Michelle Moultrie wins SEC Player of the Year, Florida softball places seven on All-SEC teams

The Southeastern Conference released its annual awards for the sport of softball on Wednesday, and the Florida Gators came away with a prestigious individual award along with nine total placements (seven players) on the various All-SEC teams.

Senior outfielder Michelle Moultrie became the second-straight and fourth Florida player all-time to be named SEC Player of the Year (Kelsey Bruder won the award in 2011). Underrated coming out of high school, Moultrie has been one of the most consistent, reliable and game-changing players that the Gators have seen.

She leads the SEC in batting average (.395) and fielding percentage (1.000) and tops Florida’s roster in runs scored (58), total bases (108), slugging percentage (.667), on-base percentage (.495) and steals (21). Moultrie also has 10 homers, 29 RBIs and 24 walks so far in her senior campaign.

First Team All-SEC
CF Michelle Moultrie (senior)

Second Team All-SEC
P Hannah Rogers (sophomore)
C Kelsey Horton (junior)

Freshman All-SEC Team
P Alyssa Bache (freshman)
P/DH Lauren Haeger (freshman)
3B Sami Fagan (freshman)
OF Jessica Damico (freshman)

SEC All-Defensive Team
P Hannah Rogers (sophomore)
CF Michelle Moultrie (senior)

Photo Credit: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Hunter, lacrosse, tennis selections

1 » Florida Gators freshman gymnast Kytra Hunter, who won a pair of 2012 NCAA Championships in the all-around and vault last month, was named the recipient of the Honda Sports Award on Wednesday. The honor, which basically makes Hunter the “gymnast of the year” by recognizing her as the best student-athlete in her sport, is awarded to one female in 12 different NCAA-sanctioned sports. It is the second straight year that a Gators student-athlete has won one of the awards with outfielder Kelsey Bruder bringing home the honor for softball in 2011. In the 36-year history of the Honda Sports Award, Florida has won it 15 times in six different sports (UF student-athletes were honored in two sports in 1982).

2 » One of six Florida lacrosse players to be honored by the American Lacrosse Conference on Wednesday, freshman midfielder Nora Barry was named the 2012 ALC Rookie of the Year after registering 32 goals (on 54 shots) in 17 games during the regular season. Barry’s goal total was the fifth-highest on the Gators, but she led the team in ground balls and also finished second in draw controls. Three Florida juniors – attacker Kitty Cullen, M Brittany Dashiell and defender Sam Farrell – were named to the All-ALC First Team, while Barry, junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher and junior A Gabi Wiegand received second-team nods.

3 » Four members of No. 2 Gators women’s tennis found themselves placed in the brackets for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships when the selections were announced on Wednesday. Junior Allie Will not only earned the No. 1 seed in the singles tournament but is also one half of the No. 1 doubles team along with sophomore Sofie Oyen. Junior Lauren Embree was placed in the grouping of singles seeds 9-16, Oyen was chosen as an alternate and the pairing of Embree/senior Joanna Mather also made it as an at-large doubles team. Florida has not won a NCAA singles title since 1996 (Jill Craybas) or a doubles title since 2001 (Whitney Laiho/Jessica Lehnhoff).

4 » No. 11 UF men’s tennis also had four players selected for the NCAA Individual Championships as senior Nassim Slilam and juniors Tripper Carleton and Bob van Overbeek all received at-large bids for the singles bracket. (Sophomore Spencer Newman is listed as an alternate.) Additionally, the duo of Slilam/junior Billy Federhofer will compete in the doubles draw. The Gators have not won a NCAA singles title since 1999 (Jeff Morrison) or a doubles title since 1993 (Mark Merklein/David Blair).

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2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

Spring is here and No. 2/4 Florida Gators softball is set to begin their 2012 season this weekend by playing five games as part of a three-day tournament hosted by South Florida in Tampa, FL from Feb. 10-12.

The Gators enter the 2012 campaign having lost a number of major pieces that formed the core of last year’s team that went all the way to the championship round of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. However, a strong and dynamic freshman class coupled with a crop of extremely talented players and superb coaching by Tim Walton means that Florida may not be far off from yet another successful season.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

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SIX BITS: Young, Orr, Horford, Spikes, Donovan

1 » Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan continues to insist he is not too worried about sophomore center Patric Young’s ankle, noting Monday that team doctors have determined he is not in jeopardy of aggravating or worsening the injury though he will “deal with periodically some discomfort and he’s going to have to work his way through that.” “He’s fine right now,” Donovan said. “I don’t expect him to miss practice. He’s not complaining of anything. It could flare up. Patric’s never really I think ever had a sprained ankle. He’s never really dealt with this before so it’s all new to him.” Young himself said that doctors have told him the tendinitis has to do with the lining of his joints and that he does not have any tears or sprains. “It was just from overuse or something like that. It’s just a nagging thing, like a lot of pain whenever I try to just move or walk, lateral movements really affect it,” he said. “I still can’t really jump too well off my right foot and not too well off of two feet. When it comes time for the game, I’m normally ready and it doesn’t really bother me. After a certain level, I have to pass the threshold of pain and then I don’t feel it anymore.” It is unknown whether or not Donovan intends to start Young for the first time in three games on Thursday at Ole Miss.

2 » Gators redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr, who received a written arrest on Jan. 10 and was given a notice to appear in court for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, has agreed to deferred prosecution with the State Attorney’s Office, according to Florida Today. As a result of the agreement, Orr will pay $50 in court costs and either an additional $150 fine or perform 12.5 hours of community service. Orr was the fifth player to be charged with possession of marijuana since head coach Will Muschamp took over in Jan. 2011. “At the end of the day a mistake was made, and I’ve learned from it,” he tweeted on Jan. 19. Orr played in all 13 games in 2011, registering 10 tackles, a sack and a pass defense.

3 » There is not much to talk about in regards to Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford now that he is out at least until the end of April with a torn labrum. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped an interesting note about Horford in his Friday column, explaining that he is “a likely down-the-road top contender to succeed” Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Derek Fisher as president of the players’ union two years from now when the latter’s contract expires. Known for his personable yet serious character, Horford is already heavily involved with the league serving as one of the NBA’s biggest international ambassadors. A shift into a role like this would seem natural to many who know him, and Horford himself even tweeted “Maybe…” when a fan asked if he was up for the gig on Jan. 22.

4 » Media shy New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes got on the phone with WEEI radio in Boston, MA following his team’s victory in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Spikes told the hosts that the win was “a dream come true, a childhood dream” and he was “just trying to take it all in right now and enjoy it tonight with my teammates and family.” Missing the majority of the season with a knee injury, Spikes was proud that his late-game interception was able to impact the team. “I don’t want to let nobody down. I want to take my responsibilities and just make a play, and I’ve done that,” he said. There are plenty of Spikes fans in the Patriots organization including owner Robert Kraft, who took the phone and discussed Spikes during the segment (which can be heard in full here). “Do you know how lucky we are to have Brandon Spikes on the team? He’s the man; he’s the man. He told me we were going to win that game and when he made that interception that was so cool,” Kraft beamed. “He told me he was going to do it for Myra [Kraft’s deceased wife]. […] I love having this man on our team.”

5 » Donovan has been quite pleased with guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal all year long, even as the youngster was going through a tough slump toward the end of the non-conference slate. In regards to Boynton, Donovan has seen the notiable improvement in his shot and knows that it will continue to progress and not regress as the season goes on. He’s also pleased that Boynton is driving to the basket, taking pull-up jumpers and getting to the free throw line on a more consistent basis. With Beal, Donovan is happy to see that he has continued his quick maturing process. “When you’re a talented offensive player and when you’re on the court, a lot of times your scoring has a direct [correlation on] the outcome of the game when you’re in high school and your team needs you to score,” he explained. “Sometimes your identity gets wrapped up in scoring. He’s starting to figure out right now that there’s so much more he can do.”

6 » The University of Florida and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Monday that outfielder Kelsey Bruder (softball) and catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named the 2011 Ben Hill Griffin Award winners. The honor, which is given to “the top male and female student-athletes…is based primarily on athletic achievement” but academics and extra-curricular activities are also considered. Bruder and Zunino were each named SEC Player of the Year in 2011 and led their teams to the 2011 NCAA College World Series in their respective sports. It was the first time in school history that Florida had SEC Players of the Year in softball and baseball simultaneously.

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Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2011 (check out Friday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 On the Field Moments of the Year.

11 » JOHNSON, BRANTLEY, KITCHENS SUFFER SCARY INJURIES
Plenty of Florida student-athletes suffered injuries in 2011 but three in particular caused fans to gasp and remain worried about the future of said player. Participating in the semifinals of the 2011 SEC Tournament, Gators baseball wound up dropping a close game 4-3 to Georgia, a loss that forced an elimination game which Florida would later win. However, UF sophomore right-handed pitcher Brian Johnson was taken off a stretcher in the top of the first inning after giving up two earned runs and accidentally being beaned in the back of the head with the baseball by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino. Trying to pick off a runner stealing second, Zunino got his leg tangled with the batter, tripped and flung the ball into the head of a crouching Johnson. He was quickly stabilized, brought to the hospital and deemed responsive though he had a massive headache and was diagnosed with a minor three concussion (no skull fractures or bleeding). Johnson missed the entire Gainesville Regional but returned to action in the Super Regional after being sidelined for more than two weeks.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was in the middle of playing the best game of his collegiate career (despite throwing a costly pick-six) when he went down with an ugly lower leg injury at the end of the first half against Alabama. Brantley had thrown a pretty 65-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose on the first play of the game and was in the middle of driving Florida in for another score before being sacked twice and having his lower leg contorted the second time. Brantley was nearly immediately ruled out of the team’s next game against powerhouse LSU with a high-ankle sprain, and UF was forced to start a true freshman who had not even taken a snap in the team’s first five games in consecutive road contests against LSU and Auburn. Needless to say, the Gators lost both of those contests.

Brantley was never the same after the injury. He nearly helped Florida beat Georgia but was pretty much immobilized in the pocket and threw three interceptions in the team’s first five possessions against Florida State before being knocked out of the game with a head injury that was equally painful to watch. However, that was not the Gators’ only major injury in that game. Perhaps the scariest incident of the year came on kickoff coverage when sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens was hit hard from his blindside and laid motionless on the field while trainers attended to him. To this day Kitchens does not remember anything about being hit. Lucky for him, he was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, released from the hospital and allowed to return to practice with the team just before Christmas. He is expected to play in the 2012 Gator Bowl.

10 » LACROSSE WINS FIRST CONFERENCE TITLE, REACHES ELITE EIGHT

The Florida lacrosse program has been making history since the day it signed the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class prior to the team’s inaugural season in 2010. The Gators were a young but talented group and won over the school even if falling short of some of their goals one year ago. Florida took the next step in 2011, ending the regular season with an 11-0 record at home and on a 13-game winning streak. The Gators capped their stellar regular season by defeating Northwestern for the 2011 ALC Championship just 419 days after the team played its first game in school history. Florida would fall to Northwestern just over three weeks later in the finals of the 2011 ALC Tournament, splitting the season’s conference title down the middle, but took home a number of awards from the league. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen won Player of the Year honors while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year in just her second season. Two more players were All-ALC first team selections and three others earned spots on the second team. The ladies made it all the way to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament as well before being taken down 13-9 by Duke, their only loss at home on the season. The Gators were the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only their second year of existence and defeated some of the top teams in the country on the way to an unforgettable season that sets Florida up as a favorite heading into 2012.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Bruder, Pouncey, Tebow, Herren

1 » The NCAA announced Tuesday that former Florida Gators outfielder Kelsey Bruder will be honored with the NCAA Top VIII Award, a distinction that recognizes student-athletes for “their success on the fields and courts, in the classroom and in the community.” Bruder and the other recipients will be recognized on Jan. 13 during the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, IN. Below is the NCAA’s write-up on Bruder:

Kelsey Bruder helped lead the Gators to four consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances, including two appearances in the national championship series. She was named to the 2011 Women’s College World Series all-tournament team and set a Women’s College World Series record for runs scored. Bruder, who received the 2011 Honda Award for softball, was also the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a two-time All-American. In 2011, Bruder led the SEC in runs, doubles, slugging percentage, hits and RBI, and she was tied for first in home runs. In all, she set eight SEC records. Bruder completed her collegiate career with 15 school single-season records and nine single-game marks. Bruder was a 2011 Capital One Academic All-America honoree and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times. She participated in Shands Hospital visits, fundraising events and volunteered at an after school program. After her successful 2011 season, Bruder was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch Senior Draft to the USSSA Florida Pride.

2 » Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey injured his neck on Sunday against the New York Giants and was forced to sit out the second half because he felt tingling up and down his body and tests had to be done on the injury before he could return to play. Pouncey underwent a MRI on Monday and it was found that no significant damage occurred, the Sun-Sentinel reports. That being said, Pouncey may still miss next Sunday’s game depending how he feels and how much he is able to do practice-wise this week. Pouncey has been a rookie starter at center in every game his team has played.

3 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow turned in the worst performance of his NFL career on Sunday, completing 18-of-39 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers (both returned for touchdowns) as his team fell 45-10 to the Detroit Lions. Though it was only Tebow’s second start of the season and fifth of his career (he is now 2-3 with two come-from-behind victories), he has been panned by the media and former players over the last 48 hours. Head coach John Fox said Monday that Tebow will once again start this Sunday but did not provide an endorsement going forward after that game. Perhaps the team running plays better suited to Tebow’s style would allow both him and the Broncos to perform better on the field.

4 » Former NBA point guard Chris Herren will be featured Tuesday in the ESPN Films documentary “Unguarded,” but the Florida basketball team already knows his story. Herren spoke to the Gators basketball team in August about his life’s journey and his problems with addiction, as OGGOA noted on Twitter two months ago. The Gainesville Sun reported Monday that Herren also personally mentored Florida junior forward Erik Murphy over the summer at the request of the player’s father. Murphy, who was arrested in April for allegedly trying to break into a car, was indefinitely suspended from the team at the time but doing his best to settle his legal battle and earn his spot on the roster back. “I told Erik, if that’s the worst mistake that he makes than he’s lived a pretty good life,” Herren told the Sun. “If he can turn this mistake around and use it for a positive, and I think Erik will, he will be great. Erik, I care about as a person more than a basketball player and I think he will handle this and learn from it.

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NCAA wags finger at Florida Gators softball

The NCAA on Friday publicly reprimanded Florida Gators softball head coach Tim Walton and former outfielder Kelsey Bruder for voicing their displeasure about the officiating following the first game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series Championship Series against the Arizona State Sun Devils.

The NCAA said Walton and Bruder violated the organization’s sportsmanship policy on June 6 when the coach and player criticized home plate umpire Chris Drumm for being inconsistent on balls and strikes during Florida’s at bats and failing to correctly call a hit by pitch in the first inning of the series’ first game.

UF had their eyes on Drumm the whole game because they felt she had made similar inconsistent and questionable calls in the Gators’ second-round contest against the Sun Devils three days earlier. Arizona State won that game 6-5, sending Florida into the elimination round where they had to win three-straight games just to qualify for the championship series. UF won those games by a combined score of 30-6.

The Sun Devils swept the Gators in consecutive games (14-4, 7-2) to win the title.

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UF’s Kelsey Bruder wins Honda Sports Award

Florida Gators senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder was named the 2011 Honda Sports Award winner for softball on Tuesday, an honor which recognizes her as the nation’s top collegiate athlete in the sport. She earned the achievement after a national balloting of the 1,000 NCAA member institutions was conducted by the organization.

“Winning the Honda Award is such an incredible honor. To be recognized as the best player in college softball seems absolutely surreal and I could not be more grateful to be among both the past and present Honda Sports Award nominees and recipients,” Bruder said in an official release from the University of Florida. “Receiving this award would not have been possible without every single one of my teammates. The dedication of our players is extremely admirable and has motivated me to create an even better work ethic. I am so blessed to have played with these tremendous athletes. I’m confident we will continue to build upon the tradition of success associated with the University of Florida.”

Bruder, who finished her final season in the Orange and Blue batting .387 with 19 homers, 71 RBI, 79 runs and 48 walks, is now in contention for the Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year Award and Honda-Broderick Cup (presented to The Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year).

She also captured 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors in May after leading the SEC in seven categories (home runs, RBI, hits, runs, doubles, total bases, slugging percentage) and was named to the 2011 Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team.

With the award, the two-time All-American earned a $5,000 donation from Honda to the general women’s athletic program at UF.

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