by the Colorado Rockies, Thompson was chosen at the 1,387th spot in the 46th round by the Washington Nationals, and Larson was a 29th round selection (No. 885) by the Los Angeles Angels.

The following now former Gators accepted their deals and left the team:

Junior LHP Nick Maronde – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Senior OF Bryson Smith – Round 34, Pick 1,045 – Cincinnati Reds

Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two on the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60. Though there were indications some might pass on the money and end up playing for UF in 2012, all four players were signed by their respective clubs.

RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals

That leaves the Gators with a eight-person 2011 signing class, which includes four players who were drafted in June but chose not to take their deals.

INF Casey Turgeon – Round 22, Pick 672 – New York Mets
INF Joshua Tobias – Round 31, Pick 937 – Washington Nationals
RHP John Magliozzi – Round 35, Pick 1,080 – Tampa Bay Rays
RHP/OF Ryan Harris – Round 37, Pick 1,139 – New York Yankees
C Brandon Sedell
RHP/3B Justin Shafer
LHP Corey Stump
3B/OF Sean Trent

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Errors doom Gators as Gamecocks win 2-1 in 11

The No. 2 Florida Gators maintained a one-run lead for most of the game but a combination of clutching hitting and excellent defense from the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, along with a pair of throwing errors from Florida, propelled South Carolina to a 2-1 victory in 11 innings on Monday in game one of the 2011 College World Series Championship Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.

The Gamecocks (54-14) trailed for the first 7.2 innings of the game but scored a run in the eighth and another in the 11th to hand the Gators (53-18) their second loss of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. South Carolina thwarted multiple opportunities Florida had to score, getting out of a bases loaded, no-outs jam and completing a play at the plate to maintain a tie and ultimately earn the victory.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the call for the Gators and was nearly flawless in his outing, tossing 7.2 shutout innings before giving up a run in the top of the eighth. He struck out six (in the first six innings), gave up three hits and walked one; at one point, Randall retired 18 of 19 batters (including 10 in a row).

The Gamecocks rolled out freshman Forrest Koumas, who was impressive striking out four in 5.2 strong while allowing three hits and a walk. He was replaced by Tyler Webb and John Taylor (8-1), who combined to pitch 4.1 shutout innings in his stead.

Florida got on the board first, manufacturing a run in the bottom of the third. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson led off with a walk to start the inning, advanced over to third base on a ground out and wild pitch, and scored when freshman third baseman Cody Dent flied out to left on a sacrifice.

It took South Carolina five innings to respond, but the Gamecocks created a similar scoring opportunity of their own. Randall walked shortstop Peter Mooney, the first batter he faced in the eighth, and found him on third after a sacrifice bunt and fly out to right-center. Second baseman Scott Wingo followed with a hard single up the middle to tie the game 1-1 and send Randall to the showers.

The Gators found themselves with a prime opportunity to win the game in the final frame of regulation. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino got on with a walk to start the ninth, and Florida loaded the bases on a single and intentional walk with no outs. However, the Gators hit consecutive groundouts to Wingo to end the inning without plating a single run. Thompson’s grounder resulted in a force out at home plate, and junior right fielder Daniel Pigott hit into a 4-2-3 game-saving double play to end the ninth.

Both teams had a chance to put things away in the 10th but ultimately failed. South Carolina got a pair of runners on base via two singles, but junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde recorded the final two outs of the inning. Dent singled for Florida in the bottom of the inning but was ultimately thrown out at home on a hard hit single by Zunino to left.

After a line out to start the 11th, Maronde (0-1) gave up a single to first baseman Christian Walker. When he was replaced by junior RHP Greg Larson, Walker attempted to steal second and succeeded after Zunino threw the ball into the outfield. Trying to get Walker out at third, senior center fielder Bryson Smith committed the second throwing error of the play, allowing the batter to score and the Gamecocks to take a 2-1 lead.

South Carolina called on closer Matt Price and, just two days after throwing 95 pitchers over 5.2 innings, Price (S 19) retired three of the four batters he faced.

The Gators and Gamecocks will go head-to-head in game two of the CWS Championship Series on Tuesday at 8 p.m. (ESPN). Projected Starters: Florida – Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.43 ERA), South Carolina – Michael Roth (13-3, 0.98 ERA)

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Gators fight to top Commodores 6-4, advance to College World Series Championship Series

The No. 2 Florida Gators and No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores were evenly matched all season long. Though Florida held the head-to-head wins advantage, Vanderbilt made them fight for each of them and did the same on Friday, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 tie before the Gators (53-17) pulled away from the Commodores (54-12) and advanced to the 2011 College World Series Championship Series with a 6-4 victory after more than three hours at TD Ameritrade Park.

Florida beat Vanderbilt five of the six times that the two (of three) Southeastern Conference champions squared off in 2011 including twice in the CWS and thrice overall during the postseason. The Gators advanced to the school’s second-ever championship series, having last played for the national title in 2005.

After getting the first two outs of the game, Florida junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis allowed Vanderbilt first baseman Aaron Westlake to power a homer to right to put the Commodores ahead a run early in the game.

The Gators stranded two in the bottom of the second, and VU did the same in the top of the third, helping Panteliodis get out of a jam. UF freshman third baseman Cody Dent helped take some weight off his shoulders in the bottom of the inning, smacking a lead-off, stand-up triple to right-center.

Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana walked to put runners on the corners, and junior 1B Preston Tucker dribbled a ball down the first base line to score Dent from third even though he was tagged out.

Florida took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a small rally. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-3, R, BB) and junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-4, R) hit one-out singles to left, and Dent was walked to load the bases. Fontana, stuck in a 0-17 hitting slide, hopped the ball up the middle to score two, giving the Gators a 3-1 lead.

Sophomore right fielder Daniel Pigott kept the momentum going in the sixth, starting the inning off for Florida with a double. The bases were then loaded with no outs after Dent was walked and Fontana had a bunt bobbled; a subsequent 6-4-3 double play scored Pigott from third and put the Gators up 4-1 through six.

Before the seventh could begin, Panteliodis (6.0 IP, ER, 3 H, HBP, 3 K) was replaced by junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo. Panteliodis concluded his outing by retiring the last eight batters he faced and 11 of the final 12 Commodores who stepped to the plate. He also had three 1-2-3 innings on the afternoon including the fifth and sixth.

Toledo (0.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H) stepped in and allowed one-out and two-out singles to put runners on the corners before a single to left reduced Vanderbilt’s deficit to 4-2. With two down and runners on first and second, he was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde, who walked consecutive batters to load the bases and let another run cross the plate. Stuck in a pickle with the bases loaded, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again and brought out junior RHP Greg Larson, who immediately forced a fly out to right to end the inning.

Florida went down in order in the bottom of the inning, and O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again, bringing in sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez. After striking out Westlake, Rodriguez gave up a single to center and a chopper up the middle to put the tying run on second and the potential winning run on first.

Trying to stop the bleeding, O’Sullivan made yet another pitching change and called upon sophomore RHP Austin Maddox, who had not pitched since May 29 after injuring his foot. Commodores third baseman Jason Esposito legged out an infield single to short to load the bases, and Maddox hit the following batter on the foot to keep the bases loaded and tie the game up 4-4.

Fontana saved more runs from scoring by diving to his left to grab a liner for the second out of the inning, and a ground out just one batter later stopped the bleeding.

The Gators got things going again in the eighth. Pigott (2-4, 2 R) led off with a single, and Florida loaded the bases on picture perfect bunts from Dent and Fontana (2-3, 2 RBI, BB) – both down the third-base line. At that point, Vanderbilt decided to pull starter Sonny Gray (12-4, 7.0 IP, 5 ER, 12 H, 5 BB, 8 K) and dip into their bullpen.

Senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-5) popped out, but Tucker (1-5, 2 RBI) followed by hitting a floater to deep left, scoring one and keeping the bases loaded. The next batter, sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-5), went down on strikes, but a wild pitch strike three allowed Dent (2-2, 2 R, 2 BB) to steal home, giving the Gators a 6-4 lead and continuing the inning.

Maddox returned for the final three outs of the ballgame and got the first two batters out before allowing Westlake to double to right-center, putting the game-tying run at the plate. However, just a few pitches and a fly out later, Maddox (3-0, 1.2 IP, 2 H) clinched the championship series berth for Florida.

UF will face either No. 1 Virginia or No. 4 South Carolina in the College World Series Championship Series beginning Monday at 8 p.m. Game two is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. and game three (if necessary) for Wednesday at 8 p.m. All three contests will air live on ESPN and ESPN3.com with full coverage here on OGGOA.

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Gators open CWS by defeating Longhorns 8-4

Though power has been their trademark all season long, the No. 2 Florida Gators beat the No. 7 Texas Longhorns at their own game Saturday, using a combination of strong pitching and clutch hitting to win the second game ever played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE. The Gators (51-17) came back from a three-run deficit to beat the Longhorns (49-18) 8-4 and advance to the winner’s bracket of the 2011 College World Series.

Texas took advantage of consecutive errors by Florida to get on the board first in the third inning. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana and junior first baseman Preston Tucker allowed the first two batters on after bobbling easy outs, and the Longhorns utilized a RBI single and two sacrifice flies to score a trio of unearned runs and take an early 3-0 lead.

The Gators got a similar opportunity in the bottom frame, starting off with consecutive walks. A single to right by senior center fielder Bryson Smith and a passed ball with Tucker at the plate scored freshman third baseman Cody Dent and Fontana (0-5, R), respectively, reducing UT’s advantage to a single run.

Drawing a two-out walk one inning later, sophomore left fielder Tyler Thompson moved to second on a wild pitch and scored as junior right fielder Daniel Pigott hit a double to deep right. Pigott (2-3, RBI, R, BB) was rewarded by Dent (1-3, RBI, R, BB), who smacked another two-out double down the left field line to put Florida ahead 4-3.

Smith again got things rolling for the Gators in the fifth, taking first base after getting hit by a pitch. Tucker powered a gapper to deep right-center to plate him and give his team a 5-3 lead, but not before forcing Texas starter Taylor Jungmann into his shortest outing of the season. Jungmann (13-3) left after allowing five runs (four earned) on three hits with four walks, a hit batter and a pair of wild pitches while striking out three.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (11-3), who started on the hill for Florida, was terrific throughout the evening, tossing four 1-2-3 innings (including three in a row) and retiring 13 consecutive batters at one point. He was pulled after allowing a RBI double to left in the seventh, finishing the contest having given up four runs (one earned) on five hits with five strikeouts and no walks in 6.2 innings.

The Gators answered the Longhorns immediately in the seventh. Smith walked with one out and advanced to second after Tucker (1-4, RBI, R) ran through an infield single hit after the pitcher balked. With two outs, sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-4, 2 RBI) hit what should have been a three-run homer to right-center but was instead ruled a two-RBI double off the top of the wall due to the inability to utilize instant replay.

Florida would end up earning that run the next inning when, with runners on first and second, Smith (2-2, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB) hit a liner to center to score Thompson (1-3, 2 R, BB) and give the Gators an 8-4 lead.

Junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson struck out the only batter he faced in the seventh, and junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde came on to toss the final two innings of the contest, striking out three batters without allowing a single hit.

With the victory, Florida improves to 41-3 this season when out-hitting their opponent, 44-2 when scoring four or more runs and 44-0 when leading after seven innings. The Gators’ 51st victory of the year ties a single-season record.

UF will face No. 6 Vanderbilt (53-10) in the winner’s bracket on Monday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. Florida is 3-1 against their Southeastern Conference Eastern division rival in 2011 with all four games played away from home.

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Tucker’s three-run blast powers Gators past Bulldogs 8-6 and into College World Series

It took a day longer than they may have liked, but No. 2 Florida Gators baseball (50-17) advanced to its second-straight College World Series on Sunday with a come-from-behind 8-6 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (38-25) in game three of the Super Regionals at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators will compete at the CWS in Omaha, NE in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, using a three-run homer by junior right fielder Preston Tucker in the seventh to take back a lost lead and propel themselves to victory. UF hit five bombs Sunday, setting a season-high for home runs in a single game as part of their win.

Florida jumped on Mississippi State early, hitting three home runs in the first two innings and taking an early 4-0 lead. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino got things started by cranking a solo shot with two outs in the first. Junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott lined a two-run homer over the left field wall in the second and the very next batter, redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB), followed suit with the first dinger of his college career.

Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis got the start for the Gators and retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced through three innings. Things fell apart for him in the fourth after he allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning. With no outs, Bulldogs second baseman Nick Vickerson tagged Panteliodis for a three-run bomb to left-center, cutting Florida’s big lead to 4-3.

Pulled after allowing the tying run on in the fifth, Panteliodis (4.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 H) was substituted for with junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson, who let the runner advance to second on a wild pitch but got out of the inning unscathed. Larson was pulled just one inning later after getting Vickerson to ground out but allowing the game-tying and go-ahead runs on base via consecutive singles.

At that point Larson (IP, 2 H, K) was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde (1.1 IP, ER, H, K), who got out of the sixth but left in the seventh after giving up a two-out double. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo looked to save the day but struggled mightily at first, walking the first batter on four-straight pitches and allowing Vickerson to hit a liner to right to tie the game 4-4. He then gave up a bases loaded single to left fielder Brent Brownlee, who plated two more and put Mississippi State ahead 6-4 on six unanswered runs.

The Gators started the bottom of the inning with back-to-back walks before Bulldogs closer Caleb King was called upon to get Zunino out. Zunino (2-4, HR, RBI, R) instead threw down a sacrifice bunt to place the game-tying run on second with one out. Faced with a 3-1 count, Tucker (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB) powered the ball to deep center field, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer to give Florida a 7-6 lead.

Toledo sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the eighth, sending the game into the bottom of the inning where Pigott (3-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) hit his second homer of the afternoon to put the Gators ahead 8-6 with just three outs to go. Toledo (6-3) returned for the ninth and retired the side again, forcing Vickerson to fly out to center for the final out of the game. He finished the contest with 2.1 strong innings and threw the final seven outs of the game after giving up two earned runs on two hits with two walks.

Panteliodis set a school record with his sixth NCAA Tournament start, and senior second baseman Josh Adams set another for most games played in a Florida uniform (248). With his three-run homer, Tucker joined the school’s three-man 200 RBI club (Brad Wilkerson, Matt LaPorta) and proved how dangerous he is behind Zunino.

The 65th College World Series is set to begin on June 18 with the Gators holding the No. 2 overall seed as long as top-seed Virginia advances.

 

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Record 11 Gators selected in 2011 MLB Draft

A school record 11 current members of the Florida Gators baseball team were selected by professional organizations on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the second and third days of the 50-round 2011 MLB Draft.

Junior LHP Nick Maronde – Round 4, Pick 104 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani – Round 6, Pick 199 – Toronto Blue Jays
Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis – Round 9, Pick 282 – New York Mets
Junior RHP Tommy Toledo – Round 11, Pick 341 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior 2B (SS) Josh Adams – Round 13, Pick 403 – Florida Marlins
Junior OF (1B) Preston Tucker – Round 16, Pick 498 – Colorado Rockies
Junior C Ben McMahan – Round 23, Pick 701 – Milwaukee Brewers
Senior RHP Matt Campbell – Round 24, Pick 751 – Philadelphia Phillies
Junior RHP Greg Larson – Round 29, Pick 885 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Senior OF Bryson Smith – Round 34, Pick 1,045 – Cincinnati Reds
Junior OF Tyler Thompson – Round 46, Pick 1,387 – Washington Nationals

The vast majority – if not all – of the underclassmen picked in the draft are expected to return to school to both graduate and improve their standing for 2012.

Additionally, four of Florida’s 2011 high school signees were picked in the first four rounds of the event including two in the first day, which consisted of picks No. 1-60.

RHP Michael Kelly – Round 2, Pick 48 – San Diego Padres
RHP Hudson Boyd – Round 2, Pick 55 – Minnesota Twins
1B Daniel Vogelbach – Round 3, Pick 68 – Chicago Cubs
RHP Kyle Smith – Round 4, Pick 126 – Kansas City Royals

The advisor for Kelly and Smith, Jason Wood of Arland Sports, told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that he expects both players to turn down the large signing bonus they would get for agreeing to forego their college careers and instead enroll at Florida. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” Wood said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment. It’s a compliment to go as high as he did. The Padres are a great organization, and he’s honored to be drafted.”

More Gators are expected to be picked in the draft, which runs for 50 total rounds and concludes on Wednesday.

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