Florida baseball drops two of three at Miami

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 20 Florida Gators baseball (5-3) fell short on the road against the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes (4-3) over the weekend, dropping the annual three-game series between the in-state rivals but ultimately avoiding a sweep on Sunday at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, FL.

The Gators opened things up Friday night with their second loss of the season, dropping the season opener 6-4 despite scoring three runs in the first inning.

Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (4.0 IP, 5 H, BB, 3 K) took the loss for Florida, struggling after retiring the side in order and leaving the first inning with a three-run lead. Poyner (1-1) threw 71 pitches in the 6-4 loss and gave up home runs to Miami right fielder Willie Abreu in the third and center fielder Dale Carey in the fifth.

“We just have to get a better start out of our starting pitcher,” remarked head coach Kevin O’Sullivan after the loss.

Inside the batter’s box, junior catcher Taylor Gushue (4/4, RBI, 2 R) extended his hitting streak to six games. The four-hit game by Gushue was a career-best.

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Florida baseball wins season-opening series

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Winning their season-opening series could have been easier for the No. 20/23 Florida Gators, but coming out of the weekend with a 2-1 record was nevertheless a good start for a young squad that fought to the finish over the last three days.

Florida bookended the weekend with victories over the Maryland Terrapins (1-2) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, kicking things off with a 4-0 shutout Friday on opening night in the only game of the series that was televised.

Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K) delivered a solid outing as the opening night starter. Primarily used as a reliever and midweek starter during his first two seasons with the Gators, the third-year lefty made his case for a rotation spot this summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League, posting a 1.71 ERA over seven starts with the Orleans Fire. His five strikeouts Friday were a career-high, and Florida’s offense did a good job making him feel comfortable with some early runs.

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2014 Florida baseball primer: Bounce back year?

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

The unanimously top 25-ranked Florida Gators are hoping to bounce back from a disastrous 2013 campaign that saw the team go 29-27 in the regular season and get bounced out of both league and national postseason play without winning a single game.

UF also lost five players to the 2014 MLB Draft – including three top pitchers – and enters 2014 with a young but talented roster filled with up-and-coming prospects.

In the offseason, seventh-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan signed a top-notch 2014 recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game. The 15-member class makes up 43 percent of Florida’s roster, which features two fourth-year players (redshirt juniors) but not a single senior.

One year ago, the departures of nine MLB draft selections loomed large on opening night. This Friday, when UF begins the 2014 campaign with a three-game home series against Maryland, the most notable absence from the lineup card will be a current Gators outfielder in sophomore Harrison Bader. Bader was indefinitely suspended after police suspected alcohol played a role in a Feb. 2 scooter accident. Without him, Florida lacks its best hitter (.312) and one of only four designated outfielders.

Here’s what O’Sullivan (252-132) has to work with as the Gators open the 2014 campaign looking to bounce back from last season’s disappointments and begin moving in the right direction toward another College World Series berth.

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NOT Top 13 for 2013: Moments for Gators to forget

At the conclusion of each year, on Dec. 31 to be exact, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. This year, which will go down as a difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 13 for 2013 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 13 for 2013 to end your year on a positive note!

13 » OFFSEASON GARBAGE
The time between the conclusion of spring practice in April and the start of summer practice in July can be long and seemingly endless for some, especially the media, which drummed up controversy where none should have exited in May. Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis, taking part in a Gator Gathering with boosters, jokingly referred to Alabama head coach Nick Saban as “the devil himself.” The slight was made public and Saban took great offense, despite the fact that Davis was kidding. Davis got called “a classless backstabbing coward” for his joke and received other undue ridicule.

Two months later, one of the top college football headlines was a report that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer actually turned in Florida (and running backs coach Brian White) for a petty secondary recruiting violation that the NCAA deemed to be meaningless. Meyer denied his actions and got taken to task for reporting his former school, especially considering he has previously been accused of violating NCAA secondary recruiting rules in a similar fashion.

12 » LACROSSE AND VOLLEYBALL COME UP SHORT
With revenge on their minds and the program’s first national title within reach, Florida lacrosse failed to take down Syracuse on the latter’s home turf in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Orange got the best of the Gators for the second-straight season, winning 13-9 on May 18 after picking up a controversial victory in the 2012 NCAA Final Four. UF had the opportunity to make SU pay while trying to win a championship but instead sent its fourth-year players – the first senior class in program history – home with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Florida volleyball saw its 2013 season come to a crashing halt when it fell 3-2 at home to Florida State in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. One of the top seeds in the tournament and a potential national title team, the Gators allowed their in-state rival to knock them out of postseason play as UF failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. Like the lacrosse team, which sent its upperclassmen out in a disappointing fashion, the same happened to senior middle back Chloe Mann.

11 » SAME TEAM!
The moment that checked in No. 1 on ESPN’s own Not Top Plays of 2013 was simply a microcosm of Florida being unable to get out of its own way this year. Redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison and redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar blocked each other on a rushing play that actually gained some positive yardage against Georgia Southern in the second-to-last game of the season. In the same game, redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye was accused of gouging an opponent’s eyes.


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Five current Gators, 10 baseball commits selected in 2013 MLB Draft; Florida QB Jeff Driskel, too

Florida Gators baseball had five current players selected in the three-day, 40-round 2013 MLB Draft, though it is unknown as of press time how many of the players that were selected will wind up leaving the program.

Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford, selected by the Detroit Tigers with the No. 20 pick in the first round on Thursday, tweeted Saturday that he be leaving Florida and collecting the $2 million assigned value to his draft spot. “Excited to be apart of @tigers organization,” he wrote. “Looking forward to getting to work. Truly an honor and a blessing to be a Tiger!”

A Gators football player was also picked on Saturday as junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was nabbed by the Boston Red Sox with the No. 863rd overall pick in the 29th round of the draft. Boston retains Driskel’s rights until the 2014 MLB Draft next June and will only have its pick pay off should the player choose to give up football after the 2013 season. Driskel, who initially planned to play football and baseball at Florida, was a talented outfielder in high school who would have been drafted in 2011 had he not been dead-set on playing college football.

Below are the current Gators, 2014 Florida commitments and other notable players selected during the draft from Thursday-Saturday.

CURRENT PLAYERS

Round 7 – No. 210
Daniel Gibson, LHP
Arizona Diamondbacks


Height: 6’131″ – Weight: 220 lbs.
B/T: L/L – Class: Junior

The Gators’ top lefty reliever, Gibson will likely remain in the bullpen on the next level as he does have four solid pitches but is most effective when throwing his fastball and slider. Some teams view him as a potential starter, however. He appeared in 32 games for Florida in 2013, finishing the year 2-1 with a 4.42 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. As a sophomore, Gibson went 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. He was originally drafted with the No. 789 overall pick in the 26th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers but instead chose to go to college. It appears likely that Gibson will leave college, at least according to the Twitter account he established after being drafted. “So excited to be an Arizona Diamondback!” he wrote. “Ready to get out and play! #dreamcometrue”

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Teddy’s Catch: Gators prepare for 2013 MLB Draft

A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster is now attending law school after serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets last season. He joined OGGOA in 2012 as a baseball columnist who will continue to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2013 season.

The 2013 season was a disappointing one for Florida baseball, but head coach Kevin O’Sullivan should be pleased about his team’s prospects going forward because there’s a promising future ahead considering the returning talent and the number one ranked recruiting class coming in. While the Gators will be returning plenty of players, the team will no longer have seniors Vickash Ramjit and Cody Dent in the fold, and chances are junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford will be gone, too. The future of righty Karsten Whitson, whether he returns for his redshirt junior season or decides to accept wherever he is going to be picked in the 2013 MLB Draft this week, remains to be seen. You can be sure O’Sullivan – and every Florida fan, for that matter – hopes Whitson returns for a fourth season and anchors a young rotation.

So now that you have a grasp on what Florida stands to lose as the offseason begins, let’s take a closer look at the players mentioned above and their draft prospects.

Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford
The only player guaranteed to be drafted out of this group, Crawford was seen as a potential top-10 pick coming off his sophomore year when he was hitting 97 mph regularly with a knockout slider and strong results in SEC and NCAA competition. Heck, he even threw a no-hitter last year that put scouts on notice had they not been looking at him previously. Unfortunately for Crawford, he failed to live up to the hype in 2013. Not only has his fastball velocity dropped to the low 90s, his command has raised some eyebrows about his future as a full-time, top-of-the-rotation starter.

Crawford started the year slowly, working more 90-92 mph pitches, but gradually built himself back up to the 90-95 range. His fastball has great sink and arm-side run, but he struggles to repeat his non-traditional delivery, which causes inconsistency with his pitch location. He throws too many balls over the heart of the plate and too many fastballs get yanked away from his arm-side (down and away to a right-handed hitter). His slider is above-average, not plus, with good tilt; he has the ability to throw it for strikes but relies on the pitch too often because he can’t locate the fastball.

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Teddy’s Catch: Freshmen need to learn on the fly

A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster is now attending law school after serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets last season. He joined OGGOA in 2012 as a baseball columnist who will now provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2013 season.

The Florida baseball team finds itself in the midst of a five-game losing streak, which includes being swept at home by Florida Gulf Coast and bookending that series with losses to Georgia Southern and North Florida. Only nine games into the season, it is probably too early to push the panic button as fans but from a scout’s point of view, I guarantee you the coaches have already slammed that button.

The first big blow suffered by the Gators came before the season even started when junior right-hander Karsten Whitson went down with what was at first called “shoulder fatigue.” That fatigue turned into minor surgery for Whitson and he is now out for the season, dealing a major blow to Florida’s starting rotation. He and classmate RHP Jonathon Crawford were poised to be one of the top one-two pitching duos in the nation. Most scouts have both players at the top of their draft boards with almost all of them believing they will be off the board in the first two rounds.

While the Gators have had freshman pitchers play well in the past, it is not an easy task to expect what is basically a high school student to come in and pitch on weekends, especially against top-notch teams like those Florida will face in Southeastern Conference play. It was a sense of comfort for the Gators that they had two potential first-round picks at the top of their rotation. Now that one of them has gone down, team morale is suffering (as is Whitson’s draft stock).

Read the rest of this edition of Teddy’s Catch…after the break!
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Florida RHP Karsten Whitson out for 2013 season

Florida Gators junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson will not play college baseball in 2013 after undergoing a shoulder procedure on Thursday, according to Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA.

Renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure in order to clean up the joint and relieve pain that bothered Whitson since his freshman season.

The silver lining in this situation is that Whitson didn’t have major arm surgery. University of Florida doctors were unable to find any shoulder or labrum damage, and Andrews came to the same conclusion. Andrews, however, cleaned up a few areas in Whitson’s shoulder, the procedure carried out without needing to cut on him, or full-blown surgery.

Kent Whitson, the player’s father, told Rogers that his son is “relieved” after having the procedure and that Andrews gave him “a thumbs up” when all was said and done.

“Whitson’s rehabilitation will take at least four months, just in the time for the MLB draft,” Rogers reports. “But while that may indicate Whitson could sign the dotted line with a professional organization this summer, the Whitsons believe it would need to be a perfect situation for him to do so.”

He also noted on Twitter that “Whitson said his son is fully prepared to return to Florida as a redshirt junior next season if things don’t work out.”

The Gators announced Wednesday that Whitson was sidelined indefinitely with “shoulder fatigue.” Baseball America reported shortly thereafter that he would be consulting with Andrews about the next step to take in order to heal his shoulder. UF not has confirmed Whitson’s season-ending procedure but head coach Kevin O’Sullivan discussed the news with Rogers on Thursday.

“We’re very disappointed that Karsten won’t be able to pitch for us this season. But on the other side of it, we’re very excited he’s going to be 100 percent at the end of this process,” he said. “We look forward to getting him back on the mound in ’14.”

Whitson originally joined Florida before the 2011 season rather than signing a $2.1 million contract offer from the San Diego Padres, which selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.

He went 8-0 with a 2.45 ERA as a freshman starter, registering 8.51 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, Whitson pitched just 33.1 innings during a sophomore campaign in which he was severely limited due to injury. He concluded the 2012 season with a 4-0 record, 3.51 ERA, 5.40 K/9 and 1.11 K/BB.

A hard-throwing pitcher, Whitson can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and compliments that pitch with a devastating slider. He was slotted to be the Gators’ No. 2 pitcher in 2013, and his absence will be a huge loss for a program currently in rebuilding mode.

Photo Credit: Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY Sports

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