Takeaways: Florida Gators baseball roasts Auburn, advances in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

With its collective back against the wall, No. 4 seed Florida Gators baseball (41-16) showed up big after a half-day turnaround and avoided elimination with a 11-2 thumping of the No. 9 seed Auburn Tigers in the loser’s bracket of the 2015 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama.

Less than 11 hours after a devastating 7-6 loss to Arkansas that ended around 1:30 a.m. local time, Florida got up for a 12:30 p.m. start and made a statement by taking an early lead and never looking back.

Here are three takeaways from the Gators’ dominant win:

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Takeaways: Florida seniors shine vs. Auburn, set Gators baseball up for postseason, national seed

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 7 Florida Gators baseball (40-15, 19-11 SEC) closed out the 2015 regular season with a series win over the Auburn Tigers. It marked the fourth series in a row in which Florida dropped its opener (4-1), the third straight in which it recovered to win the next two games (4-3, 3-1).

UF ultimately finished in fourth place in the league behind LSU (20-8), Vanderbilt (20-10) and Texas A&M (18-10). Nevertheless, the Gators are well-positioned to earn a national seed and host a regional in the 2015 NCAA Tournament due to their high RPI (No. 6), nonconference strength of schedule (No. 13) and recent series win over VU.

The Aggies (No. 7 RPI) and Commodores (No. 11 RPI) will both be entering the 2015 SEC Tournament with the goal of jumping Florida in the national seed pecking order.

Here are five takeaways from the final series of the 2015 regular season:

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Takeaways: Florida baseball bookends losses at Ole Miss with wins over Florida State, Stetson

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (21-5, 3-3 SEC) bookended the last week with high notes but ran into some trouble in the middle games, going 3-2 against the Florida State Seminoles, Ole Miss Rebels and Stetson Hatters in its last five games.

Florida began the seven-day stretch with a 14-8 win over No. 11 FSU, the Gators’ fifth straight win against its in-state rival. UF then dropped its series opener 4-1 to Ole Miss and lost the first game of a Saturday doubleheader 5-2 before claiming a 8-4 victory in the series finale to hold off a sweep. The Gators then ended their short road swing with a rally-aided 9-6 win against Stetson on Tuesday in Deland, Florida.

Here are five takeaways from the last five games:

1. It starts with pitching: In Florida’s two losses at Ole Miss, its starters put the team in an early hole on the road, which spells trouble at every level of baseball. For the second week in a row, sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (3-2, 2.48 ERA) has given up at least one home run in the first inning. Against Tennessee last week, Shore settled down to pitch five more frames; this time, Shore (3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, WP) was unable to get through four innings. Sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (4-2, 4.73 ERA) struggled even more. Puk (2.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 2 WP) was unable to make it out of the third inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, ensuring another long day for the bullpen.

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Florida baseball sweeps, moves to No. 2 in nation

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

Florida Gators baseball (10-1) went a perfect 4-0 on the week, sweeping the Florida Atlantic Owls and Stony Brook Seawolves by a combined score of 31-13 as head coach Kevin O’Sullivan notched the 300th win of his career on Friday night.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore’s stellar outing on Friday night was the first of three quality starts from the Gators’ rotation in the series against the Seawolves, and opposing pitchers struggled to retire senior third baseman Josh Tobias as he tied a school record with eight consecutive hits over the weekend.

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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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FOUR BITS: Harris, NFL, Horford, Tobias

1 » The second-degree misdemeanor charge of operating a motor vehicle without a license has been dropped against Florida Gators freshman quarterback Treon Harris after the player acquired his driver’s license. “He got his license and they dismissed the case [Wednesday],” Harris’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, told The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu. “He took the test and got it re-upped. He did what I expected him to do.” The incident drew extra scrutiny as the police report noted the officer on the scene found marijuana in the vehicle but did not charge any of the three people in the car with possession because it was not on their bodies and the vehicle was not registered to any of them. Freshmen defensive backs Jalen Tabor and J.C. Jackson were in the car with Harris at the time. New Gators head coach Jim McElwain said last month that he is looking “forward to getting into [Harris’s] life and being a big part of his life.”

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FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

1 » The 2014 MLB Draft begins Thursday night and unlike years past, members of the Florida Gators baseball team will not have their attention diverted from postseason competition due to the program being eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Also unlike previous years, Florida does not have anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the draft, though that does not mean that draft-eligible Gators will not leave the program early (there were no seniors on the roster).

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue should be the first Florida player off the board at some point during the second day of the draft on Friday (Rounds 3-10). Juniors right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris, first baseman Zack Powers (previously drafted), left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, outfielder/RHP Justin Shafer, third baseman Josh Tobias (previously drafted) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (previously drafted) could all be selected. Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is expected to be picked and choose to a professional after dealing with injuries throughout his Gators career. Florida will also have a number of players from its 14-member 2015 recruiting class drafted.

2 » USA Today on Thursday released its college athletic department financial database, and Florida checked in sixth nationally in total revenue by bringing in more than $130 million last year. Weighed against its $107 million in expenses, UF netted over $23 million (second to Alabama’s $27 million) in 2013. Florida brought in $1 million more in ticket sales ($24.6 million) and $2 million more in contributions ($48.4 million) compared to 2012, figures that increased for the third-straight year (2011-13) after dipping in consecutive years (2009-10). The Gators also spent $1 million more on coaching and staff ($41.9 million) compared to 2012 but were nearly $2 million below its nine-year maximum of $43.7 million in 2011.

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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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