Florida soccer starts 2-0 with two wins in Miami

With the triumphs of last year now in the rear-view mirror, it was up to No. 9 Florida Gators soccer to get the 2011-12 athletic season off with a bang. Florida (2-0) accomplished this feat over the weekend, defeating the Miami Hurricanes (0-1) and Florida International Golden Panthers (0-2) with a pair of 2-0 victories in Miami, FL.

The Gators opened the season on Friday against the Hurricanes and took it to their in-state rivals right from the get go. Sophomore forward Taylor Travis scored Florida’s first goal of the season at 37’, and freshman midfielder Havana Solaun tacked on another at 51’ to lead the Gators to victory.

Junior MF/F Erika Tymrak got the assist on both goals, setting up a cross for the first score and passing it from the top of the box to the left side for the second.

Before returning to Gainesville, FL for a week of practice, Florida stayed in town, took a day off and faced FIU on Sunday. Like their first match of the season, the Gators scored once in each half and came away with a 2-0 win.

Freshman F Tessa Andujar placed the first one in the net, converting a cross from senior defender Jazmyne Avant in the 40th minute. Joining her on the scoreboard was senior MF/F Tahnai Annis, who corralled a through pass from freshman MF Annie Speese and struck it in from 12 yards out at 63’.

Florida split up the goalkeeping duties over the weekend with senior Brooke Chancey (five saves) and freshman Taylor Burke (three saves) each registering a shutout while playing the full 90 minutes.

The Gators will continue their road trip with a pair of contests next weekend in Knoxville, TN. Florida will take on Texas A&M on Friday and UCLA on Sunday before returning to the University of Florida for a three-game homestand.

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8/20: Muschamp discusses injuries, names position leaders, rewards walk-ons

With the Florida Gators now having completed training camp and headed into fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media early Saturday to provided updates on how the team is progressing on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic.

STATEMENT ON COACH HILL

As allegations from a Yahoo! Sports report suggesting he could have been involved in the illegal and illicit recruiting of players while with the Miami Hurricanes, Florida wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill received a vote of confidence from Muschamp on Saturday. “I’ve talked to Aubrey after the article came out. I feel very comfortable with he and I’s conversation,” he said. “I support Aubrey 100 percent. I’m glad he’s here at Florida, and that’s all I’m really going to comment on.”

BROWN INJURED, BACK SOON; BRANTLEY AND REED RESTING

Confirming a report from the Independent Florida Alligator, Muschamp noted that redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown has indeed been out with a knee injury but is respected to return to practice next week. “I expect him probably next Wednesday or Thursday of next week,” Muschamp said.

He also said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley got the day off to rest his sore back and will return to action for the team’s scrimmage on Wednesday, while redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed returned to practice Saturday after missing 3-4 days for a sore hamstring. “[Brantley] has had a very productive camp,” he said. “We felt like Wednesday’s scrimmage was much more important as far as progressing our offense further to get ready for game plan than this one and if we needed to take a day off, [Saturday] was the best day to do it.”

LEADING FOR STARTING JOBS

Plenty of positions are up for grabs this fall due to graduations, players leaving early and the new coaching staff implementing difference schemes than a year ago. On Saturday, Muschamp explained that a few more starting jobs have been coming into focus over the last week of camp.

Senior punter David Lerner is currently set to start over freshman Kyle Christy. Lerner, a walk-on who learned in late July that he has Chron’s disease, has been practicing through the health issue and was put on scholarship by Muschamp this week. “Kyle Christy has done some really good things, has got a tremendous leg,” he said, “but David has punted consistently better.”

Redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan, who had been competing with redshirt freshman Chaz Green for the starting gig, has currently taken the lead and the chance to solidify the right side of the line.

With junior Xavier Nixon holding down the starting left tackle job, redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne (who was backing him up) has been moved to left guard and quickly jumped ahead of redshirt freshman Ian Silberman and redshirt senior James Wilson, both of whom were competing for the position.

Florida’s starting offensive line (for now) consists of: LT Nixon, LG Koehne, C redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, RG redshirt sophomore Jon Halapio, RT Patchan.

WALK-ONS REWARDED

Three other Gators walk-ons in addition to Lerner earned scholarships from Muschamp this week. The coach informed redshirt sophomore safety Tim Clark, redshirt junior linebacker Scott Peek and senior OT/TE William Steinmann that they had all received the honor after performing well during the spring and summer. Muschamp, a former walk-on himself, described them as, “Four guys that have all been in our program for a number of years, have both demonstrated themselves well on-and-off-the-field, academically they’ve done an outstanding job.” Muschamp said they made the announcement in front of the team and it was very emotional for all involved.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On practices being closed: “It was hot out there today. Ya’ll glad it was closed today?”

» Muschamp said the team got in a lot of good work in Saturday including stuff in the red zone, on third down and with all four special teams units. He said the band was at practice (so it was not totally closed) and the team worked an end-of-game scenario with 5:18 left on the clock. The Gators were in “full game day operation,” which Muschamp said resulted in a “very productive day.”

» The team will take pictures on Sunday and have its next scrimmage on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are when the Gators will start preparations for the Florida Atlantic game on Sept. 3.

» Muschamp said sophomore safety Matt Elam had an interception on Saturday and is easily the most consistent player at his position. Everyone else has “shown flashes” but is still competing and trying to earn a spot.

» On the defensive line: “I really like our guys, but we don’t’ have any depth. [...] I feel very good about our talent level; we just don’t have any depth.”

» On redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose’s recent improvement: “Andre made a nice catch on a deep ball today. Andre, really the last couple of days, has taken a step forward. [...] I was very pleased with Andre today. He made a nice play on the side – well-covered, well-thrown ball. He just continues to show the consistency in his performance, and I’m very pleased.”

» On the AP Top 25 preseason poll: “I could care less about the poll.” When told the phrase is “couldn’t” care less: “I was never very good in English, I’ll be honest with ya.”

» On offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: “Charlie’s experience speaks for itself, and his track record – you all know that. From the standpoint of him working with the players is probably his strongest point. You really talk to people that played for him – whether it was at Notre Dame, New England or Kansas City – the players have a great respect for him because he’s all about the players. He’s hard on them, he’s tough on them, it’s tough love, but they have a great respect because he has answers when things don’t go right.”

» On closing practices to hide details: “That’s why we’ve closed everything. I do think it is an advantage for us this season. [...] We put a wild rumor out there about Wildcat. [...] That’s why we’ve closed things.”

» On redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar’s improvement this offseason: “The hardest thing for a young player is to consistently perform every day. You try to explain to them it’s your consistency in your performance [that’s important]. We’ve really challenged Quinton as far as, ‘OK, you want to be a starting receiver, I’m good with that. But to add your value as a player to this football team, you need to be on special teams.’ So when we have scout-look teams as far as our special teams, Quinton Dunbar’s the first guy that jumps in there if he’s not already on the special team. That to me shows tremendous strides and commitment to help our football team. He’s willing to go in there and give our guys a good look.”

» On comparisons between freshman QBs Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett: “Well, I think they are very similar. They’re both athletic, big, strong, big arms, good decision makers. They both have a certain command about themselves as quarterbacks. Jeff’s probably a little more of a scrambler and a runner, as opposed to Jacoby. But they are very similar quarterbacks. Their skill set is very similar. Talking to Charlie about our plan as we move forward is – will be a very similar plan as far as gaming for them and putting them in situations to be successful.”

» On his demeanor at practice: “I’m just myself. There is a key to every young man and you have to find that key. I’m going to be who I am, and I don’t plan anything. I just kind of do what I do.”

» On freshmen playing early: “I always feel like the further your position is away from the ball, the better chance you got to play because your athleticism takes over quicker as opposed to you being close. I think it’s hard for offensive and defensive linemen – I’m not saying it’s impossible because I’ve had guys do it – to come in and play because the bodies are bigger, it’s a faster game, it’s a more complicated game than they’re used to.”

» On if he thinks the team is coming together: “I do. I’m cautiously optimistic when I say that form the standpoint of, what real adversity have we faced? I do think that we’ve battled through some tough practices heat, exhaustion, fatigue; I think we’ve managed that. I wouldn’t say we’ve passed with flying colors, but we’ve managed that. What’s going to happen when we get down 14-0? How are we going to respond to that? That’s when you find out a lot about your team.”

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FOUR BITS: Moore, Tebow, soccer, interviews

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Kestahn Moore received some good news Thursday evening when he learned that the Tennessee Titans decided to sign him and bring him into camp as a free agent. Moore, who was signed with Kansas City in training camp a year ago and was worked out by Tennessee last November, is back with the team on a trial basis and could play as soon as Saturday against St. Louis. He told The Tennessean that he originally thought he was heading to Nashville, TN just to work out for the team. “That’s why you have to stay ready and working out,” he said. “I’ve got a chance now and I am ready.”

2 » Speaking with the Associated Press on Thursday, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow found humor in the alleged $5,000 bounty placed on his head by a Miami Hurricanes booster. “I didn’t know about that,” Tebow said. “It’s funny, though.” Tebow, who said he had “good memories” from his one game against Miami, is confident that no one went after him during the game. “That’s never what you want in sports. You’re playing to win,” he said. “You go hard. I mean, it’s a violent game, people get hit, people get hurt. But to go out there and purposely try to hurt someone? I don’t believe in that at all. That’s not why we play the game. So, that’s unfortunate if some people would go [such extremes]. But I don’t think all the Miami Hurricanes went out there trying to hurt me or anything because I had quite a few friends, as well. So, I think there were a lot of good players on that team, good kids on that team.”

3 » Just like the volleyball team, Florida soccer received plenty of praise from Southeastern Conference coaches this week. Surveyed in preseason poll, 11 of the 12 league coaches chose the Gators to win the 2011 SEC title. Additionally, two Florida soccer players – senior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis and redshirt junior defender Kathryn Williamson – were named to the watch list for the 2011 Hermann Trophy, the highest individual award in NCAA soccer.

4 »

Over the last few weeks, OGGOA has conducted a number of interviews and posted them throughout the site. Due to the large amount of content posted each day, we wanted to make sure you did not miss any of them. Below are all of the the interviews that have been conducted since early July. A list of all of our exclusive interviews is available as a widget on the right sidebar of every page.

- Defensive lineman Kevin CarterPart I | Part II
The three-time SEC champion, first-team All-SEC member, first-team All-American selection, No. 6 overall draft pick, two-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion and UF Athletic Hall of Fame member spoke to us about his time with the Gators, extensive NFL career, charity work and new job as a television analyst while also providing some unique insight on head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

- Center/forward Al Horford8/17/11
The two-time national champion and two-time NBA All-Star, who was also a member of the 2008 NBA All-Rookie Team caught up with OGGOA for the second time to discuss his new contract, relationship with the Oh Fours, thoughts on the NBA lockout and decision to play for the Dominican Republic National Team.

- Punter Chas Henry8/12/11
Just days after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles, Henry spoke with us about NFL lockout ending, his fantastic opportunity in Philadelphia, winning the Ray Guy Award and, of course, his game-winning field goal against Georgia.

- Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones7/8/11
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time WNBA champion and two-time Euroleague champion who is also a two-time WNBA All-Star, was a No. 4 overall draft pick and was up for inclusion on her league’s Top 15 Players of All-Time list, Milton-Jones talked with OGGOA student correspondent Nicole Boyett about her time at Florida, extensive career, desire to come back and help the lady Gators and more.

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Hill, Debose, Patchan named in Yahoo! report on Miami booster providing improper benefits

Updated at 9:45 p.m.

A report released Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports concerning the intricate dealings of a Miami Hurricanes booster who was jailed for heading up a $930 million Ponzi scheme contains the names of three members of the current Florida Gators football team.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

Of the seven coaches specifically named in the report, one is current Florida wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, who was hired by head coach Will Muschamp as he assembled his brand new staff this past offseason. Hill, a former UF player and also the Gators’ new recruiting coordinator, was receivers coach at Miami from 2008-10 and added the recruiting coordinator role to his responsibilities last season.

Among the specific incidents, Shapiro or other sources say Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland, Pannunzio and Allen all delivered top-tier recruits to Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them. Among the players who were ushered to Shapiro while they were still in high school: [...] eventual Florida commitments Andre Debose (Hurtt) and Matt Patchan (prompted by Stoutland and Pannunzio) [...]

In accompanying reports detailing specifics about each coach and player, Robinson notes Hill was “on hand when three recruits – Andre Debose, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Dyron Dye – were brought to Shapiro’s $6 million Miami Beach mansion for the purposes of the booster recruiting the players. Hill was on hand while Shapiro toured the players through his home and made a pitch to lure their commitment to Miami.” Shapiro also said he took the recruits out in his $200,000 Mercedes S65.

Robinson goes on to report that “Shapiro alleges he provided Debose with extra benefits during recruiting visits.” In addition to the dealings listed above, Shapiro said he “gave Miami equipment assistant Sean Allen approximately $2,000 to $3,000 in cash and instructed him to show Debose, Armstrong and Dye a good time. Shapiro said Allen ultimately used the money to take the players to nightclubs, including Take One Cocktail lounge and strip club.” Debose (now a redshirt sophomore) allegedly visited Shapiro’s house again “for another gathering” where he was “served food and drinks” and attended a meeting at Lucky Strike Lanes where Shapiro hosted recruits as they watched NFL games, ate and drank for free.

As far as Patchan (now a redshirt junior) is concerned, he allegedly joined “multiple members” of his family at Shapiro’s mansion for a meal. “Shapiro said the recruiting visit at his home was attended by the two Miami coaches, Patchan, Patchan’s mother, Patchan’s father and Patchan’s uncle.”

Due to their inclusion in the report, a situation may arise where Hill, Debose and Patchan might be forced to remain off the field at the very least as a precaution until a conclusion is reached one way or another on their respective eligibility.

As noted by Yahoo!‘s Charles Robinson early in the report, Shapiro’s admissions bring a lot of the Hurricanes’ recruiting practices into question and could severely damage the program and those associated with the allegations for some time to come.

All told, the length, breadth and depth of the impropriety Shapiro has alleged would potentially breach multiple parts of at least four major NCAA bylaws – and possibly many more. Shapiro described acts that could include violations of multiple parts of bylaw 11, involving impermissible compensation to coaches; multiple parts of bylaw 12, involving amateurism of athletes; multiple parts of bylaw 13, involving improper recruiting activity; and multiple parts of bylaw 16, involving extra benefits to athletes.

In addition to all of this, Robinson also details Shapiro putting bounties on the heads of star players from opposing teams, giving Miami’s student-athletes an even greater reason to play hard and make an impact on the field.

The booster told Yahoo! Sports he had a number of individual payouts for “hit of the game” and “big plays.” He also put bounties on specific players, including Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and a three-year standing bounty on Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix from 2002 to 2004, offering $5,000 to any player who knocked him out of a game.

In the one contest against the Hurricanes that Tebow participated in (Sept. 6, 2008), the Gators signal caller went 21-of-35 for 256 yards and tossed two touchdowns while also carrying the ball 13 times for 55 yards. He was only sacked once.

One more Florida reference from the report involves former Gators guard Teddy Dupay, whose name was used as an alias by Shapiro when registering rooms at the Mercury Hotel in South Beach for players to copulate with prostitutes.

The University of Florida declined Yahoo!‘s request to make Hill, Debose or Patchan available for comment, but associate athletics director of communications Steve McClain released an official statement Tuesday evening.

“While we declined comment for Yahoo’s request, Coach Hill indicated he was very comfortable with, and very confident in how he conducted himself while at the University of Miami.”

Robinson’s report, which details alleged widespread illegal activities throughout Miami’s football and basketball programs, can be read in full by clicking here.

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Schnellenberger begins swan song in The Swamp

A 52-year coaching career will come to an end at the conclusion of the 2011 season as Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Howard Schnellenberger is set to officially announce his retirement from football on Thursday.

After resurrecting the program and eventually winning a national championship with the Miami Hurricanes in 1983, Schnellenberger was tasked with starting a Florida Atlantic football team from scratch when he was hired by the school as director of football operations and eventual head coach in 1998.

The Owls began playing football in 2001 and have been coached by Schellenberger ever since. Now at 77-years-old, he will take his 57-63 all-time record at the school into his final season, which begins with a road game against the Florida Gators on Sept. 3.

Though Schellenberger has never beat Florida with his FAU team, a defeat he handed the Gators as coach of the Hurricanes in 1980 stays with him to this day.

In the final game of the 1980 season, Miami traveled to Florida and upended the Gators 31-7. However, a notable occurrence during the contest keeps the game in the minds of fans and football historians.

With a 21-7 lead, the Hurricanes tacked on a late touchdown to go ahead 28-7. Florida fans, who were incensed throughout the game, responded by throwing oranges and ice at Miami’s players, cheerleaders and coaches. Ticked off at the actions of the fans, Schellenberger (whose team had regained possession of the ball) called a timeout and kicked a field goal on the game’s last play, rubbing the loss in even more.

He has not had much luck playing in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since then. The Hurricanes were topped 17-14 in 1982 and routed 28-3 the following year. He returned to Florida with his Louisville team in 1992 and lost 31-17 before dropping a 59-20 final to the Gators with his Owls squad in 2007.

Schnellenberger has had a storied college coaching career and also spent some time in the NFL and USFL. He’s won a national championship, credited for recruiting Joe Namath to Alabama, and been honored by Louisville with a football complex that bears his name. Florida Atlantic will open a brand new on-campus football stadium in 2011, a goal of his from the first day he took the job.

While 2011 will be a year of celebrating Schnellenberger’s career – a time filled with honors and gifts and speeches – the one thing he is unlikely to earn is another victory at The Swamp, a venue that has had his number for the past 29 years.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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June 5, 2011: Gators dominate on the diamonds

Something special happened for Gator Nation on Sunday. In a 10-hour period from approximately noon until 10 p.m., Florida Gators fans got the opportunity to watch their teams dominate in a fashion not normally seen at this stage of collegiate athletics.

Over the course of three games – two on the softball diamond and one on a baseball field – Florida defeated two of their rivals thrice, outscoring them, out-hustling them and outclassing them in a way possibly never seen before.

No. 4 Gators softball, which went head-to-head with the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in a pair of win-or-go-home games in the 2011 Women’s College World Series, set numerous event records in a 16-2 dismantling early in the afternoon and added a few more in their 9-2 victory later that evening.

In between, No. 2 Florida baseball took on the Miami Hurricanes in the finals of the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The Gators routed the Canes 11-4 and moved on to host the Super Regionals.

Let’s take a look at what Florida accomplished on Sunday:

- The Gators outscored their opponents by a total margin of 36-8.
- A total of eight home runs were hit with sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte connecting in both softball games.
- The teams combined for 34 RBI on 32 hits, record 15 walks and stole four bases.
- Pitchers vs. Florida had a combined 12.05 ERA. Alabama’s posted a 14.58 ERA, while Miami’s throwers allowed seven runs in their contest. Crimson Tide ace Kelsi Dunne registered a 36.67 ERA against the Gators, allowing 11 earned runs in 2.1 innings.
- Florida’s starting pitchers combined to allow a total of five earned runs while notching 18 strikeouts. They registered a 2.04 ERA as a group.
- Florida baseball swept their regional, going 3-0.
- Gators softball won their second and third elimination games of the event after defeating No. 7 California one day earlier.

Softball’s records:

- The 11 runs scored in the first inning of their opening game on Sunday were the most in any inning in WCWS history. The previous mark (nine, 2010) was held by UCLA in a victory against UF just one year ago.
- The Gators scored more runs on the Crimson Tide in one inning than they had given up in a single game all season. Their 16 total runs scored (through just three innings) are the most allowed in a single game by UA softball in school history.
- Florida tied the WCWS team record for homers in a game (four).
- The Gators’ 15 RBI are a WCWS single-game record.
- The 41 total runs scored by Florida so far in the WCWS are as many as every other team in the field combined. The total is currently the second-most in WCWS history.
- The Gators advanced to the WCWS Championship Series for the second time in the last three years and will once again face a Pac-10 opponent.
- Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder set WCWS event record for most runs scored (nine).
- Schutte set UF’s single-season home run record with her 21st & 22nd bombs.

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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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Gators baseball walks off with 5-4 win over Hurricanes in Gainesville Regional action

The rivalry may have been taken to another level Saturday as No. 2 Florida Gators baseball and the Miami Hurricanes squared off at McKethan Stadium in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Florida (47-16) came back from a two-run deficit and eventually took a 5-4 victory on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to advance to the regional finals and send Miami (37-22) to an elimination game.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for the Gators but was pulled after six innings of solid work. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo (5-3) pitched a strong ninth inning and came away with the victory.

Scoreless for two innings, Miami got on board first in the third to take an early 1-0 lead. The Hurricanes started the inning with a double and sacrificed a bunt and fly to bring the runner home. UM added a second run in the fourth, scoring a lead-off single with a one-out stand-up double.

Feeling the pressure, Florida succeeded in tying the game in the bottom of the inning. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) got things going with a double, and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino followed suit to send him home and reduce the Gators’ deficit. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (2-4, RBI) kept the double parade going, smacking a ball to deep right to score Zunino (2-4, RBI, R) and knot the game up at 2-2.

UF kept the scoring run going in the fifth as sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana connected on a single to score redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit, who led off the inning with a double. Fontana would advance to second on a bad throw and move over to third when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-3) singled. Continuing his hard-hitting afternoon, Tucker stepped into the box and doubled off the right field wall to plate Fontana and give Florida a 4-2 lead.

Miami looked to be going down in the top of the sixth but salvaged the frame to get on the board and draw the game closer. RF Dale Carey hit a clutch two-out double down the left field line to get on base and was singled home by third baseman Brad Fieger to put the Canes just one run behind the Gators. UM capitalized again in the seventh as second baseman Zeke DeVoss began the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and came around to tie the game on a single by LF Rony Rodriguez.

The visitors threatened in the top of the eighth and ninth, but great pitching from Toledo (1.0 IP, K, H) negated a lead-off double in the latter inning to get Florida out of a jam. Gators junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott started the bottom of the inning by getting on base because of an error by the shortstop, advanced to second on a balk and was joined on base by Ramjit (1-3, R, BB), who was walked. The duo moved to second and third after a wild pitch and were joined on the bags when P Daniel Miranda walked his second batter of the inning, sophomore 3B Cody Dent (0-3, BB).

With all the pressure on him, Fontana (2-5, RBI, R) stepped up to the plate and hit a game-winning single to left, scoring Pigott (0-4, R) and sending Florida into the Gainesville Regional championship game on Sunday.

The Hurricanes have now lost seven-straight games to the Gators and 10 of the last 11. Four of Florida’s runs were scored due to opportunities provided by UM errors.

Miami will face Jacksonville at noon with the winner taking on UF in the finals at 4 p.m., live on ESPNU. The Gators only need one more victory to advance to the Super Regional, while either Miami or Jacksonville would have to defeat Florida twice.

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