Castro powers Florida over Tennessee, into finals

An extra-inning solo home run by freshman pinch hitter Bailey Castro on Friday launched No. 7 Florida Gators softball into the finals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Florida (46-10) used Castro’s tie-breaking bomb to take their first and only lead in a 2-1 victory over the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (46-10) during semifinal action.

Tennessee jumped ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first as a fielding error by freshman second baseman Katie Medina (0/2) allowed the Volunteers to plate the first run. The Gators utilized a two-out rally to tie the contest in the third as freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (4/4, R, SB) singled, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored when sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/3, RBI, BB) singled up the middle.

Florida junior right-hander Hannah Rogers (27-6) pitched a gem after allowing an unearned run in her first frame, ending her outing by giving up just four hits and two walks while striking out four in 7.0 innings. After Castro (1/1, HR, RBI, R) knocked her ball out of the park to left center on a 3-2 count, freshman RHP Lauren Haeger came on to close things out and retired Tennessee in order for her second save of the season.

Two-seed UF will face either one-seed Alabama or four-seed Georgia for the SEC Championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will air live nationally on ESPN.

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Haeger leads Florida over LSU in SEC Tournament

In the first postseason start of her young career, freshman Lauren Haeger pitched a gem for No. 7 Florida Gators softball, which used a late run to take down the LSU Tigers 1-0 in the first game of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Haeger allowed two hits while striking out eight in her complete game outing for Florida (45-10) with her only flaw being the five walks she scattered over seven innings. She was not alone in allowing free passes on Thursday as LSU (34-22) starter Brittany Mack was also generous, giving up three walks and hit four batters in her five innings.

The pitchers’ duel between Haeger and Mack lasted 4.5 innings. Mack was nursing a no-hitter until the bottom of the fifth when she walked freshman designated hitter Bailey Castro (0/2, BB) and gave up her first hit of the game three batters later to freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (1/3, RBI, SB). Fagan’s RBI single scored freshman Brianna Little (who pinch ran for Castro) from second for the only run of the game.

The Gatos advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals where they will face either two-seed Tennessee or seven-seed Auburn on Friday at 2 p.m. live on ESPNU. Three-seed Florida must win that game to compete Saturday in the SEC Tournament final for the first time since winning the event in 2009.

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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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Florida softball drops weekend series to Alabama

No. 7 Florida Gators softball failed in their opportunity to capture a regular season title on Sunday, losing two of three games to the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide over the weekend and finishing third in the Southeastern Conference.

Florida (44-10, 21-7 SEC) opened the three-game series with a 4-1 win over Alabama (46-6, 22-5 SEC) on Friday but was routed Saturday in a 9-1 loss and defeated 5-3 on Sunday as the Crimson Tide took firm grasp of the 2012 SEC regular season championship. The Gators had to win two of three games in order to bring the title back home to Gainesville, FL.

Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers pitched a gem in the opening game, allowing one earned on three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in a complete game effort. However, she struggled mightily on Saturday (2.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) and was even less effective on Sunday (0.0 IP, 3 H, 4 ER) as she fell to 26-6 on the season with a victory and two losses.

Freshman designated hitter Lauren Haeger was Florida’s only consistently productive batter in the three-game series, finishing 4/8 with a homer, four RBIs, a run and a walk. She also filled in for Rogers after she was pulled without recording an out on Sunday; Haeger allowed five hits and gave up an earned run while striking out six in 6.0 innings.

The Gators also celebrated Senior Day over the weekend, honoring center fielder Michelle Moultrie for her contributions to the team over the last four seasons. She finished the series 2/8 with a RBI, two runs and a walk.

UF will now set their sights on competing for the 2012 SEC Tournament title. Florida, the No. 3 seed in the event, will take on No. 6 seed LSU in first-round action on May 10 at 12 p.m. on ESPNU. The Gators would have to win three games over three days to bring home the tournament championship for the first time since 2009.

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Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators baseball (33-12, 12-9 SEC) continued to falter over the weekend, dropping two of three games to the Arkansas Razorbacks (31-13, 11-10 SEC). Florida has now lost 10 of their last 20 games (including one each to North Florida and South Florida) while also struggling to put forth consistent performances at the plate and on the mound. For instance, the Gators scored just five runs in 27 innings over the weekend. Florida picked up a 3-2 victory on Friday before falling 5-1 on Saturday and 3-1 in 10 innings on Sunday. The Gators were supposed to get a reprieve with a nine-game homestand but instead went just 5-4 over that span of games. Florida will have three full days off before travelling to Kentucky for a three-game series on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. UF fell to No. 5 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 and No. 7 in the Baseball America rankings on Monday.

» Gators softball (43-8, 20-5 SEC), also ranked No. 2 heading into the weekend, dropped their final home series of the regular season to the Kentucky Wildcats (26-27, 12-13 SEC) over the weekend. Florida fell 2-0 in the series opener (their second-straight shutout and fourth of the season) before picking up a 5-0 win on Senior Day Saturday and dropping the rubber match 5-1 on Sunday. Freshman right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger picked up a win on Saturday and a loss on Sunday to bring her to 13-4 on the season while sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (25-4) added a loss Friday despite pitching quite well over the weekend. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) began her Senior Day with a big-time solo homer in her first at bat on Saturday, giving her another nice memory for her career. UF will conclude the regular season with a three-game road series at Alabama over the weekend.

» Florida five-star 2013 point guard commit Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) threw down a strong dunk over the weekend and followed it up with a Gator Chomp while staring straight into the camera. Think he’s ready for the big time?

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

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TWO BITS: baseball falls again, softball splits

1 » Falling to 8-8 in their last 16 games dating back to March 30, No. 2/5 Florida Gators baseball (31-10) was edged 5-3 by the South Florida Bulls (28-14) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday. Florida fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second after a fielding error by sophomore third baseman Cody Dent allowed the inning to continue and two runs to eventually score. Freshman right-hander Johnny Magliozzi (4.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 K) was replaced by sophomore left-hander Daniel Gibson in the fifth but things did not get any better for the Gators on the mound. Gibson gave up solo homer in the sixth, but Florida immediately answered with a pair of dingers from juniors shortstop Nolan Fontana (2/5, HR, RBI, R) and catcher Mike Zunino (2/5, HR, 2 RBI, R) to tie the game 3-3. However, Gibson (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB) allowed a lead-off walk in the seventh that eventually scored and registered as the game-winning run. USF added another bomb in the top of the eighth to increase their lead to two runs and UF faltered late offensively by stranding six runners on base over the final three innings (Zunino grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth).

2 » No. 2/4 Gators softball (42-6, 19-3 SEC) split a Tuesday doubleheader with the LSU Tigers (33-16, 14-8 SEC), winning the afternoon contest 2-1 in eight innings before dropping the evening game 1-0. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (25-3, 8.0 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K) went the distance in the extra innings affair that saw Florida fight tooth and nail for a victory. The Gators trailed 1-0 after Rogers allowed a run to score in the top of the seventh but evened things out in the bottom frame when junior right fielder Ensley Gammel (1/3, HR, RBI, R) homered to right. Rogers then forced three ground balls in the eighth with her defense completing a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning and give the offense another shot. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2/4, RBI) responded to the opportunity, doubling down the left field line to knock in the game-winning run. The latter contest was a true pitchers’ duel with freshman RHP Lauren Haeger (12-3, 7.0 IP, 6 H, ER, 3 BB, 9 K) and LSU’s Brittany Mack (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K) both tossing complete games. The Tigers scored after a triple was driven home in the second and the Gators’ offense stalled just like the baseball team’s did down the stretch by stranding five runners on base over the final two innings.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, gymnastics, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (30-8, 10-6 SEC) prevailed in a 16-inning marathon on Friday, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (23-16, 7-9 SEC) 3-2 in the teams’ series opener at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida gave up a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth as Georgia tied things up but neither team posted a run in the following 16 frames. Finally the Gators ended the game by forcing the Bulldogs to commit the first error of the contest for either team. Junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit walked with one out, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved over to third thanks to a wild pitch. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana stepped up to the plate with hopes of driving Ramjit home but struck out swinging; however, Fontana’s third strike was dropped and an error by the catcher (a bad throw to first) allowed Ramjit to cross the plate. Right-handed relievers junior Austin Maddox and senior Greg Larson tossed the final 8.2 innings of the game. Maddox struck out five and allowed four hits in 5.2 innings, but Larson (5-0) earned the win after striking out two in three no-hit innings to conclude the contest. Friday’s game was the longest UF has participated in since 1996.

2 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics finished second in Session II of the 2012 NCAA Championships on Friday, advancing to the 2012 NCAA Super Six for a chance to win the first national title in team history. UF finished with a final score of 197.650, just 0.025 behind session winner Alabama. Freshman Kytra Hunter also captured the NCAA all-around individual national title – the first in team history – with a 39.725 in the event. The Gators will compete for the team national championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. (streamed live on ESPN3.com) and the rest of the individual titles on Sunday.

3 » No. 1-seed Florida women’s tennis (19-1) swept the No. 8-seed Tennessee Volunteers (14-12) in 2012 SEC Tournament second-round action on Friday, advancing to the semifinals where they will face No. 4-seed Ole Miss on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Gators easily won the doubles point and got three quick wins from sophomores No. 68 Alex Cercone, No. 51 Sofie Oyen and No. 121 Olivia Janowicz to end the contest relatively early. Florida will participate in the semifinals for the 25th time in school history, continuing their undefeated streak (25-0) in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The No. 4-seed Gators’ men’s tennis team (14-9) was not as fortunate, falling 4-1 to the No. 5-seed Ole Miss Rebels (13-7) and eliminating themselves from the event.

4 » No. 3/4 UF softball (40-5) swept a doubleheader against the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-22) on Friday and will look to close out the series with a victory in game three on Saturday. Florida won the early contest 7-4 behind the offense of freshman left fielder Briana Little (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) and closing ability of freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (S2, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 K). The Gators used the strong arm of freshman RHP Lauren Haeger (12-2, CG, 5.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K) to help them coast to a 9-0 shutout victory in the evening game. Haeger (1/4, HR, R), freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2/3, 2 R, BB), sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/1, HR, R, 2 BB) and junior catcher Kelsey Horton (1/3) contributed two RBIs each in the contest.

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Moultrie, Haeger lead Florida in series sweep

No. 3 Florida Gators softball (38-5, 18-2 SEC) triumphed over the weekend, outscoring the Auburn Tigers (26-18, 5-14 SEC) 11-5 over three games to earn a hard-fought series sweep at Pressly Softball Stadium in in Gainesville, FL.

Strong efforts from senior center fielder Michelle Moultrieand freshman right-handed pitcher/first baseman Lauren Haeger propelled Florida. Moultrie combined to go 2/9 with a home run, three RBIs, two runs and a stolen base, while Haeger excelled both on the mound and at the plate (3/8, HR, 2 RBI, R, 2 BB). She was outstanding on the hill Saturday, improving to 11-2 while allowing just one earned run on two hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts in a complete game effort.

The Gators triumphed 3-2 on Friday, fighting back from a 2-1 deficit through 3.5 innings to pull out the victory. Florida won 3-1 behind Haeger’s solid pitching on Saturday and used a four-run fifth on Sunday to cap the weekend with a 5-2 win.

Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (22-3) earned bookend victories with nearly identical outings on Friday and Sunday, tossing two complete games while combining to give up four earned runs on 11 hits with six walks and 11 strikeouts.

Florida has now earned sweeps in consecutive weekends and has four more series to play before postseason action begins in early May. UF will host Florida International in a three-game series including a doubleheader on April 20 and a third game on April 21.

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