Gainesville Super Regional: Florida vs. Miss. State

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Super Regional
Location: McKeethan Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 5,500]
Time: 12:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2 / ESPN2HD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: John Cohen
Record: 48-16 Record: 37-23
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Game 1: Sophomore LHP Hudson Randall (9-3, 2.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Game 2: Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Game 3: Sophomore RHP Brian Johnson (8-3, 3.66 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) OR
junior RHP Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 53-40 in the all-time series against Mississippi State, though MSU is 1-0 vs. UF NCAA Tournament play.
» The first team to win two games in the three-game series will advanced to the 65th NCAA College World Series.
» This is the Gators’ third-straight Super Regional appearance and fifth in the last eight years. Florida has only been to five in school history.
» This is the Bulldogs’ fourth Super Regional appearance in school history.
» Should Florida advance to the CWS, it will be the first time in school history they have done so in back-to-back seasons.
» The Gators are 33-9 (.786) all-time at home during NCAA play.
» Florida is 3-1 against Mississippi State this season, losing the first of a three-game series in Starkville, MS (7-5) before winning three-straight games including a SEC Tournament first-round match-up (18-0, 3-1, 7-5).
» MSU head coach John Cohen is a former UF assistant under Pat McMahon.
» This is the first time the Gators have faced a SEC opponent in Super Regional action.
» The UF and MSU boast different strengths. Florida leads Mississippi State in batting average (.311-.282), runs scored (413-369), hits (683-566), homers (58-28), RBI (382-327), ERA (2.97-4.24), strikeouts (486-471) and fielding percentage (.974-.973). However, the Bulldogs hold advantages in steals (88-56), walks (260-214), on-base percentage (.384-.382) and saves (16-14).

LAST TIME OUT…

Down 5-2 in a close game in the first round of the SEC Tournament, the Gators used a grand slam by sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson to take a 7-5 lead and eventually advance in the event.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

Mississippi State is the second-ranked team in the SEC West after finishing with a 14-16 record in league play. The Bulldogs are 11-9 away from home and 9-10 against top 25 opponents this season. Florida has won six of the last seven meetings against MSU dating back to a three-game series that took place in 2010.

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore LHP/DH Brian Johnson – concussion
Out for game one
Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox – foot
Out for game one, day-to-day for series

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» UF’s starting pitchers…which are a combined 21-2 (.913) with a 2.01 ERA in the friendly confines of McKethan Stadium this season.
» The Gators’ bats…which have scored 190 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Early offense…Florida is 36-6 (.857) when scoring first and 39-2 (.951) when out-hitting their opponent in a contest.
» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.371), hits (86), homers (16), runs (68), slugging (.668)…and strikeouts (45). He also has 62 RBI on the season.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…arguably the strongest fielder on the team who has also come on as of late offensively. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .309 with 71 hits, 52 runs, 44 RBI and a team-high 45 walks.
» Junior right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 65 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .319 with 81 hits, 51 runs, 13 homers and 24 walks.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde…who has made a team-high 31 appearances and has posted a 1.66 ERA with two saves in 38 innings. He has amassed 50 strikeouts compared to only seven walks this season, and only six of the 24 hits he has allowed have been for extra bases.
» Third baseman Jarrod Parks…who leads MSU in batting average (.365), hits (73), RBI (36) and walks (43) and has also scored 50 runs in 200 at-bats this season.
» Second baseman Nick Vickerson…the Bulldogs’ speedster who hits .314 with a team-high 53 runs scored, seven homers, 35 walks and a team-high 25 stolen bases.

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Florida baseball sweeps Gainesville Regional with 11-4 rout of Miami, will host Super Regional

The Miami Hurricanes hoped to end their drought against No. 2 Florida Gators baseball on Sunday but failed to keep the momentum they had at the end of their game earlier in the day against the Jacksonville Dolphins. In the final game of the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament at McKethan Stadium, the Gators (48-16) scored early and often, routing the Canes (38-23) 11-4 to advance to the Super Regionals.

Florida got things rolling right out of the gate. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana reached on a single, senior center fielder Bryson Smith followed him with a walk, and junior right fielder Preston Tucker capitalized by hitting a three-run bomb down the right-field line to give the Gators an early 3-0 lead. Miami got out of the inning with three-straight outs but not without first being placed in a decent hole.

After a scoreless second, Florida poured it on in the third by scoring eight runs and coming away up 11-0. With men on first and second and no one out, sophomore catcher Mike Zunino bunted to advance the runners; however, Smith would score from third on a throwing error from the catcher to the third baseman, which allowed Zunino to reach base. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson then singled up the middle, scoring Zunino (0-3, R, BB) and Tucker; he would advance to second on the throw home.

Junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott (1-5, RBI, R) doubled to left center to plate Thompson (1-5, 2 RBI, R) after a pitching change. He crossed home just one batter later when redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (3-4, RBI, R, SB) singled to right. Ramjit then stole second, advanced to third on a single to right by sophomore third baseman Cody Dent, and ran home when Fontana (1-5, RBI, R) hit a sacrifice fly to left. Dent (1-3, R, 2 BB) and Smith (2-4, 3 R, 2 BB), who singled to right with two outs, both came home when Tucker (2-4, HR, 5 RBI, 2 R) ended the hit parade with a two-RBI double off the right field wall.

The Gators held the Hurricanes scoreless for much of the contest thanks to a top-notch outing from junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis. Panteliodis (6-2) tossed 6.2 innings of shutout ball before giving up a solo shot in the bottom of the seven. He finished with four strikeouts on 66 pitches and gave up one earned run while scatting five hits.

Miami rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the eighth but could not reduce their deficit any further. UM has now lost eight-straight games to UF and 11 of the last 12.

As the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida will also host Super Regional action, which begins on June 10. The Gators will take on the winner of the Atlanta Regional, either Mississippi State or Georgia Tech, in a three-game series to determine who will advance to the 2011 College World Series.

2011 Gainesville Regional Honors
Most Outstanding Player: Preston Tucker
All-Tournament Team: Nolan Fontana, Alex Panteliodis, Daniel Pigott, Tyler Thompson, Preston Tucker, Mike Zunino

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Florida routs Manhattan 17-3 in NCAA regional

The truth is that the Manhattan Jaspers never had much of a chance on Friday, squaring off against No. 2 Florida Gators baseball in the second game of the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (46-16) scored five runs in the first inning, four in the second and seven in the third to demolish Manhattan (34-18) 17-3 in the late afternoon game and advance to the winner’s bracket.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (8-0) got the call Friday and delivered in spades, striking out three and only allowing two hits in 3.1 innings. He was pulled early simply because of the advantage UF held after three innings.

The Gators’ offense supported him early and often, posting a five-spot in the bottom of the first inning to kick things off. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-6, RBI, R) led off the inning with a single and was moved over to second when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-4, 2 RBI, 3 R) was hit by a pitch; junior right fielder Preston Tucker singled home Fontana and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino plated Smith.

An infield single and subsequent error gave junior left fielder Tyler Thompson a spot on second and scored both Tucker and Zunino; Thompson (4-4, RBI, 3 R, BB) crossed the plate shortly after when junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott smacked a single to left.

Florida added four more runs the next inning, beginning with three via back-to-back home runs. Tucker launched a two-run shot to right-center, and Zunino (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R) followed him by hitting his ball to almost the exact same spot. Pigott (4-5, 3 RBI, R) earned another RBI a few batters later, singling to right field and sending senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-5, 2 R) home to give the Gators a 9-0 lead.

Tucker (3-6, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R) did what he could to keep the momentum going, smacking another two-run homer in the third. Florida led 11-0 at that point but added five more runs in the inning to hold a 16-0 advantage through three. Sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox was pulled in the top half of the inning after spraining his foot. His availability going forward is currently unknown.

Manhattan’s starter, John Soldinger, left the bases loaded with no one out upon exiting in the top of the third. He tossed two innings and surrendered an astonishing 15 earned runs on 16 hits with three homers, two walks, two hit batters and one strikeout.

Replacing Whitson, freshman RHP Keenan Kish was looking solid until the fifth inning when he gave up four hits and allowed three unearned runs, reducing the Jaspers’ deficit to 16-3. The Gators rallied to add another run in the seventh, which marked the end of Kish’s career-long outing of 3.2 innings. He struck out three and walked one.

With the victory, Florida moves on to the winner’s bracket to face Miami (37-21) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. The winner will advance to the finals of the Gainesville Regional, while the loser will face the victor of the elimination game between Jacksonville-Manhattan at noon to determine who will take the other spot in the finals.

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FOUR BITS: baseball bracket, softball in WCWS

1 » Awarded the No. 2 seed in the nation on Monday, Florida Gators baseball also received its opening round match-ups for the Gainesville Regional as part of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Being hosted at McKethan Stadium, the regional will feature one-seed Florida (45-16), two-seed Miami (36-21), three-seed Jacksonville (36-22) and four-seed Manhattan (34-17). Action begins Friday, June 3 with Florida-Manhattan and Miami-Jacksonville contests taking place; both games will air live on ESPNU at 4 p.m. and noon, respectively. The Gainesville Regional will span the weekend unless an “if necessary” finale is forced for Monday evening with the winner going on to face the victor of the Atlanta Regional in Super Regional action. The Gators will host the Super Regional if they advance out of their opening round bracket.

2 » The first team in Southeastern Conference history to advance to four consecutive Women’s College World Series, No. 4 Florida softball (52-10) begins action on Thursday when they take on No. 5 Missouri (52-8) in Oklahoma City, OK at 9:30 p.m. live on ESPN2. Opponents in the second contest, set for Friday or Saturday, will be either No. 1 Arizona State (55-6) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma (42-17); the winners of the two games will play Friday evening and the losers will square-off Saturday afternoon. The Gators, located in the bottom bracket of the WCWS, will be able to decide their fate by the end of the weekend as the championship series begins Monday, June 6.

3 » Just days after leading the Gators to the 2011 NCAA Championship in women’s tennis, sophomore Lauren Embree was forced to retire from the Final Four of the NCAA Singles Championships on Sunday due to a painful toenail and skin issue on her foot. Embree, who has been on absolute fire during the NCAAs, forfeited a tied match with Stanford’s Stacy Tan that was knotted at a set apiece (7-5, 3-6). If she had stayed in the match and won, she would have had the opportunity to compete for the individual title.

4 » Also ending their season was the men’s No. 17 doubles team of senior Alexandre Lacroix and sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. Dropping a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) match to No. 3 Bradley Klahn/Ryan Thacher of Stanford, Lacroix and Bangoura concluded a terrific year with a semifinals appearance. With no eligibility remaining, Lacroix will depart Florida as the school’s all-time leader in doubles wins (104) and overall wins (214).

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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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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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TWO BITS: baseball tops UNF, Davis to decide

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (37-12) led from the start of the game Thursday and never gave up their advantage while on the way to a 4-1 victory over the North Florida Ospreys (25-22) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (4-1) pitched three shutout innings, striking out one and leaving the game with a 2-0 lead that earned him the victory. Six pitchers relieved him in total; senior right-handed pitcher Matt Campbell came on with two outs in the ninth to pick up his first save of the season. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, 2 RBI, R) knocked home Gators in the first and third inning, while a two-run homer from sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R) helped Florida jump ahead 4-1 in the sixth. UF travels to Vanderbilt for a three-game weekend series beginning with Friday’s contest, set to air live on CSS at 7 p.m.

2 » Rated as the top linebacker in the country and No. 30 overall recruit available in 2012 by Rivals.com, four-star Noor Davis (The Villages, FL) is set to announce his commitment on Friday with the Gators standing as one of five schools vying for his services. Davis named a top five of Notre Dame, Florida, Stanford, Alabama and USC earlier this week and is ready to get the process over with. He talked at length about all five schools with the website’s Chris Nee and said the following about the Gators:

“The University of Florida has outstanding academic programs and great athletics. They have an awesome business school and communications department. Coach [Will] Muschamp said that I could fit in an impactful way playing the SAM linebacker spot. In the 3-4 I would be down on the line and in the 4-3 I would be back in a stack position. They feel that I can do a lot of things off the edge as a pass rusher, but also as a flat coverage guy. I can do a lot of different things that can throw an offense off. They play in the SEC which is a great conference. Florida is an outstanding school and it is very close to where I live. The place where I live is pretty big Gator Country and all of my friends and neighbors are fans. My parents and especially my little brother could be a part of my college experience.”

Qualities of the other schools that impressed him: Notre Dame (religious aspect, tradition, academics and powerful alumni), Stanford (academics, aggressive defense, playing baseball), Alabama (“an icon,” 3-4 defense, business program), USC (“powerhouse” program, aunt attended, family in the area, California).

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Florida baseball, softball win six in three days

It was another dominant weekend for the Florida Gators baseball and softball teams, which combined to win six games while outscoring their opponents by an impressive total of 41-7. Below are abbreviated recaps of each victory to keep you up-to-date with how Florida is performing week-in and week-out on the diamond.

BASEBALL

Hosting the Ole Miss Rebels at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, No. 4/5 Gators baseball barely allowed their visitors to catch a breath on Friday, scoring in every inning except one on the way to a 9-3 victory fueled by 17 hits and a pair of 4-5 performances from senior second baseman Josh Adams (RBI, R) and redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (RBI, 2 R). Florida had plenty of offense with two RBI each coming from sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4, BB), sophomore third baseman Austin Maddox (2-4, R) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4, R). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (8-1) picked up the victory by striking out six and only allowing three earned runs on six hits in 7.1 innings of work.

The Gators kept their foot on the pedal Saturday, scoring pairs of runs in four innings on the way to an 8-1 victory behind a superb performance from left-handed pitcher Johnson (7-1), who struck out a career-high nine batters in 6.2 innings. Zunino (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) and junior third baseman Jeff Moyer (2-4, HR 2 RBI, R) each hit a home run in the contest with Johnson (2-3, R) and Maddox (1-4, RBI, R) also contributing at the plate.

Wrapping up the series Sunday was freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (6-0), who remained undefeated by tossing four strikeouts in six scoreless innings. Florida (34-10,17-4 SEC) jumped up 2-0 early and led 7-0 before Ole Miss (24-20,9-12 SEC) even got on the board in the seventh. Zunino (4-4, 4 RBI, 2 R) continued his scorching weekend, and junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, 2 RBI) drove in runs in the first and fifth innings to give the Gators a 7-2 victory.

A home game against Bethune-Cookman is upcoming for Florida on Tuesday before they hit the road for a three-game series at Arkansas Thursday-Saturday.

SOFTBALL

No. 5/7 Gators softball hit the road to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks for their three-game weekend series. Florida shut out South Carolina 5-0 on Friday behind five strong innings from senior ace RHP Stephanie Brombacher (16-1). She was supported by freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB), senior 1B Megan Bush (1-3, 2 RBI) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-4, 2 R) as well as freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who threw the final two innings of the game to close things out.

Brombacher got the nod again on Saturday for UF but only threw four innings before Rogers was given the reigns the rest of the way and picked up the win. The Gators torched the Gamecocks 6-1, scoring six-straight runs in the final three innings of the game after being faced with a 1-0 deficit since the first inning. Sophomore RF Brittany Schutte (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) was the offensive star and was supported by solid efforts from Bush (1-3, 2 RBI, BB) and Coyle (1-2, RBI, BB).

Rogers (27-5) was left to her own devices Sunday and came through in a big way, tossing a complete game and only giving up a single earned run. Schutte (2-3, HR 2 RBI, R, BB) and Coyle (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) continued their phenomenal weekends at the plate as Florida (43-8, 18-7 SEC) led South Carolina (25-27, 6-19 SEC) from start-to-finish and proved they were the team to beat over the weekend.

UF faces a four-game homestand to end the regular season this week, taking on Florida State on Wednesday before going up against Tennessee in the weekend series.

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