2015 Florida softball primer: Can the Gators repeat after the program’s first championship?

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 1 Florida Gators softball is poised to defend its crown following a 2014 campaign that saw the team go 55-12 with that last victory resulting in the program’s first National Championship. The Gators have already come out of the gate strong, sweeping the USF Softball Classic and routing Jacksonville on Wednesday, amassing a 6-0 record while outscoring opponents 62-7

Florida was the preseason favorite to with the Southeastern Conference title, having received 11 of 13 first-place votes from the league’s coaches, after failing to win either the regular season or tournament championship a year ago.

Head coach Tim Walton, who is now 498-114 (.813) six games into his 10th season, is confident in his roster. “We’ve got a good group, as deep a group as we’ve had,” he said. Walton no doubt hopes to roll this confidence into a return trip to Oklahoma City and ultimately a second national title in as many seasons.

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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.

14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET

Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.

13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

Continue Reading » Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

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10/8: Will Muschamp addresses recent incidents, Florida’s preparations for LSU

Updated/completed at 1:35 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) met with the media twice on Wednesday as his team continues its preparations for the LSU Tigers (4-2, 0-2 SEC). Florida is looking to defeat LSU for just the second time since 2010 as the Gators host the Tigers on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and air live nationally on the SEC Network.

Muschamp’s regularly-scheduled media appearance on Monday was postponed as freshman quarterback Treon Harris is currently under investigation for alleged sexual battery. He addressed that and a variety of other topics on Wednesday.

TREON HARRIS SITUATION

With his second-string quarterback, freshman Treon Harris, suspended indefinitely while under investigation for sexual battery, Muschamp declined to comment further on the situation. In fact, he indicated that he preferred to not even have a press conference this week but understood that he needed to in order to help the media do their jobs.

“The statement that the university released Monday, I think, was pretty self-explanatory. It is a very serious charge, and there has been no change in his status,” he said.

“You handle things in life and you move forward and that’s what we’re going to do [as a team]. I feel very comfortable with how we’ve approached this situation.”

Muschamp declined comment on any questions related to Harris.

Continue Reading » 10/8: Will Muschamp addresses recent incidents, Florida’s preparations for LSU

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4 BITS: Andrews, ESPYS, Milton-Jones, softball

1 » FOX Sports sideline reporter Erin Andrews was dealt a tough task on Tuesday when she interviewed St. Louis Cardinals hurler Adam Wainwright in the dugout just hours after he admitted/joked about throwing a gimmie pitch to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Wainwright attempted to assure the public that he was simply being lighthearted with his comment while clarifying that he did not groove a pitch to Jeter, and Andrews did not press him on the subject considering Jeter was the one being honored on Tuesday night. Dennis and Callahan Morning Show cohost Kirk Minihane took Andrews to task for joking with Wainwright that his comments blew up due to social media, unleashing an offensive verbal tirade at her on the air.

”What a bitch! I hate her! What a gutless bitch! Seriously, go away. Drop dead. I mean, seriously, what the hell is wrong with her? First of all, follow-up. Secondly, the guy admitted he did it. He admitted he told reporters he threw a couple of pipe bombs. How is that social media’s fault? Seriously, I hate her. I seriously hat her so much! … Shut up. Shut up. I shouldn’t call her a ‘bitch.’ I’m sure she’s a nice person, but she’s…she’s probably a bitch. I freaking hate her. … And this bimbo says, ‘Don’t you love social media?’ I’m going to get in trouble for this.”

Apparently not. As of press time, Minihane has not been disciplined for his completely misogynistic and hateful comments, though he did issue an apology.

“This morning on the radio I used a series of words to describe Erin Andrews’ work at the All-Star Game. My choice of words was wrong; I was wrong to have used them. To all whom I offended — particularly Ms. Andrews — I apologize. There is no place for what was said. It was immature and completely uncalled for. I am often critical of media members and their work and recognize here that I’ve made the kind of mistake I would call out if it was done by another sportscaster or writer. Again, to all involved, I’m very sorry.”

FOX Sports released the following statement on Wednesday: “Comments such as these are beyond inappropriate and inexcusable. It is unfortunate that one of the best sports talk radio stations in the country would allow and condone such low-class behavior from one of their on-air personalities.”

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Andrews, ESPYS, Milton-Jones, softball

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2014 SEC Media Days – Mike Slive references Florida Gators in opening press conference

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will represent the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Before Muschamp could take the stand and the Florida contingent had the opportunity to be swarmed by reporters, SEC commissioner Mike Slive held an introductory press conference to address a number of topics including the league’s success, updates to bowl game arrangements and an outlook for the future. Below are some highlights of comments made by Slive on Monday afternoon.

PRAISING SOME GATORS

Two now-former Florida student-athletes, right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers and center Patric Young, were singled out by Slive during his opening speech.

While running down the SEC’s multiple successes during the 2013-14 athletic campaign, Slive pointed out that Rogers won numerous awards while leading Gators softball to the first NCAA title in program history.

“Florida’s softball student athlete, Hannah Rogers, led Florida to its first national championship in softball and she was named the College World Series most outstanding player,” he noted. “Both A.J. [Reed] and Hannah were named Roy Kramer Athletes of the Year this year as voted by our league’s athletic directors.”

In the latter portion of his press conference, Slive used Young as a paradigm for what the SEC wants out of its student-athletes. He is someone who certainly excelled on the court but also was in great academic standing and contributed to the community both stateside and abroad.

“Florida’s basketball player Patric Young is an example of a student athlete who has made the most of his collegiate academic and athletic experience. He led the Gators to the 2014 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament title and the NCAA Final Four, was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice, was named the SEC male winner of the Brad Davis Community Service Award. Then he traveled to Africa where he encouraged children to focus on exercise and healthy lifestyle,” he explained.

“While doing all of that, Patric maintained a 3.4 grade point average. Student athletes like Patric, as well as many other student athletes like him, inspire us to protect intercollegiate athletics, to keep it healthy, vibrant and an integral part of higher education. We do this for the young men and women who seek an education, compete in sports, and ultimately make a difference in people’s lives.

“This is why it is critical for the NCAA to change, and to change in accordance with the vision proposed for the 21st century by the five conferences. This is one important way we will be able to provide academic and athletic opportunities for the generations of Patrics yet to come.”

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Hannah Rogers named SEC Athlete of the Year

Florida Gators senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers capped her stellar collegiate career with the top honor awarded by the Southeastern Conference after being named the league’s 2014 Female Athlete of the Year on Tuesday.

Rogers becomes the seventh Florida student-athlete to earn the honor, which has been given to Gators 10 total times with Tim Tebow (2008-09), Danny Wuerffel (1996-97) and Nicole Haislett (1993-94) each doubling up. Ryan Lochte (2005), Dara Torres (1988) and Tracy Caulkins (1984) have also received the award.

The first Florida female in 20 years to be named SEC Athlete of the Year, Rogers is also the first non-swimmer to earn the honor (Haislett, Torres, Caulkins).

She compiled a 30-8 record and 1.60 ERA during the 2014 season, tossing 27 complete games in a team-high 223.1 innings. Rogers also posted a 2.7 K/BB ratio and only allowed opposing batters to hit .197.

Her dominance reached new heights in the postseason when he ran through the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a 7-0 record and 0.64 ERA.

She went 4-0 in the Women’s College World Series and earned a save in the final game of the Championship Series, earning Most Outstanding Player honors while leading the Gators to their first national title in the sport.


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FOUR BITS: Nelson, Bucs, ESPYS, Zunino

1 » The New York Post’s Brian Costello believes David Nelson is poised to open the 2014 season as the New York Jets’s No. 2 wide receiver after evaluating him during organized team activities and minicamp. Nelson, who missed nearly the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL and was cut by Cleveland in the 2013 offseason as he mounted a return, signed with New York four weeks into the campaign. He finished with 36 receptions for 423 yards and two touchdowns while catching passes from underwhelming rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Nelson has proven to be a reliable target in the NFL, catching 62 percent of the passes thrown his way in his three full seasons despite never even having a mid-tier signal caller throwing him the ball.

2 » With running back Jeff Demps, WR Louis Murphy, WR Solomon Patton and safety Major Wright all on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster, the latter three signed as free agents this offseason, suddenly the team has four former Florida Gators playing just over 150 miles from Gainesville, Florida. The Buccaneers recognized this and put together an interview / highlight video [Watch] with the three former Gators who are teammates for the first time since winning the 2009 BCS Championship.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Nelson, Bucs, ESPYS, Zunino

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Twitter reacts to Florida Gators softball winning game one of WCWS Championship Series

Florida Gators softball is one game away from capturing the first national title in program history after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 5-0 in game one of the best-of-three 2014 Women’s College World Series Championship Series.

A number of former and current Gators were exuberant while watching Florida softball on Monday night, so OnlyGators.com captured all of the emotion on social media and presents it in this recap.

Continue Reading » Twitter reacts to Florida Gators softball winning game one of WCWS Championship Series

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