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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Takeaways: Pitching, freshmen keep Florida Gators baseball steady through SEC opener

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

Over the last two weeks, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (18-3, 2-1 SEC) split a home-and-home series, cleaned up at home against two non-conference opponents and won its first Southeastern Conference series of the season.

Florida came up short in its first major road test of the season, falling 4-3 to the No. 14 UCF Knights in Orlando on March 4, though the Gators regrouped and won the rematch 10-2 in Gainesville the following evening. Florida then went on to sweep the Maine Black Bears in its final non-conference weekend series (5-0, 6-1, 5-3) and avoided any midweek letdown with a pair of wins against the Fairfield Stags (8-7, 6-1).

The Tennessee Volunteers dominated Florida for eight innings in the Gators’ SEC home opener and eventually claimed a 6-3 win, but UF captured the series with a 8-3 victory on Saturday and 9-4 rubber-match win on Sunday.

Here are five takeaways from the last two weeks:

1. Lefty longmen provide a big boost: Much has been said of the Gators’ strong weekend rotation, but Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has made great use of the versatility offered by his southpaws including senior Bobby Poyner (0-1, 3.13) and junior Danny Young (1-0, 0.63). On Saturday against Tennessee, Poyner (4.0 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 K) relieved sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K) in the sixth and stayed on for the remaining four frames to collect his second save of the season. Young (5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, ER, BB, 7 K) notched a career-high seven strikeouts in five dominant innings of long relief to earn the win in UF’s win over UT on Sunday. Poyner and Young’s ability to go the distance at any time in a game should help O’Sullivan keep his bullpen arms fresh this season.

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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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Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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Florida Gators baseball (4-0) opens 2015 with dominant hitting, solid pitching

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (4-0) has used power hitting and strong, consistent pitching to open the 2015 campaign with a bang, sweeping the Rhode Island Rams by a combined score of 37-5 over the weekend and earning a dominant 13-3 victory over the USF Bulls on Wednesday.

Florida’s opening-weekend sweep and four-game season-opening winning streak are firsts for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan since 2011.

The season began for Florida with a 9-1 win Friday night. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 K), the 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year, picked up where he left off by tossing five scoreless innings and collecting the win. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader (2/4, HR, 3 RBI, R) led the way with a two-run homer and RBI single, and freshman catcher Mike Rivera (0/2, RBI, R) drove in a run and crossed the plate in his first collegiate game.

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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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Florida upset in Gainesville Regional opener

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

After waiting more than three hours for the first pitch on Friday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, Florida Gators baseball saw the game’s deciding run cross the plate before the first out was even recorded.

The No. 2 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional, the Gators (40-22) dropped their first game of the event, falling 3-2 to the regional No. 4 seed College of Charleston Cougars (42-17).

A 195-minute weather delay forced the proceedings to begin late, but Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan nevertheless stuck with his ace, freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore, as the team’s starter.

College of Charleston rallied to push three runs across the plate before Shore retired his first batter. In total, he coughed up seven hits in the opening frame, and the three-run advantage he spotted the Cougars proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.

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FOUR BITS: CBS, SEC awards, Caldwell, Wilbekin

1 » CBS on Tuesday announced its 14-week schedule of 16 Southeastern Conference football games for the 2014 season. The annual showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, Florida, will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and air on the network for the 12th straight season, taking place this year on Nov. 1. It was one of four games announced; the other 12 will be slated as they approach, usually six-to-12 days prior to broadcast. The SEC on CBS will once again feature two doubleheaders, on Oct. 11 (noon and 3:30 p.m.) and Nov. 8 (3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.).

Florida’s potential CBS games – featuring quality opponents and open dates on the schedule – include at Alabama (Sept. 20), at Tennessee (Oct. 4), vs. LSU (Oct. 11), vs. Missouri (Oct. 18) and South Carolina (Nov. 15).

2 » The SEC made news of its own on Tuesday by announcing year-end winners for its 2014 baseball awards. Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan was named SEC Coach of the Year for the second time (2010), and right-handed pitcher Logan Shore earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors. Shore is 7-2 with a team-low 1.47 ERA and 52 strikeouts in a team-high 79.2 innings pitched. Also receiving accolades were junior catcher Taylor Gushue, who joined Shore on the All-SEC First Team, sophomore outfielder Harrison Bader on the All-SEC Second Team, and first baseman Peter Alonso on the All-Freshman team with Shore.

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