FOUR BITS: Jenkins, MLB, basketball, CWS

1 » Former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was kicked off the team by head coach Will Muschamp following multiple brushes with the law, has officially signed a scholarship with the North Alabama Lions, where he will play under head coach Terry Bowden. “I talked to everybody that I could possibly talk to at Florida, who had a relationship with him,” Bowden told ESPN.com. “From Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp to Jeremy Foley, they all said he is a guy who made a mistake. But it does not represent his character or his time at Florida. They all thought he deserved a second chance.” North Alabama actually represents Jenkins’s fourth chance.

2 » A pair of former Florida baseball players are in the process of being removed from the disabled list by their respective MLB teams. Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis (hamstring) came off the 15-day list Wednesday and will continue to serve as a utility player with the squad. Texas Rangers relief pitcher Darren O’Day (hip) has been out much longer after having surgery in late April. He was placed on the 60-day list and will likely rejoin Texas on Tuesday.

3 » With the NCAA recently coming down hard on the Kentucky Wildcats for celebrating head coach John Calipari’s “500th” victory, the Gators have decided to adjust their men’s basketball record books due to sanctions levied against the team for the actions of former head coach Norm Sloan. “According to the NCAA infractions report, Sloan paid child support to keep one of his players out of jail and paid transportation from Gainesville to Boston to allow one of his players to work as a counselor at a summer basketball basketball camp,” The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway explains. The player in question is presumed to be Vernon Maxwell, who has his final two seasons with the team erased from the media guide. Florida has placed asterisks next to NCAA Tournament games and adjusted their books .

4 » Already 4-1 against the No. 6-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores this season (2-1 on the road, 2-0 at neutral sites), No. 2 Gators baseball will once again take on their Southeastern Conference East division rivals in the semifinals of the 2011 College World Series on Friday at 2 p.m. Florida (52-17) is one win away from advancing to the Championship Series, while Vanderbilt (54-11) would need to defeat UF twice in order to move forward. OGGOA will have complete coverage of the upcoming CWS game, including a full preview, throughout the day on Friday.

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FOUR BITS: Whitson, Calipari, Pittman, Schintzius

1 » The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday announced that Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson has been named a first-team Freshman All-American. One of 16 standouts to earn the distinction, Whitson is also in line for the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year award, which will be announced Tuesday. With an 8-0 record, 2.45 ERA and 83 strikeouts on the season, he the only player on the first team representing the Southeastern Conference.

2 » Remember when the Kentucky Wildcats and head basketball coach John Calipari defeated Florida in Lexington, KY and the school held a mini 500th victory celebration? Well, according to the NCAA, that should never have happened, and the organization is now taking steps to ensure that Kentucky does what they can to make that information public. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader

Earlier this month, the chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions sent University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. a letter asking the school to publicly acknowledge it was wrong to recognize John Calipari’s 500th coaching victory this past season. Chairman Dennis E. Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, also told Todd that the wording of UK’s statement “must be approved by the office of the Committee on Infractions prior to its release.”

Because the NCAA forced Massachusetts and Memphis to vacate a total of 42 victories achieved under Calipari due to a variety of transgressions, the governing body insists that his victory total was only 458 on that day and now stands at 467 for his career. For more on the matter, click here.

3 » Speaking with The Gainesville Sun after a recent visit to Gainesville, FL for a football camp, Gators four-star 2012 wide receiver commit LaTroy Pittman (Citra, FL) discussed his experience. “It felt great just getting out there, getting a feel for Coach [Aubrey] Hill, how he coaches and how he sees me,” he said. “As far as hands-on and doing drills, that was the first time I really got to see how he would coach me.” Pittman, Florida’s first commit of the 2012 cycle, plans to return for Friday Night Lights.

4 » Surviving a serious leukemia scare last year, former Gators C Dwayne Schintzius made his first major public appearance during a Florida basketball game on Feb. 24 and was in great spirits. Last week he attended a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission with the belief that he would be supporting his father, Ken, who was going to be handed an award from the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s alumni association. Schintzius was instead surprised to learn that he was being honored with a special award for courage. “He wouldn’t have wanted to come to the dinner but after I told him the award was for me, he said he’d come,” Ken told Joe Henderson of The Tampa Tribune. “It worked. We got him. We played it right to the hilt.” Though he has been praised extensively for his strength in fighting his disease, Schintzius wanted the praise to go where it belongs. “People are giving me an award, I guess, for fighting for my life,” he said. “I don’t deserve the award. The people at Moffitt [Cancer Center] are the ones who are the true heroes. They saved my life.” Click here to read more about Schintzius’s battle and the events of the night.

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Men’s basketball says SEC-ya to divisions

Southeastern Conference men’s basketball coaches recommended to athletic directors and university presidents on Wednesday at the 2011 SEC Spring Meetings that the conference scrap the current East-West division model for their sport and institute a 12-team, single-league format going forward. Wednesday evening the athletic directors agreed, and the changes will take place beginning in the 2011-12 season.

“It’s done,” Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley told ESPN’s Andy Katz after the meetings concluded for the day. “The presidents don’t have to sign off on this. This is an AD decision. We will be one league effective next year.”

Under the new alignment, the SEC Tournament will be seeded 1-12 based on conference record. No longer will the top two teams in each division (regardless of record) receive byes; the advantage will instead be given to the four best teams overall.

The SEC also plans to adjust the schedule, though it is unknown exactly what changes will be made. There are options for 16-game (currently used), 18-game and 22-game conference schedules on the table that will be discussed at a later date.

SEC teams currently take on opponents in their own division twice (home/away) and teams in the other division once (site determined by rotation). An 18-game schedule would have teams facing their traditional division rivals twice, two “other division” teams twice and four “other division” teams once, while a 22-game schedule would allow every team to square off twice during the regular season.

Because the schedule for the 2011-12 season is already set, no changes will be made until 2012-13 at the earliest. Tournament seedings will be handled by the new rules.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari said Tuesday that one of the main goals in making these adjustments is to help more SEC teams earn NCAA Tournament berths going forward. The conference believes that the new alignment will help it appear stronger as a whole nationally; no longer will there be one dominant division that makes the other look inferior by comparison.

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Gators baseball rebounds to rout Wildcats 19-3, captures share of SEC regular season title

One day after blowing an opportunity to control sole possession of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (41-15, 22-8 SEC) earned a share of the league title by toppling the Kentucky Wildcats (25-30, 8-22 SEC) 19-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday afternoon.

Alone atop the SEC standings on Friday, Florida allowed Kentucky to score early and often, eventually falling 14-1. No. 2 South Carolina and No. 3 Vanderbilt, both of which lost their series openers on Thursday, claimed victories Friday to reestablish a three-way tie for first-place in the conference. Both teams also won Saturday, giving the SEC a set of tri-champions for the 2011 regular season.

The Gators’ victory Saturday marked just the second time in program history that Florida has won back-to-back conference titles (1981-82). The program now has 12 overall league titles and three-consecutive East Division championships.

The Wildcats scored first Saturday, plating a run with three consecutive hits in the first inning. The Gators responded in the bottom of the second as their lead-off batter, sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson, connected for a homer on a 1-2 count to tie the game. Florida jumped ahead for good in the third, rallying for a pair of runs to take a 3-1 lead. Senior second baseman Josh Adams scored sophomore catcher Mike Zunino via a ground out, and Johnson followed by knocking home junior right fielder Preston Tucker with a single up the middle.

With freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (7-0) holding Kentucky to its single run, the Gators exploded with seven scores in the bottom of the fourth. Men were on second and third with one out when Zunino singled to right to score the first run of the inning. Tucker followed with an RBI single to left, and Adams doubled down the left field line to score another baseman. Johnson’s (3-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) two-RBI single to center brought Adams and Tucker home, and a two-run homer by sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox cleared the bases for Florida, which ended up leaving two on base before Kentucky could get out of the inning.

The Gators kept the pressure on in the fifth as Zunino opened the inning with a double to left; he scored two batters later when Adams singled to left. A wild pitch advanced Adams to second and Tucker to third, respectively, sending Maddox up to the plate to connect on a three-run homer, his second deep shot of the afternoon.

Whitson (5.0 IP, ER, 7 H, 4 K) was pulled for junior RHP Tommy Toledo to start the sixth. Florida ensured his victory would be realized by adding another pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Zunino (4-4, RBI, 4 R, BB) singled with two outs to get on base, Tucker (5-6, 2 RBI, 5 R) doubled him home, and Adams (3-6, 4 RBI, 2 R) made sure Tucker crossed the plate with a single to center during his at bat.

The Gators added three more in the eighth; Maddox’s (3-6, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R) ground out RBI scored freshman pinch runner Keenan Kish, junior pinch hitter Tyler Thompson’s two-out single to left scored Tucker, and redshirt sophomore pinch hitter Vickash Ramjit’s subsequent single scored junior pinch hitter Ben McMahan.

Florida, which allowed Kentucky to score two runs of errors in the top of the ninth before ending the game, also earned the No. 3 seed in the 2011 SEC Tournament with their victory. The Gators combined for 25 hits on the afternoon, their most against any opponent this season. Florida will face No. 6-seed Mississippi State in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday in the second match-up at their site.

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Gators tennis in the 2011 NCAA Tournament: Women advance to Elite Eight, men eliminated

The Florida Gators tennis program faced split results at the Taube Tennis Center Stanford, CA. The No. 2 women’s team advanced to the Elite Eight round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, while the No. 8 men were eliminated during Sweet 16 competition.

The Florida women (28-1) lasted through a nail-biter against the No. 15 Clemson Tigers (20-11), defeating them 4-1 with a number of singles matches close until the end.

The Gators started the afternoon by winning the doubles point. The No. 45 pairing of sophomore Lauren Embree and freshman Sofie Oyen earned an 8-3 victory to start Florida off, and the No. 2 duo of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Alex Cercone took down the No. 6 team of Josipa Bek and Keri Wong 8-6 to clinch the point.

Singles action was even tighter. Clemson took the first point as Oyen was beaten 6-3, 6-3, but UF closed the match out with three-straight victories. No. 17 Embree defeated No. 48 Wong (4-6, 6-1, 6-4), and No. 42 junior Joanna Mather fought back to beat No. 114 Nelly Ciolkowski (0-6, 6-4, 6-3). With the match in her hands, No. 54 Cercone won the hardest fought match, capturing a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory to clinch the win.

The Gators have now won 18-straight matches and are set to face Miami (FL) in Elite Eight action on Sunday, May 22 at 3 p.m.

The Florida men (20-9) were not as fortunate on Thursday, falling 4-2 to the Kentucky Wildcats in the round of 16. Kentucky captured the doubles point to start the match and was led by the No. 19 duo of Brad Cox and Eric Quigley, which defeated UF’s No. 17 pairing of senior Alexandre Lacroix and sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. 8-5.

The Wildcats also took the first singles point as No. 90 Alberto Gonzalez beat No. 118 sophomore Bob van Overbeek 6-1, 6-2, but the Gators responded with No. 7 Lacroix topping No. 6 Quigley 6-2, 6-4. No. 40 Bangoura, Jr. took down Cox 6-4, 62 to tie the match 2-2, but Kentucky won the final two match-ups to prevail.

Though the men’s team is no longer in competition, Lacroix and Bangoura will compete in the 2011 NCAA Individual Championships with singles action beginning Wed., May 25 and doubles action starting Thurs., May 26.

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Zunino’s heroics lift Gators over Wildcats 9-6; Florida takes hold of first place in SEC

Two home runs by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino, including a three-run game-winning shot in the sixth inning, powered No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (40-13, 21-7 SEC) over the Kentucky Wildcats (24-29, 7-21 SEC) 9-6 Thursday, giving the team sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference standings.

Zunino (3-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, BB) has now connected on five home runs in the last three games and boasts a team-high 15 dingers on the season.

After a scoreless first frame at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, Florida’s offense got going in the bottom of the second inning on three consecutive RBI including singles from redshirt sophomore designated hitter Vickash Ramjit (1-3, RBI, 2 R) and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-3, RBI, 2 R) and a sacrifice fly by sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-3, 2 RBI).

Kentucky did not waste much time eliminating their deficit, scoring four runs off of sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson in the top of the third to jump ahead 4-3. With the bases loaded and no men out, left fielder Chad Wright tripled to right field. A single by the next batter, third baseman Thomas McCarthy, brought Wright home to give the Wildcats the advantage.

The Gators responded immediately as Zunino took the first pitch in the bottom of the inning over the wall in left center to tie the game 4-4.

McCarthy tripled down the left field line to start the sixth and scored on a sacrifice fly on the next play to put Kentucky ahead 5-4. Zunino answered for Florida by smacking his second homer on a full count in the bottom of the inning to give the Gators a 7-5 lead.

With Johnson (8-3) out of the game after giving up four earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts in six innings, junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson took over in the seventh and allowed an unearned run after two errors helped SS Taylor Black to reach base and advance to second; he was singled home by McCarthy.

Only up one run, Florida put the game away in the bottom of the eighth, rallying for two more scores off RBI singles from Fontana and Zunino.

Sophomore RHP Austin Maddox came on to toss a hitless ninth, sending the Gators to victory with his third save on the year.

Florida’s 40th win of the season, combined with series-opening losses by No. 2 South Carolina (which fell 2-1 to Alabama) and No. 3 Vanderbilt (which dropped a 5-4 contest to Georgia), puts them a game ahead of their SEC East rivals. All three teams were previously tied with a 20-7 conference record. A victory Friday would clinch at least a share of the 2011 SEC regular season title for the Gators.

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Gators tennis wins two SEC titles on Sunday

Easter Sunday was a day of celebration for the Florida Gators tennis program as both the men’s and women’s teams won a 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship after fighting their way through their respective tournaments.

The No. 17 and five-seed men’s team (18-8) defeated the No. 11 and three-seed Kentucky Wildcats (26-8) 4-0 in the tournament final at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The victory is Florida’s fourth men’s tournament victory (1994, 2000, 2005) in seven opportunities.

Senior Alexandre Lacroix, junior Nassim Slilam, sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr., sophomore Bob van Overbeek, sophomore Billy Federhofer and freshman Andrew Butz all saw victories on Sunday. The duos of Slilam/Federhofer and van Overbeek/Butz both won their matches; van Overbeek, No. 44 Bangoura and No. 93 Slilam also captured singles victories. No. 8 Lacroix came out of the tournament with Most Valuable Player honors and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Slilam.

The No. 2 and one-seed women’s team (25-1) won its 17th SEC Tournament title in the 24-years it has existed, defeating the No. 14 and two-seed Tennessee Volunteers (17-4) 4-0 at Barksdale Stadium in Knoxville, TN.

Sophomore Allie Will, junior Joanna Mather, freshmen Alex Cercone and freshman Olivia Janowicz collected victories to fuel the Gators’ shutout. The duos of No. 9 Will/Cercone and Mather/Janowicz won their matches; No. 6 Will, No. 50 Janowicz and No. 51 Cercone were also victorious in singles competition.

Will was named the MVP and, along with Janowicz, picked for the All-Tournament Team.

The victories Sunday mark the 11th and 12th conference titles won by the University of Florida in 2010-11. It is the third time in school history that both programs won the SEC Tournament in the same season (2000, 2005).

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Donovan adds Pelphrey, Roberts to Gators staff

A familiar face and an old friend will be joining Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan in Gainesville, FL next season. On Tuesday, the University of Florida announced that a pair of former head coaches – John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts – have been hired as assistants for the basketball team.

“Having John back will be a great addition to our program,’’ Donovan said in a school release. “Obviously, he has a level of familiarity with me and with the University of Florida makes this a great fit. John’s a great coach, he’s a great friend and has a love for Florida, and we’re excited to bring him back. Being from New York, I’ve known Norm for a long [time]. He’s an outstanding coach, he’s a great recruiter, has high character and integrity and I’m thrilled to have him on our staff here at Florida.”

An assistant at Florida for six seasons (1996-2002), Pelphrey will be reunited with his close friend and mentor. He played under Donovan (an assistant at the time) and head coach Rick Pitino with the Kentucky Wildcats and served as an assistant on Donovan’s first coaching staff for two seasons with the Marshall Thundering Herd (1994-96). He joined Donovan when he was hired by UF, helping lead the Gators to four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Pelphrey left in 2002 for a head coaching gig with the South Alabama Jaguars, where he led the team for five seasons. He won the Sun Belt Championship, was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year and brought his squad to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006. USA would end up falling to Florida in the first round.

Noticing his success at a smaller school, Arkansas hired him to lead their program in 2007. Pelphrey brought the Razorbacks their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1999 in his first season but failed to replicate his success over the following three. He was fired by Arkansas on March 13 even though he had a top-tier recruiting class on its way in.

Roberts, who does not have any direct coaching connection to Donovan, is – like his new boss – a native New Yorker. He most recently served as head coach of the St. John’s Red Storm from 2004-10 but was fired on March 19, 2010, after leading the team to an unimpressive 81-101 record in six seasons.

Donovan is in the middle of reshaping his coaching staff as he has now lost all three of his 2010-11 assistants in one offseason. Long-time cohort Larry Shyatt accepted the top job at Wyoming, assistant Rob Lanier is returning to coach at Texas, and assistant Richard Pitino will join his father’s staff at Louisville.

OGGOA learned on April 3 that Florida Atlantic assistant Matt McCall is a top candidate to fill a role on Donovan’s revamped coaching staff. Another option is former Florida player Brett Nelson, who coached under Pelphrey at Arkansas last season.

Photo Credit: Unknown, Chris Trotman/Getty Images

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