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.

Continue Reading » Teddy’s Catch: Gators prepare for 2013 MLB Draft

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South Carolina downs Florida 7-3 in CWS opener

An explosive five-run fifth inning for the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks‘ offense erased an early lead by No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (47-19) and allowed South Carolina (46-17) to top Florida 7-3 on Saturday night in both teams’ first game of the 2012 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.

With the loss, UF fell to 27-6 when scoring first and move on to the loser’s portion of the double-elimination tournament where they will have to win four-straight games in order to advance to the Championship Series for the second-straight season, something that has happened only six times dating back to 1988.

Gamecocks left-handed pitcher Michael Roth (6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) earned the victory despite giving up the most earned runs of any of his CWS appearances. Gators LHP Brian Johnson (4.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) got out of jams in the first four innings but came apart at the seams in the fifth.

South Carolina threatened first by loading the bases in the opening frame thanks to an error, single and walk, but Johnson struck out the side to save Florida. The Gamecocks squandered another opportunity to score in the third but failed to score a runner from 90 feet away following a lead-off double and sacrifice fly.

It was the Gators that got on the board first with a rally in the third. Freshman left fielder Justin Shafer (2/4, R) and junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit singled to start the inning, but Florida found themselves with runners on the corners following a failed bunt and groundout. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker then stepped up and cleared the bases with a two-out, two-RBI double to deep left, giving UF an early 2-0 lead.

The Gators were in another tough situation in the fourth after Johnson allowed the first two batters on via a single and walk, but Florida’s deft defense registered three-straight outs to get out of the frame.

UF was not as lucky the next inning as Johnson started by loading the bases without recording an out. He then gave up a bases-clearing triple followed by double to deep right, allowing USC to take a 4-2 lead before being pulled. Senior LHP Greg Larson (1.0 IP, 2 H, K) replaced him and got the Gators out of the jam but not without giving up another run and allowing the Gamecocks to extend their lead to 5-2.

Florida cut into South Carolina’s three-run lead in the bottom of the fifth as a sacrifice fly by junior catcher Mike Zunino scored freshman third baseman Josh Tobias, who had moved over to third after getting on base with a lead-off single.

The Gators threatened again in the bottom of the seventh but came up empty after Ramjit (2/3) and Tobias (2/3, R) led off the frame with singles. The duo moved over to second and third on a sacrifice bunt but never made their way home. Florida ended the inning with Tucker (2/5, 2 RBI) flying out to shallow left and Johnson (0/4) hitting a hard line out to right after Zunino (0/2, RBI, 2 BB) was intentionally walked to load the bases.

UF sophomore right-hander Keenan Kish (3.0 IP, H, ER, BB, 3 K) kept USC at bay but walked the lead-off batter in the ninth, who eventually came around to score after advancing via a ground out and a pair of wild pitches, the second of which came from junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (0.1 IP, H, R, K). One out away from ending the frame, the Gators committed two fielding errors and gave up an infield single in between, allowing the Gamecocks to add another insurance run and increase their lead to 7-3.

Florida will face Kent State (46-19) on Monday at 5 p.m. in an elimination game that will air live on ESPN2. The winner will take on either Arkansas or South Carolina (Monday at 9 p.m.) in another elimination game on Wednesday.

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No. 1 Florida Gators baseball advances to College World Series with extra-inning 9-8 victory

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (47-18) advanced to the College World Series for the third-straight season after completing a 9-8 victory in an extra-inning affair on Sunday against the No. 16 N.C. State Wolfpack (43-20) in the second game of Super Regional action at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida swept the Super Regional from N.C. State after picking up a 7-1 victory on Saturday but needed seven pitchers, three clutch home runs and 10 full innings to register the come-from-behind win on Sunday.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford started on the hill for UF and threw 17 pitches in his first two innings of work before a weather delay forced the teams off the field. He wound up returning following a 2:23 delay though his opponent, ace Carlos Rodon, ended his day with three strikeouts over three no-hit innings.

Upon returning to the mound, Crawford gave up a lead-off double to end a streak of 14.2 innings without allowing a hit dating back to May 22. He was then hit for an RBI double two batters later as the Wolfpack took a 1-0 lead through three innings.

The Gators did not waste time taking back control of the game as senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, HR, RBI, R, BB, SB) led off the top of the fourth by turning on the first pitch he saw and sending it out of the park to tie the contest. The onslaught continued against N.C. State reliever Anthony Tzamtzis as Florida juniors catcher Mike Zunino and designated hitter Brian Johnson hit back-to-back doubles to put runners on second and third with no outs.

Freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon followed two batters later with an RBI single to right to score Zunino, giving UF a 2-1 lead and sending Tzamtzis to the showers. The Gators added two more runs to increase their advantage to 4-1 with freshman left fielder Justin Shafer hitting a sacrifice fly to center that scored Johnson, and Turgegon coming around to score after stealing a base and being knocked in via an RBI single to left by junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1/5, RBI).

The Wolfpack similarly responded by tagging Crawford (3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K) for three-straight two-out hits in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on first and second, RF Brian Austin smacked a two-RBI double to deep center that reduced his team’s deficit to 4-3 and brought senior RHP Greg Larson out of the bullpen.

Read the rest of the Florida-N.C. State game story…after the break!
Continue Reading » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball advances to College World Series with extra-inning 9-8 victory

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Florida tops N.C. State 7-1 in rain-delayed affair

A superb starting performance on the hill coupled with plenty of clutch hitting sent No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (46-18) to a 7-1 victory over the No. 16 N.C. State Wolfpack (43-19) in the first game of the Super Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday.

Florida junior right-hander Hudson Randall (9-2) pitched the first seven innings of the contest and may have gone longer had a rain delay not halted action for over two hours. He struck out four and did not allow any walks while scattering six hits in his outing. The Gators used a four-run third to give them an early lead and continued to add runs over the duration of the contest to cruise to victory and get themselves within one win of advancing to the College World Series for the third-straight season.

With one out in the bottom of the third, Florida strung together three-straight singles to plate the first run of the game. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker knocked in freshman third baseman Josh Tobias (1/4, R), who had advanced to third on a hit-and-run one play earlier. Junior catcher Mike Zunino then earned an RBI on a fielder’s choice but reached and advanced to second on an error by the shortstop that allowed the Gators to add two more runs. Two batters later, senior centerfielder Daniel Pigott singled up the middle to send Zunino home and extend Florida’s lead to 4-0 through three innings.

The Gators threatened again in the fifth by loading the bases after consecutive singles from Tucker and Zunino and a base on balls by junior designated hitter Brian Johnson. A sacrifice fly from Pigott (1/3, 2 RBI, SB) scored Tucker and increased UF’s lead to 5-0, but freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/4) ended the inning by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play as N.C. State staved off further damage.

A rain delay two innings later forced the proceedings to halt in the bottom of the seventh as Florida had Tucker (2/3, RBI, 3 R, BB, SB) on first and Zunino at the plate on a full count with no outs recorded. Play resumed 2:03 later with rain falling as soon as the first pitch was thrown; that did not stop Zunino (2/4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) who towered the second pitch he saw into left for a two-run homer, increasing the Gators’ lead to 7-0.

The home run was Zunino’s third in as many games and increased his total to 19 on the year (the most in school history for a catcher in a single season).

Unfortunately for both teams the rain soon began falling even harder than it was before and a second rain delay was called 18 minutes later as the Wolfpack had a runner on first with two outs in the top of the eighth. The second delay lasted just 48 minutes with senior RHP Greg Larson (0.2 IP, H, BB, K), who replaced Randall after the first rain delay, giving up a hit and exiting with runners on second and third. Freshman lefty Bobby Poyner (0.2 IP, K) and sophomore RHP Keenan Kish (0.2 IP, 2 H, ER) combined to register the final four outs of the game with Kish allowing a pair of two-out hits to plate a run before the end of the contest.

Florida will once again host N.C. State on Sunday in the second game of the Super Regional, which will air live on ESPNU at 1 p.m.

Watch ESPN’s highlight package from the game…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida tops N.C. State 7-1 in rain-delayed affair

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Samford hits three homers, blasts Florida 12-7

Ending the regular season with a four-game road trip to the state of Alabama, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball was hoping to start out hot on Tuesday and go into the postseason on a high note. Instead Florida (38-15) was routed 12-7 by the Samford Bulldogs (34-19) at Griffin Field in Birmingham, AL.

Samford took it to UF freshman right-hander Johnny Magliozzi right out of the gate, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first and tagging him for two more in the second. Magliozzi (4-3, 1.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, BB, K) easily had his worst outing of the season but was not the only Gators’ pitcher to struggle on Tuesday.

UF relievers freshman RHP Ryan Harris, sophomore RHP Keenan Kish and sophomore LHP Daniel Gibson combined to allow seven earned runs on eight hits (two home runs) and two walks with five strikeouts in 5.0 innings.

The Bulldogs added two more runs in the fourth and jumped ahead 7-0 as right fielder Brandon Miller hit his first bomb of the game. Florida outscored Samford 7-5 over the duration of the contest, which allowed the hosts to maintain a more-than-comfortable five-run advantage through the end of the game.

Miller (2/4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, BB, K) was just one of four Bulldogs to register two or more RBIs, while junior catcher Mike Zunino (1/4, HR, 3 RBI, R) provided most of the power for the Gators’ offense by homering in his second-straight game.

Florida did experience one other bright spot on Tuesday, however, as senior right fielder Preston Tucker’s single in the top of the seventh tied the school record for career hits with 319 (Mark Ellis). Tucker finished the game 2/3 with a walk and three runs scored.

Samford evened the season series with UF 1-1 as the Gators previously picked up a 5-3 win in Gainesville, FL on March 20.

Florida will look to rebound from their upset loss by taking their frustrations out on Auburn in a three-game series beginning Thursday at 7 p.m.

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Florida baseball tops UNF 4-3 in 11 innings

Losing to the North Florida Ospreys on April 3 was a noticeable blemish on the Florida Gators’ portfolio this season so there was no doubt that one of the top teams in the country was looking for revenge Tuesday night in Gainesville, FL. It may have taken 11 innings but No. 5 Florida (36-13) got just that by taking down North Florida (28-21) 4-3 at McKethan Stadium to split the season series 1-1.

After wasting a number of opportunities to plate a run in the latter innings of the contest, junior catcher Mike Zunino (3/5, 2 RBI, SB, BB) came through in the clutch with a walk-off RBI double down the left field line in the bottom of the 11th to score redshirt freshman pinch hitter Connor Mitchell (1-2, R).

Freshman right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi got the mid-week start for the Gators but struggled with his command early on, giving up a pair of earned runs on five hits with one walk and no strikeouts in 2.2 innings. Florida was able to match the runs by rallying in the bottoms of the second and third to tie the game 2-2.

The Gators took the lead in the fifth as junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (2/4, HR, RBI, R, 2 BB) began the frame with a solo homer. UF maintained their one-run advantage for the duration of sophomore RHP Keenan Kish’s appearance (4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 K).

Sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (0.1 IP, 2 H, ER, K) took over in the top of the eighth but did not fare well, allowing two hits and the game-tying run while only registering a single out. Florida had multiple opportunities to retake the lead in regulation but left the bases loaded in the eighth and a man on second in the ninth.

UNF threatened in the top of the 10th until junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez struck out consecutive batters with the bases loaded to get UF out of the inning. The Ospreys tried again in the 11th but were equally unsuccessful as freshman RHP Ryan Harris (2-0, 1.0 IP, H, K) got the final three outs of the contest.

The Gators now move on to their final home games of the regular season as they host Mississippi State in a three-game weekend series. Florida will also celebrate Senior Day for five upper classmen; a number of UF’s juniors will also be playing their last regular season game at McKethan Stadium over the weekend.

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Florida baseball sweeps Alabama; Bruder helps Gators softball top Crimson Tide (twice)

Each competing against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Gainesville, FL over the weekend, the Florida Gators baseball and softball teams combined to defeat their opponent five of six times – all in exciting fashion. No. 5/5 Florida baseball outscored Alabama 18-3 over a three-day span, while No. 8/9 Gators softball won back-to-back games against the Crimson Tide after being shutout in the series opener.

BASEBALL

Coming off a tough road loss to Central Florida where head coach Kevin O’Sullivan emptied the bullpen, Florida upended Alabama 7-0 in the first game of the weekend series on Friday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (7-1) continued to pitch with confidence, scattering four hits in 6.1 innings for the victory. After manufacturing a single run in the third inning, the Gators rallied to score a total of six in three consecutive innings. Junior first baseman Preston Tucker (1-5, HR, 3 RBI, R) and senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hit a pair of homers, while sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-5, RBI) couldn’t be kept off the bases. Florida amassed 14 hits in the game and saw seven different players cross the plate.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (6-1) got the call for the Gators on Saturday and, after allowing a single run in the first and solo shot in the top of the second, held the Crimson Tide scoreless for his final three innings to pick up the win. Junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman RHP Keenan Kish combined to strike out six over the final four innings of the contest to solidify anther victory for Florida. The offense did their part to make Johnson feel comfortable early, rallying for pairs of runs in their first two frames to negate Alabama’s production. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) and junior pinch hitter Ben McMahan (1-1, HR, RBI, R) each hit homers and Adams (1-3, 2 RBI) continued his hot streak at the plate.

The Gators (31-10, 14-4 SEC) completed the weekend sweep by squeaking out a 2-1 victory over the Crimson Tide (25-18, 8-10 SEC) on Sunday. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson(5-0) looked fantastic, striking out seven and only giving up three hits over 6.2 innings. Whitson held Alabama without a single run until his finally batter capitalized with two men on base to smack an RBI. He was promptly pulled for Rodriguez who, along with juniors RHP Anthony DeSclafani and LHP Nick Maronde (S2), closed out the victory for Florida. Fontana (3-4, 2 RBI) knocked in both runs, hitting a double to score junior right fielder Daniel Pigott (1-3, R) in the third and a single to help junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-2, R) cross the plate in the fifth.

With the three victories, the Gators have now defeated the Crimson Tide in eight of their last 10 meetings and can look ahead to a home series against Ole Miss next weekend.

SOFTBALL

Still fighting her way back from an arm injury, senior ace RHP Stephanie Brombacher (15-1) drew the start Friday but coughed up two runs (one earned) after tossing three shutout innings for her first loss of the season. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who had been handling the pitching duties in Brombacher’s stead, was roughed up in her four innings as well, striking out six but allowing three earned runs on three hits and three walks. Alabama starter Kelsi Dunne (21-2) looked strong in the effort, limiting Florida to only three hits in seven innings while striking out six.

Not allowing themselves to get down after such a tough loss, the Gators responded in a big way in the next two games, ending both with exciting finishes. Senior LF Kelsey Bruder, who has been nearly unstoppable at the plate recently, hit a walk-off three-run home run on Saturday followed by a walk-off infield single on Sunday (in extra innings) to send her team to two victories.

Brombacher got the call again Saturday, pitching 6.1 innings and striking out four but also allowing four earned runs. The Gators were faced with a 2-0 deficit early but rallied with back-to-back homers by senior 1B Megan Bush (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R) and senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R) in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead. Brombacher allowed a solo shot in the fifth to tie the game and gave up a two-run bomb in the seventh to put the Crimson Tide ahead 5-3 before Rogers came in to get the final two outs. Florida benefited with a lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning, and junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, R, 2 BB) followed with a single through the right side to put the game-winning run at the plate. With one out, Bruder (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hammered the first pitch she saw to pick up the win (see video below).

Bruder’s weekend heroics were not done, however, as she came through in the clutch once again on Sunday. Rogers and Dunne each pitched fantastic games on the day, holding shutouts through regulation. A fielding error in the top of the eighth allowed two Alabama batters to score, but Florida rallied to tack on two runs (including a RBI by Bruder) in the bottom of the inning to keep the game going. After Rogers (25-5) retired the side one-two-three in the top of the ninth to complete the longest outing of her career, Bruder (2-5, 2 RBI) found herself back at the plate with the winning run in scoring position. On a 1-0 count, she smacked a single to second base to score freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-4, R) from third and give the Gators (40-8, 15-7 SEC) an impressive extra innings victory over the Crimson Tide (42-7, 16-6 SEC).

Florida will get a week of rest before jumping on the road to face South Carolina in a three-game weekend series. The Gators will then play four-straight home games to end the regular season the following week.

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