Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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Florida Gators baseball (4-0) opens 2015 with dominant hitting, solid pitching

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (4-0) has used power hitting and strong, consistent pitching to open the 2015 campaign with a bang, sweeping the Rhode Island Rams by a combined score of 37-5 over the weekend and earning a dominant 13-3 victory over the USF Bulls on Wednesday.

Florida’s opening-weekend sweep and four-game season-opening winning streak are firsts for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan since 2011.

The season began for Florida with a 9-1 win Friday night. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 K), the 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year, picked up where he left off by tossing five scoreless innings and collecting the win. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader (2/4, HR, 3 RBI, R) led the way with a two-run homer and RBI single, and freshman catcher Mike Rivera (0/2, RBI, R) drove in a run and crossed the plate in his first collegiate game.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Horford, Sloan, Bader

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was a guest on Golf Channel‘s Morning Drive on Monday. After a sit-down interview with the hosts (Watch), Tebow took to the golf simulator, telling one golf pro’s host that his son should go to Florida over Florida State before lining up and ripping a 343-yard drive.

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2015 Florida baseball primer: Can a strong junior class finally get the Gators over the hump?

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Florida Gators baseball opens its 2015 campaign against Rhode Island on Friday evening at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Projected to be in the thick of the national championship picture this season, the Gators have opened ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6 in various preseason polls.

In his eighth season, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan (292-155) will manage a squad that returned 22 lettermen and added a highly-touted class of 10 new freshmen, plus one transfer.

Sky-high expectations have become a February tradition in Gainesville during the O’Sullivan era, and back-to-back first-round exits from the NCAA Tournament are not about to deter experts and fans alike from expecting to see the Florida in Omaha for the College World Series.

The Gators return a majority of their 2014 starters in the field and a deep pitching staff, but as always, there are a few areas of uncertainty to be addressed: three incoming freshmen have big shoes to fill behind the plate, starters at second and third base are not yet set in stone, the starting first baseman is sidelined with an injury and one of Florida’s hurlers must establish himself as the No. 3 weekend starter.

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Florida baseball swept out of Gainesville Regional

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

There is plenty of baseball left to be played in the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium – and for that matter the entire 2014 NCAA Tournament – but none of it will include the Florida Gators.

The top seed in its regional and No. 2 overall team in the event, Florida (40-23) was eliminated from postseason competition by the regional third seed North Carolina Tar Heels (35-26) on Saturday, dropping the contest by a score of 5-2.

The Gators likely felt like they were experiencing déjà vu in Saturday’s game as, for the second-straight day, UF dealt with a rain delay in excess of three hours.

This time, the game was halted in the third inning with junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, ER, 2 K) on the mound. Poyner did not return after the delay, leaving freshman lefty Kirby Snead (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) with two on and no outs.

Just like Friday night, Florida’s opponent returned from the delay with gusto and a major offensive output. North Carolina teed off on Snead for four hits, taking a 5-0 lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.

Florida chipped away at North Carolina’s lead late in the game but failed to put together a multi-run inning to give it a legitimate fighting chance.

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FOUR BITS: CBS, SEC awards, Caldwell, Wilbekin

1 » CBS on Tuesday announced its 14-week schedule of 16 Southeastern Conference football games for the 2014 season. The annual showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, Florida, will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and air on the network for the 12th straight season, taking place this year on Nov. 1. It was one of four games announced; the other 12 will be slated as they approach, usually six-to-12 days prior to broadcast. The SEC on CBS will once again feature two doubleheaders, on Oct. 11 (noon and 3:30 p.m.) and Nov. 8 (3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.).

Florida’s potential CBS games – featuring quality opponents and open dates on the schedule – include at Alabama (Sept. 20), at Tennessee (Oct. 4), vs. LSU (Oct. 11), vs. Missouri (Oct. 18) and South Carolina (Nov. 15).

2 » The SEC made news of its own on Tuesday by announcing year-end winners for its 2014 baseball awards. Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan was named SEC Coach of the Year for the second time (2010), and right-handed pitcher Logan Shore earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors. Shore is 7-2 with a team-low 1.47 ERA and 52 strikeouts in a team-high 79.2 innings pitched. Also receiving accolades were junior catcher Taylor Gushue, who joined Shore on the All-SEC First Team, sophomore outfielder Harrison Bader on the All-SEC Second Team, and first baseman Peter Alonso on the All-Freshman team with Shore.

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LSU tops Florida baseball 2-0 in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

For No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball, playing five elimination games in as many days proved to be a bit too much as the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers pulled away with a 2-0 victory on Sunday in the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

LSU (44-14-1) edged Florida (40-21) by using four pitchers in a shutout victory. A day after collecting 12 hits, the Gators managed only two in nine innings.

Both squads were scoreless through seven innings until Tigers designated hitter Sean McMullen he launched a two-run blast off of junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER).

Florida had six outs left to try to overcome the 2-0 deficit. The Gators managed to get the lead runner on base in the ninth when junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/3) walked, but he was erased on the base paths when sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (0/3) hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Sophomore center fielder Harrison Bader (0/3) was retired on a ground out to end the game.

Turgeon, Martin, Bader and junior catcher Taylor Gushue (0/3) – the first four hitters in UF’s lineup – combined for a dreadful 0-for-12 in Sunday’s tournament final. Bader entered the game 10-for-16 in Hoover.

Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson (6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, K) had his ups and downs all season for Florida but was stellar against LSU and likely pitched his way into UF’s rotation for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

The Gators on Sunday evening learned that they would host one of 16 regional sites for the NCAA Tournament, which will have its 64-team field announced live on ESPNU at noon on Monday.

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Florida Gators baseball edges Kentucky 6-5, advances to SEC Tournament title game

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Overcoming three elimination games in as many days, No. 1 seed Florida Gators (40-20) advanced to the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday with a 6-5 win over the No. 9 seed Kentucky Wildcats (35-23) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Florida rallied late in a back-and-forth contest with junior third baseman Josh Tobias (2/3, RBI, 2 R) knocking in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to pave the way for sophomore right-hander Eric Hanhold (3.1 IP, 2 H, 4 K) to collect the win in a stellar relief appearance.

The Gators looked to be in danger of getting blown out by the Wildcats in the early going, but Kentucky was simply unable to pile on the runs and put the game out of reach. A lineout double play killed UK’s momentum in the first inning, as did leaving the bases full in the second. UF was fortunate to only be down 3-0.

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