FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (11-1, 5-1 SEC) suffered its first defeat of the season on Friday, falling 196.70-196.10 to the No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3, 5-1 SEC) in Fayetteville, AR. Florida captured three individual events with sophomore Ashanée Dickerson winning the vault and floor exercise and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto taking home the even bars; however, Arkansas surpassed UF in their team totals and came out on top. The Gators final match before the 2011 SEC Championships begin on March 19 is against Utah next Friday in Salt Lake City, UT.

2 » Florida’s other top-ranked team, No. 1 baseball, had better luck Friday, taking down the Boston College Eagles 9-3 in the second game of the teams’ three-game series. The Gators (6-0) scored three runs in the seventh inning alone to escape a 3-3 tie and move past the Eagles (2-3) for the victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1.64 ERA) got the start for Florida and tossed four innings of shutout ball before giving up an earned run in the fifth and getting pulled at the end of the inning. The Gators led 2-1 at that point on a solo homer from junior right fielder Preston Tucker (3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R) in the third and an RBI from junior first baseman Ben McMahan (2-2, RBI) in the fourth. Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone allowed a batter on via a bunt in the top of the seventh and junior RHP Greg Larson, coming into relieve him, let another batter hit himself on base. Freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, trying to get out of the inning, struck out his first batter before giving up a two-RBI triple to clear the bases and put Boston College up 3-2.

Looking to get out of a jam, Florida utilized the infamous hidden-ball trick to get the final out of the inning. With Eagles shortstop Brad Zapenas (2-4, 2 RBI) on third after his game-tying triple, freshman third baseman Zach Powers corralled the ball as Gibson pretended to wind up. Once Zapenas took a lead, Powers tagged him out, ended the inning and stopped the bleeding. The Gators responded with a three-run bottom of the seventh including a RBI each from Tucker (via a bases loaded walk), sophomore catcher/1B Austin Maddox (1-5, RBI) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (3-5, 3 RBI, R). Florida added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth with sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-1, RBI, R) doubling down the left field line to score sophomore C Mike Zunino (BB, R) and Johnson singling through the left side to bring home sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (1-2, 2 R, 3 BB) and Washington. Gibson (1-0) earned the win after juniors RHP Tommy Toledo and LHP Alex Panteliodis combined to strikeout three in 1.2 innings.

3 » No. 4 Gators softball (13-0) earned a pair of victories Friday at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, defeating the San Diego State Aztecs (5-6) 4-2 in the afternoon and the No. 2 UCLA Bruins (10-2) 4-1 in the evening. Junior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (7-0) earned the win in the early game after giving up two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (6-0), who tossed the final 1.2 innings of the San Diego State game in relief of Brombacher, threw a complete game against UCLA; she struck out 10 and only gave up a single earned run in the second inning. Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder led the way for Florida offensively, combining to go 4-6 with three RBI and a walk in the two games. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie scored three runs and notched a pair of RBI on a 4-8 outing from the plate.

4 » Struggling all season, Gators women’s basketball (16-13, 6-9 SEC) scored a much-needed 74-69 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (18-10, 9-6 SEC) on the road in Nashville, TN on Friday. Postponed a day due to severe weather, the game marked Florida’s first win on the road against Vanderbilt since 2004. Three Gators junior starters – center Azania Stewart (14) and guards redshirt Jordan Jones (16) and Lanita Bartley (15) – scored in double figures as Stewart also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. UF has now won back-to-back contests after dropping four-in-a-row to begin the month of February.

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lax, swimming, tennis

1 » There are plenty of spring sports underway right now, and the Florida Gators have gotten off to a fast start earning weekly conference honors. For the second-straight week, senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (softball) won the SEC Pitcher of the Week award; she tossed three shutouts in the last seven days and has a 0.00 ERA with 35 strikeouts through her first 31 innings of the season. Joining her is sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (baseball), who picked up the SEC Player of the Week award after going 9-for-12 and scoring five runs in his team’s season-opening series. Also making an impact was sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (lacrosse), who brought home the first ALC Offensive Player of the Week award in school history. She has scored 14 goals in only three games and tied a school record with six on Sunday alone.

2 » Undefeated going into the weekend, No. 5 Florida softball (9-0) completed a shutout sweep of the No. 22 North Carolina Tar Heels (4-4) from Saturday to Sunday. UF took down UNC 3-0 and 9-0 in two games Saturday and concluded their first three-game homestand of the season with a 10-0 win on Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Brombacher (6-0) tossed seven scoreless innings on Saturday and five more on Sunday, only giving up a total of nine hits and two walks over the contests. Freshman P Hannah Rogers (3-0) spelled her in between, allowing only two hits in her five shutout innings.

The Gators hit four home runs on Saturday alone; senior first baseman Megan Bush (4-7, HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB) and junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (5-7, HR, 2 RBI) connected in the first game, while senior second baseman Aja Paculba (3-8, 3 RBI) and sophomore right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-5, 3 RBI) teed-off in the second contest. Florida’s scoring Sunday came from all over the place with senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-8, 2 RBI, 4 R) leading the way with a homer, two RBI and three runs scored.

3 » Cullen’s six amazing goals on Sunday helped No. 17 Gators lacrosse (2-1) top the No. 20 Denver Pioneers (0-2) 15-7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Assisting her was sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns who scored three goals and notched a career-high four assists on her way to seven points and a hat trick.

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FOUR BITS: swimming, gymnastics, tennis win

1 » The third day of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Swimming Championships, held at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, was just as eventful for the Florida Gators as the previous two. Senior Conor Dwyer, who had already set three SEC records combined, broke yet another on Friday by swimming the 400-yard individual medley in 3:37.75. Freshman Elizabeth Beisel matched his accomplishment on the women’s side, also breaking the SEC record in the individual medley with a time of 4:00.35. Both competitors, in addition to now owning the top SEC mark in the event, broke the pool and school records in the event. Though both teams are performing well, neither leads their gender’s team category. Saturday is the final day of competition.

2 » Performing in their home finale Friday, No. 1 Florida gymnastics (8-0, 5-0 SEC) remained unbeaten by defeating the No. 22 Auburn Tigers (2-5, 2-4 SEC) 196.850-194.950. The Gators once again swept the event titles with sophomore Marissa King winning the vault (9.95), senior Maranda Smith taking the floor exercise (9.90), freshman Mackenzie Caquatto conquering the uneven bars (9.90) and both Caquatto and freshman Ashanée Dickerson winning the balance beam (9.875).

3 » Competing in the round of 16 at the 2011 ITA National Team Indoor Championships Friday, No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (8-0) defeated the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes (5-1) 4-1. No. 7 sophomore Allie Will, No. 19 junior Joanna Mather and No. 31 freshman Olivia Janowicz all won their singles matches with the No. 30 duo of sophomore Lauren Embree and Mather also taking home a doubles win. The No. 1 doubles pairing of Will and freshman Sofie Oyen did not finish their doubles match (which they led 7-3); No. 36 Embree and No. 40 freshman Alex Cercone were tied in their respective singles matches but also did not finish.

4 » Also victorious in the round of 16 at the ITA Team Indoor Championships on Friday was No. 10 Gators men’s tennis (7-1), which defeated the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal 4-3 and gave head coach Andy Jackson his 400th career victory. Though the No. 15 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nasslim Slilam fell to their No. 11-ranked opponents, No. 9 Lacroix’s three-set 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory over No. 7 Bradley Klahn, the defending NCAA singles champion, clinched the match for Florida. Slilam also lost his singles match, but No. 43 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. was victorious both on his own and when paired up with freshman Andrew Butz. The Gators will advance to the quarterfinals for the second-straight year.

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SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

1 » Don’t bother asking them to, because it does not look like No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (6-0, 3-0 SEC) plans to slow down anytime soon. Drawing nearly 7,000 fans to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Friday, Florida took down the previously undefeated No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1, 1-1 SEC) 197.55-195.45. Gators freshman Mackenzie Caquatto led the team with two event wins (uneven bars, balance beam) and took the all-around title with a score of 39.575, while senior Maranda Smith captured the vault event and sophomore Marissa King won the floor exercise. Florida will be tested once again on Saturday as they face No. 4 Georgia on the road.

2 » Gators sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor became the fourth and fifth members of the team, respectively, to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships after posting strong individual showings over the weekend at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet. Demps recorded a 6.57 in the men’s 60-meter dash, the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season, during his first race of the year. Taylor won the triple jump with a mark of 16.61m/54-6 for the sixth-straight time in his last six competitions. The duo join jumpers junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock and junior heptathlete Gray Horn as Florida’s current NCAA automatic-qualifiers off the No. 1 men’s track & field team.

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SIX BITS: Donovan on Boynton. Spurrier > Meyer? Johnson to play? Henry honored. More commits.

1 » Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan is doing his best to keep the pressure off five-star freshman guard Kenny Boynton. “He’s one guy on the team and I hope that our other players want to step up and provide more for him,” Donovan said. “But we are not going into this putting a lot of emphasis on him to make us productive. He’s going to be a good player here, but I think that the expectation that he’s going to be this total impact player is unfair to him.” Boynton has already been impressive in Florida’s two exhibition games and will certainly play a large role when the Gators open the 2009-10 season on Sunday.

2 » OGGOA makes it a point to not direct you to many of Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi’s columns. Why? Well, our mothers always told us that if you do not have something nice to say, don’t say anything. That being said, when he decides to write a column proclaiming loudly that South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier is “still a greater Gator” than head coach Urban Meyer, we feel like it is something you should check out and decide for yourself.

3 » On Wednesday, Spurrier told the media that injured defensive end Cliff Matthews, who had previously been ruled out with a shoulder injury, could return to face Florida on Saturday. Matthews ran around at practice on Monday and has been cleared by doctors, yet coaches are still calling him a game-time decision. “Even if he does play, [defensive coordinator Ellis] Johnson said there will be small, specialized packages for him. In other words, don’t expect a fully healthy, ready-to-go Matthews,” The Post and Courier reported Friday.

Three more BITS on Henry and a bunch of new UF commitments after the jump…
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