Takeaways: Florida baseball struggles on road

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (24-9, 6-6 SEC) has gone 3-4 in its last seven games since OnlyGators.com was last able to check in following its win over Stetson on March 24. UF posted a flat 3-3 split in its last two conference series with the Alabama Crimson Tide and Missouri Tigers, book-ending a tough 8-3 loss to the Florida State Seminoles in Jacksonville on Tuesday.

In the Alabama series opener, a back-and-forth game swung in the Tide’s favor with a three-run 10th inning that pushed them ahead 12-9. The Gators evened the series with an 8-1 win in the second game of a doubleheader, and they used a late rally to win game three 7-4, claiming the series. Eight walks against Florida State allowed FSU to even the season series. While Florida looked to bounce back with a 5-1 win against Mizzou, UF was outscored 15-4 over the final two contests to drop the series.

Here are five takeaways from the last seven games:

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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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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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FOUR BITS: Bostic, Prather, hidden ball trick

1 » Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic did not have the easiest rookie season as he was thrust into a starting role before he was truly ready for it due to an injury suffered by veteran D.J. Williams. Bostic showed his inexperience (on the NFL level) at middle linebacker and struggled at times during the season, so much so that with Williams set to return, Bostic was moved to strong side linebacker where he was set to compete for the starting gig this offseason. However, according to John Mullin of CSN Chicago, Bostic has been splitting time with Williams as the first-team middle linebacker during organized team activities and is “making a strong impression” in the early going. “Bostic has significantly raised the stakes [of the starting competition] despite training camp not starting until late July,” wrote Mullin. “Bostic is generally considered to have the most pure explosive, sudden speed of all the linebackers [on the roster].”

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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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