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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UF baseball, softball struggle in rough weekend

Both holding high national rankings going into the weekend, Florida Gators baseball and softball each faltered over a three-day stretch, combining to drop five of six games to a pair of top-tier Southeastern Conference opponents

OGGOA has compiled short summaries of each of the weekend contests below as well as information on what the two teams have ahead of them this week.

BASEBALL

Facing the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks (18-5, 4-2 SEC) at McKethan Stadium over the long weekend in Gainesville, FL, No. 1 Florida (21-4, 4-2 SEC) was topped 9-2 in Friday’s opener and edged 4-3 in the series finale on Sunday. In between, the Gators took a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-1) dropped his first decision, allowing six earned runs on eight hits and a pair of walks in 5.1 innings on Friday. He gave up four runs in the top of the third and was pulled in the top of the fifth before additional damage could be done. Florida was scoreless until the bottom of the ninth, when senior second baseman Josh Adams and junior pinch hitter Jeff Moyer knocked in runs.

The Gators were engaged in a pitching duel Saturday with sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (4-0) tossing the first complete game of his career as the team took a 2-1 decision. Randall struck out four and did not allow a single earned run in the outing. Forrest Koumas and Matt Price combined to give up only three hits and a single unearned run for the Gamecocks, striking out eight UF batters in the process. Sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R) crossed the plate twice for Florida, initially scoring after being hit by a pitch and sacrificed home by sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-3, RBI).

Florida did themselves in on Sunday, coughing up a 3-0 lead and eventually losing 4-3 due to miscues and poor pitching. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson got the start for the Gators and pitched well, striking out five and giving up an earned run on two hits and a pair of walks. Relievers junior Nick Maronde and sophomore Austin Maddox each gave up unearned runs in the sixth, and junior Tommy Toledo (2-2) allowed South Carolina to score the game-winner in the eighth. After allowing the lead-off batter to hit a double and hitting the next man with a pitch, Toledo threw an intentional walk to load the bases and walked in the winning run on a full count. Washington (1-3, RBI, R, BB), Adams (0-3, RBI) and freshman third baseman Zack Powers (1-3, RBI) all knocked in runs for Florida while sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, R) did the best he could.

SOFTBALL

Though they undoubtedly tried, softball performed even worse than baseball did over the weekend. The No. 2 Gators (30-4, 7-3 SEC) were swept at home at Pressly Softball Stadium by the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (27-4, 8-3 SEC) and were outscored 28-13 over the three games. With star senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (bicep) on the bench since March 12, freshman RHP Hannah Rogers and sophomore RHP Ensley Gammel struggled against one of the best offenses in the nation.

Down 6-0 in the fifth on Friday, Florida exploded with a six-run frame including home runs from senior first baseman Megan Bush (2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-3, HR, RBI, R) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R). Bush homered again in the sixth to put the Gators ahead 7-6, but Gammel gave up two homers and four runs in the top of the seventh to blow the lead. She pitched a complete game but gave up 10 earned runs on 12 hits and nine walks in the outing.

Gammel (0-2) produced a similar performance just one day later, allowing 10 earned runs on seven hits and 10 walks in five innings. In addition to being down 6-5 through six, the Gators allowed seven runs in the top of the seventh to put the contest out of reach. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R), Bruder (2-4, RBI, R), Bush (0-3, RBI) and sophomore C Brittany Schutte (1-3, RBI) all hocked in runs for Florida.

Rogers (16-2) tried her hand at the Bulldogs on Sunday but also failed in her efforts, tossing a complete game but giving up five earned runs on nine hits. Georgia led the entire way, outscoring UF 5-0 until Bush (1-3, HR, RBI, R) hit her third homer of the series in the bottom of the fifth.

The Gators will look to rebound from their disastrous weekend with a number of contests over the next week. Baseball will take on Florida State in a rubber match on Tuesday in Jacksonville, FL prior to taking on Tennessee in a three-game weekend series at home, while softball will face South Florida on Wednesday before heading to Lexington, KY for a three-game series against Kentucky over the weekend.

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Florida baseball walks off with 5-4 win over FSU

Rallying back from a four-run deficit surrendered back in the third inning, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (15-2) utilized a walk-off single by junior left fielder Daniel Pigott in extra innings to defeat the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (15-2) 5-4 on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL and even the season series at 1-1.

With one out in the bottom of the 10th, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, R, 2 BB) smacked a triple to put the potential game-winning run in scoring position. Pigott (3-4, 4 RBI, 2 BB) followed by stepping up to the plate and hitting his career-high fourth RBI of the game to score Fontana and conclude Florida’s come-from-behind victory.

Scoreless through two, Gators junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis had a rough go of it in the top of the third. After the lead-off batter singled to center field, Seminoles right fielder James Ramsay homered to right to put Florida State up 2-0. When Panteliodis (2.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 K) gave up a double two batters later, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced him with junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson, who promptly allowed SS Justin Gonzalez to hit FSU’s second two-run home run of the evening.

Florida cut the deficit to three runs by having a single batter cross home plate in the bottom of the inning. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3, R) led off with a single to center and advanced around the bases on a pair of ground outs. Pigott hit a double to left center for his first RBI of the game to get the Gators on the board.

One inning later, sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4, R, BB) smacked a ball up the middle before being driven home two batters later by junior center fielder Tyler Thompson (1-5, RBI). Florida left three on base in the fourth and stranded a total of five more batters over the next three innings.

Still down two in the bottom of the eighth, the Gators found the bases loaded on a pair of hits and a walk. Pigott came through in the clutch for the second time on the night, tying the game at four runs apiece by hitting a two-RBI single to center to score junior 2B Jeff Moyer (1-2, R) and sophomore pinch hitter Kamm Washington (1-1, R).

After Larson (3.2 IP, ER, 2 K) and junior LHP Nick Mardone (1.1 IP, 3 K) did most of the heavy lifting in relief, junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (3-0) stepped in at the top of the ninth. He promptly retired FSU’s batters in order in each of the next two innings, paving the way for Pigott’s game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th.

The Seminoles utilized nine pitchers on the evening and attempted to disrupt any rhythm the Gators could get going by stalling on the mound.

Florida will conclude the week by opening up Southeastern Conference competition with a three-game series on the road in Baton Rouge, LA against No. 5 LSU (15-1). The trio of contests will be played on Friday (7 p.m. – ESPN3.com), Saturday (7:30 p.m. – FSF) and Sunday (1 p.m. – CST).

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Georgia Southern shocks No. 1 Florida baseball

Coming off a three-game sweep of No. 24 Miami, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball did not expect the Georgia Southern Eagles to put up much of a fight Tuesday night. With the game scoreless entering the fifth inning, Georgia Southern (8-5) exploded for seven runs over the final four innings of the game to rout Florida (10-2) 7-0 and end their 24-game home winning streak at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Looking to give their starters a rest, the Gators began the game with junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone on the hill. Mardone struck out five in only 2.2 innings before being replaced by junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson (0-1), who gave up two earned runs on three hits in three innings to earn the loss.

Only one of the four other runs Florida allowed was earned as errors and miscues cost the Gators dearly. None if it mattered, however, as Florida’s offense was only able to muster three singles over the course of the game. Eagles pitchers Chris Beck, Josh Adams (3-1) and Matt Murray (S2) teamed up to complete Georgia Southern’s shutout. The trio combined to strike out 11 UF batters, with Beck giving up his team’s only walk.

GSU center fielder Shawn Payne (2-5, 2 RBI, R), first baseman Steve Cochrane (1-5, 2 RBI, R) and shortstop Ben Morgan (3-4, 2 R) led the way for their team offensively.

Florida faces South Florida in Tampa on Wednesday before returning home for a three-game weekend series against Rhode Island from Friday-Sunday.

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