TWO BITS: baseball falls again, softball splits

1 » Falling to 8-8 in their last 16 games dating back to March 30, No. 2/5 Florida Gators baseball (31-10) was edged 5-3 by the South Florida Bulls (28-14) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday. Florida fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second after a fielding error by sophomore third baseman Cody Dent allowed the inning to continue and two runs to eventually score. Freshman right-hander Johnny Magliozzi (4.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 K) was replaced by sophomore left-hander Daniel Gibson in the fifth but things did not get any better for the Gators on the mound. Gibson gave up solo homer in the sixth, but Florida immediately answered with a pair of dingers from juniors shortstop Nolan Fontana (2/5, HR, RBI, R) and catcher Mike Zunino (2/5, HR, 2 RBI, R) to tie the game 3-3. However, Gibson (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB) allowed a lead-off walk in the seventh that eventually scored and registered as the game-winning run. USF added another bomb in the top of the eighth to increase their lead to two runs and UF faltered late offensively by stranding six runners on base over the final three innings (Zunino grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth).

2 » No. 2/4 Gators softball (42-6, 19-3 SEC) split a Tuesday doubleheader with the LSU Tigers (33-16, 14-8 SEC), winning the afternoon contest 2-1 in eight innings before dropping the evening game 1-0. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (25-3, 8.0 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K) went the distance in the extra innings affair that saw Florida fight tooth and nail for a victory. The Gators trailed 1-0 after Rogers allowed a run to score in the top of the seventh but evened things out in the bottom frame when junior right fielder Ensley Gammel (1/3, HR, RBI, R) homered to right. Rogers then forced three ground balls in the eighth with her defense completing a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning and give the offense another shot. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2/4, RBI) responded to the opportunity, doubling down the left field line to knock in the game-winning run. The latter contest was a true pitchers’ duel with freshman RHP Lauren Haeger (12-3, 7.0 IP, 6 H, ER, 3 BB, 9 K) and LSU’s Brittany Mack (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K) both tossing complete games. The Tigers scored after a triple was driven home in the second and the Gators’ offense stalled just like the baseball team’s did down the stretch by stranding five runners on base over the final two innings.

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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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Moultrie, Haeger lead Florida in series sweep

No. 3 Florida Gators softball (38-5, 18-2 SEC) triumphed over the weekend, outscoring the Auburn Tigers (26-18, 5-14 SEC) 11-5 over three games to earn a hard-fought series sweep at Pressly Softball Stadium in in Gainesville, FL.

Strong efforts from senior center fielder Michelle Moultrieand freshman right-handed pitcher/first baseman Lauren Haeger propelled Florida. Moultrie combined to go 2/9 with a home run, three RBIs, two runs and a stolen base, while Haeger excelled both on the mound and at the plate (3/8, HR, 2 RBI, R, 2 BB). She was outstanding on the hill Saturday, improving to 11-2 while allowing just one earned run on two hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts in a complete game effort.

The Gators triumphed 3-2 on Friday, fighting back from a 2-1 deficit through 3.5 innings to pull out the victory. Florida won 3-1 behind Haeger’s solid pitching on Saturday and used a four-run fifth on Sunday to cap the weekend with a 5-2 win.

Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (22-3) earned bookend victories with nearly identical outings on Friday and Sunday, tossing two complete games while combining to give up four earned runs on 11 hits with six walks and 11 strikeouts.

Florida has now earned sweeps in consecutive weekends and has four more series to play before postseason action begins in early May. UF will host Florida International in a three-game series including a doubleheader on April 20 and a third game on April 21.

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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball, tennis

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the 2012 NCAA Championships on Saturday by winning the NCAA Raleigh Regional title with a team score of 197.325. Florida took down Ohio State (196.225) to win the event and also surpassed N.C. State (195.975), Penn State (196.650), North Carolina (194.025) and Kent State (193.575); finishing second, OSU also earned an opportunity to compete for the title. Four Gators won five total event titles on Saturday with junior Ashanée Dickerson posting a season-best 39.65 to claim the all-around for herself. Dickerson shared the vault (9.95) and uneven bars (9.90) titles with sophomore Alaina Johnson and cheered on as junior Marissa King picked up the balance beam (9.925) title and freshman Kytra Hunter won the floor exercise (9.95). Johnson (second), King (fourth) and Hunter (sixth) all finished high in the overall standings, and Florida posted the highest team total in every individual event as well. The victory was UF’s 12th regional title overall and their eighth in the last nine years. The NCAA Championship will be decided from April 20-22.

2 » Likely to lose their top ranking on Monday, No. 1 Gators baseball (25-7, 7-5 SEC) has continued its slide by dropping a home series over the weekend to the No. 7 LSU Tigers (25-7, 8-4 SEC). Florida has now lost five of their last seven games including consecutive three-game series for the first time since 2008. The Gators scored six or more runs in all three games but struggled with their pitching and defense in both the opener and series finale. Florida fell 7-6 to LSU on Thursday as junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-1) gave up six earned runs on seven hits with a walk and just two strikeouts in four innings. The Gators rebounded with a 7-0 win Friday thanks to a great performance from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (3-1, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K). Sunday’s game started on a positive note with UF leading 7-2 through three innings. However, Florida’s bullpen gave up six unanswered runs over the final six innings to drop the heartbreaker. Sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson started but only lasted an inning after hitting two batters, giving up two hits and allowing two runs (one earned). The Gators bullpen combined to allow six earned runs on 13 hits as the Tigers fought back for the victory. Already having won the series’ first two games, Florida will look to close out Florida State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Tallahassee, FL.

3 » No. 6 UF softball (35-4, 15-2 SEC) had a much more successful weekend, sweeping the Ole Miss Rebels (16-21, 3-11 SEC) to extend their winning streak to six games. The Gators got it done on the mound and at the plate, outscoring the Rebels 28-4 in the three games. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (20-2) started the first two games and posted a pair of solid performances by allowing just one earned run on four hits with four walks and nine strikeouts in 11.0 innings (including a complete game effort on Friday). Freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (5-0) concluded the weekend for the Gators by giving up three earned runs on three hits but registering five strikeouts in five innings. Though Florida’s pitching was dominant, the plate work of freshman designated hitter Bailey Castro was even better. Castro combined to go 4/7 with three home runs, eight RBIs, five runs and three walks. She hit two bombs on Sunday including her first career grand slam while registering a career-high seven RBIs. UF will travel to face Central Florida on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Orlando, FL.

4 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-1, 10-0 SEC) continued their march to the postseason while clinching at least a share of the 2012 SEC Championship for the regular season with a pair of 7-0 sweeps over the weekend. Florida took down the No. 40 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-10, 2-7 SEC) on Friday and No. 39 LSU (11-10, 4-5 SEC) on Sunday with their players winning all 30 sets they competed in over the weekend. UF has now swept four consecutive opponents and 13 of 18 this season. The Gators will look to win the SEC regular season title outright on Saturday at South Carolina. No. 9 Florida men’s tennis (13-8, 6-4 SEC) was not as successful as their female counterparts, taking down Arkansas (14-10, 1-8 SEC) 7-0 on Friday before falling 4-2 to No. 27 LSU (13-9, 4-6 SEC) on Sunday. The Gators won 15 of 16 sets and were successful in a pair of tiebreakers in the former contest but were beat handily to close out the weekend. UF will host USC on Saturday at 1 p.m. to end the regular season.

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SIX BITS: Rainey, Noah, softball, lax, tennis, NBA

1 » NFL.com’s Gil Brandt took a look back at the Florida GatorsPro Day on March 13 and came away with some very interesting information. He clocked Rainey in at 4.41 and 4.35 seconds in his 40-yard dashes and said that he also impressed while working out at wide receiver. Brandt (among others) believes Rainey is a sure-fire third-round pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. He also noted that WR Denote Thompson “ran blistering 4.31 and 4.32 40s” and also worked out as a defensive back and “looked good, even though he has no experience playing there.”

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was ejected from Saturday’s game after throwing a ball near a referee but was contrite and apologetic on Sunday when asked about the situation. “I don’t know what’s going to happen about that,” Noah said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I just want to apologize to the ref. I just feel bad for what happened. I just want to apologize to the ref for coming at him like that. It was wrong of me. I was just frustrated. I just hope he reads this and accepts my apology.” The NBA decided not to suspend Noah for his actions, which were not overly aggressive.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (29-1, 10-1 SEC) swept the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-12, 2-9 SEC) in three-straight games over the weekend, earning three impressive victories on Friday (6-0), Saturday (3-2) and Sunday (5-0). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1, S3) led the way for the Gators on the mound, registering two wins and a save in the three contests. She combined to pitch 15.0 innings and allowed just six hits and six walks while registering 15 strikeouts. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie was dynamite at the plate, going 8/11 with two homers, four RBIs, six runs and a walk. She was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday.

4 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (10-2, 1-0 ALC) continued their winning ways with a 10-8 victory over the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2, 0-1 ALC) to open conference play on Saturday. Florida’s veteran junior class combined for just three goals on the afternoon as a pair of freshman midfielders led the way by putting most of the numbers up on the scoreboard. Nora Barry and Shannon Gilroy combined to score six goals on 10 shots, propelling the Gators over the Buckeyes.

5 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (13-1, 6-0 SEC) and No. 11 Gators men’s tennis (10-7, 3-3 SEC) each registered weekend victories over the No. 19/unranked Ole Miss Rebels. The women won 6-1 at home in Gainesville, FL behind victories from all but one of their ranked players, while the men earned a 5-2 win on the road in Oxford, MS in nearly identical fashion.

6 » ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford updated his latest top 100 prior to the 2012 NBA Draft. Ford currently has three Florida players listed on his rankings: freshman guard Bradley Beal (No. 3), sophomore center Patric Young (No. 25) and junior G Kenny Boynton (No. 93). Young has already said that he intends to stay in school for his junior season, but Beal and Boynton have both been mum about their respective futures. Beal would be a “lock” in the top five and potentially as high as No. 3 overall, according to Ford, while Boynton is unlikely to be selected in the draft and would likely play overseas if he left.

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FOUR BITS: women’s bball, baseball, softball, gym

1 » Having returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, nine-seed Florida Gators women’s basketball (20-12) picked up a hard-fought 70-65 victory over the eight-seed Ohio State Buckeyes (25-7) in first-round action on Sunday. Florida led early and maintained their advantage throughout the contest, eventually pulling away in the final few minutes for the win. Junior forward Jennifer George led the way for the Gators with 16 points (she also added six rebounds), but senior guard Lanita Bartley was the player of the game with 15 points, four boards, three assists and two steals. Florida will now face top-ranked Baylor (35-0) and player of the year Brittney Griner on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. live on ESPN2.

2 » No. 1 Gators baseball (19-1, 3-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 17 games, sweeping their series against the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-13, 0-3 SEC) with another pair of wins on Saturday and Sunday. Florida outscored Vanderbilt 23-5 over the weekend, beginning with a 10-2 victory in their Southeastern Conference opener on Friday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The Gators pulled out a 5-1 win on Saturday on the heels of one of junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson’s best outings. Johnson improved to 3-0 while recording a career-high nine strikeouts in 6.0 innings and giving up just two singles. UF was up 1-0 through 4.5 innings but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth including two RBIs apiece from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/3, HR, R, BB) and senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/5, R). Florida captured Sunday’s contest with an 8-2 victory behind another solid outing from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (2-1, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 K). The Gators offense was fueled by a trio of solo homers from Tucker (1/3, RBI, 2 R, BB), freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1/4, 2 RBI, R) and freshman second baseman Casey TurgeonSEC Player of the Week award in his career on Monday.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (26-2, 7-1 SEC) also swept a conference opponent over the weekend, taking down the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-12, 2-6 SEC) by a combined score of 17-3 over three days at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers and freshman RHP/first baseman Lauren Haeger dominated the weekend for the Gators. Rogers (14-1, S 2) earned two victories and a save, while Haeger (8-1) picked up a win and also went 5/8 over the three-game stretch with a homer, six RBIs and a run scored.

4 » No. 6 Florida lacrosse (8-2) defeated the William & Mary Tribe (2-6) 21-8 on the road Saturday. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led Florida with five goals, and UF added four more each from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, gymnastics, Leak

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (17-1, 1-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 15 games on Friday by toppling the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-11, 0-1 SEC) 10-2 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (3-0, 6.2 IP) matched a season-high with six strikeouts while allowing two earned runs on six hits. Behind 2-0 through 4.5 innings, Florida rallied for a five-run bottom of the fifth as eight batters stepped to the plate. The Gators added four more runs in the bottom of the seventh and another in the eighth to pull away for the decisive victory. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/5, 3 RBI, R) and freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (1-4, 2 RBI) led the way offensively but junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, RBI) and senior outfielder Daniel Pigott (3-5, RBI) each crossed the plate twice for Florida. Game two against the Commodores is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday (CSS), and the Gators will conclude the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. (FSF).

2 » No. 4 Florida softball (24-2, 5-1 SEC) got back to their winning ways on Friday with 9-1 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-10, 2-4 SEC) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (13-1) put together a complete game in a run-ruled five-inning outing, giving up one earned run while striking out two, walking two and scattering four hits. Freshmen 1B Lauren Haeger (2-3) and designated hitter Bailey Castro (1-1, HR, R, 2 BB) each notched three RBIs to help fuel the Gators’ offense. UF will wrap-up their three-game series USC by hosting them twice more on Saturday (Sun Sports) and Sunday at 1 p.m.

3 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (11-1) posted the second-highest total in the nation this season to conclude the 2012 regular season with a 197.900-196.475 victory over the No. 7 Utah Utes (7-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. Sophomore Alaina Johnson captured event titles in the vault (9.90), uneven bars (9.95) and balance beam (9.925) while also winning the all-around (39.675). She split two of her titles with teammates as juniors Ashanée Dickerson (uneven bars) and Marissa King (balance beam) matched her scores. King also split the floor exercise event title with freshman Kytra Hunter (9.95). The Gators will next compete in the 2012 SEC Championships on March 24 before moving on to the NCAA Regionals on April 7.

4 » In his first game as starting quarterback of the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks, former Florida signal caller Chris Leak completed 21 of 31 passes for 196 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Jacksonville, the league’s defending champion, scored 38 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 52-28 victory.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, tennis, Young, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball improved to 13-1 this season by defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-5) Friday night in the first of a three-game weekend series. FGCU right-hander Ricky Knapp held Florida in check through five innings, giving the Eagles a 2-0 cushion thanks to a two-run homer by catcher Andrew Valencia in the top of the fourth inning. Junior RHP Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) got the start for the Gators and held on just long enough ensure he did not suffer a loss as junior C Mike Zunino knotted the game with a two-run bomb of his own in the bottom of the sixth. Zunino doubled up with another two-run homer in the eighth, knocking in all four of Florida’s runs on the evening and earning a win for junior left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K). Junior closer Austin Maddox grabbed his fourth save of the season, striking out three of four batters in the final frame.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (9-1, 3-0 SEC) won the team’s 100th consecutive home match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Friday night, defeateing the No. 22 Vanderbilt Commodores (10-5, 2-1 SEC) 6-1. Florida, which holds the longest active home winning streak for a NCAA Division I women’s sports program, has not fallen on their home court since 2004. 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 each won their matches to earn the doubles point for the Gators. Florida also won five of six singles matches with No. 1 Wil, No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree, No. 39 Oyen and junior Caroline Hitimana pulling out victories while No. 49 sophomore Alex Cercone fell in a match that lasted over two hours. No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (9-4, 2-1 SEC) also beat the Commodores (5-7, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 on the road in Nashville, TN.

3 » Florida sophomore center Patric Young said after Friday’s game against Alabama that he will return for his junior season in orange and blue, according to a conversation he had with Matt Watts, the sports editor of The Independent Florida Alligator. Young, however, told Watts that he was not sure what freshman guard Bradley Beal planned to do about his future. Beal is currently projected by many analysts as a potential top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft even though his shooting numbers have been suspect for the Gators this season.

4 » No. 3 Gators softball (21-2, 2-1 SEC) dropped their second game of the season on Friday, falling 1-0 to the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (15-3, 1-0 SEC) due to a defensive miscue in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (11-1, 6.2 IP, 5 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K) was tagged for her first loss of the season as Tennessee’s Ellen Renfroe outdueled her, only allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 15 Florida batters. The Gators will look for revenge against the Lady Vols and hope to win the series with back-to-back victories on Saturday on Sunday.

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