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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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, lax win Thursday

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (5-0) kept their hot streak going Thursday with a solid 4-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles (2-2) in the first of a three-game series taking place at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (2-0, 0.00 ERA) shined, retiring the first 17 hitters he faced in a bid for a perfect game; unfortunately he ended up giving up a hit in the sixth and combined with sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez (S1) to toss a two-hit shutout. Johnson’s streak of retiring 27-consecutive batters through two games also set a school record. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) led the way at the plate, with sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (1-4), Johnson (1-3, R) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) also registering a RBI each. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0, 1.50 ERA) takes the mound for game two of the series, Friday at 5 p.m.

2 » Thursday wasn’t all about basketball and baseball as No. 4/5 Florida softball trashed the Indiana Hoosiers (5-6) 7-0 in their first game of the day at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers tossed a complete game shutout for the win, only giving up two hits and three walks while striking out seven. The Gators scored two in the third, four (with two outs) in the sixth and one more in the seventh to put away the Hoosiers. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-3) led Florida offensively by driving in a pair of runs. Freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle, sophomore designated hitter Samantha Holle and freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan each walked twice and were rewarded by their teammates for their efforts, crossing the plate a combined four times.

3 » The early win was nice, but UF softball (11-0) faced a tougher opponent in the evening. Down 4-3 to the No. 11/12 Texas Longhorns (10-2) late Thursday night, the Gators rallied to tie the game first in the seventh and again in the eighth before pulling out a 6-5 victory in nine innings. Senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (0.36 ERA), the team’s ace, got the start and played nearly the entire game, striking out seven while allowing two earned runs, seven hits and four walks in 8.1 innings. She was replaced in the ninth by Rogers (5-0, 0.49 ERA), who struck out both batters she faced to preserve a 5-5 tie into the bottom of the inning.

Tied at three runs apiece in the top of the seventh after the Longhorns scored an unearned run, RF Taylor Hoagland homered to center to give Texas a one-run advantage. Now down 4-3, Florida’s Moultrie (2-3, 2 RBI, R) tripled to center field to score junior Ellie Langley from third base (she replaced sophomore Kelsey Horton, who hit a pinch-hit leadoff single). Trailing 5-4 in the eighth, a single by senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-4, 2 RBI, R) scored senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) from second. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Moultrie hit a walk-off single to score sophomore Ensley Gammel from second and give the Gators the victory.

4 » While baseball and softball had the fun at night, No. 17 Florida lacrosse (3-1) got the day started off right for the Gators with a 16-6 trouncing of the UMBC Retrievers (1-1) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Seven different players scored for Florida with sophomores midfielder Kitty Cullen (five goals) and attacker Ashley Bruns (four goals) once again leading the way.

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Florida baseball routs FAU 13-2 in Jupiter

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (4-0) did not waste much time in piling it on the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-1), scoring three runs in the opening frame and going on to rout their opponent 13-2 on Tuesday night at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.

Junior right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (1-0), who is primarily a reliever but filled in as a starter at the last minute for junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (illness), tossed four innings of shutout ball while striking out three. By the time he was replaced on the mound, Florida was already up 8-0 on FAU.

Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (RBI, 2 R), junior right fielder Preston Tucker (4-5, 2 RBI, R) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-3, RBI, 2 R) all scored unearned runs in the first inning due to the Owls committing a pair of errors. After an inning off, the Gators powered up in the third with sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (2-6, RBI, R) scoring on a sacrifice fly and both sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-3, RBI, R) and Johnson crossing the plate on a two-RBI double by junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (4-5, 2 RBI, 2 R).

Senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-4, RBI, R) scored on a single to right center by sophomore third baseman Cody Dent (1-2, RBI) in the top of the fifth, and Pigott would touch home plate on a sacrifice fly by Fontana one batter later.

Senior RHP Matt Campbell relieved DeSclafani in the fifth and threw a shutout inning but freshman RHP Jonathon Crawford and junior LHP Nick Maronde each gave up an earned run in their subsequent innings. Florida piled on further in the seventh after a rally that saw sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-3, RBI, R), Tucker and Maddox drive home four runs on three singles (and a throwing error).

Junior RHP Tommy Toledo struck out two batters in a scoreless eighth, and the Gators added another run at the top of the ninth when redshirt junior RF Paul Wilson (2 R) scored on a wild pitch. Maddox, making his first appearance as a pitcher in the orange and blue, closed out the game with two strikeouts in the ninth.

Up next for Florida is a three-game series on Thursday (5 p.m.), Friday (5 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) against Boston College at home in Gainesville, FL.

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Gators sweep Bulls; Fontana and Whitson shine

Topping the South Florida Bulls 7-2 in their season opener on Friday, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball put together back-to-back wins on Saturday and Sunday to sweep the season opening series at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (3-0) took down USF (0-3) 4-1 on Saturday and 5-0 Sunday, outscoring their opponent by a 16-3 margin over the three-game stretch.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0) took the mound for the Gators on Saturday, giving up only one run on seven hits in six innings. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (1-0), the No. 9 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, provided the most impressive performance of the weekend Sunday, striking out nine batters while only allowing one hit and registering one walk in five scoreless innings.

SATURDAY: Down one after the opening frame, Florida quickly evened things up in the bottom of the first when sophomore infielder Austin Maddox (2-4, RBI) scored sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-4, run) from third base on a fielder’s choice.

The Gators jumped ahead two innings later when junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI, run), who ended up on third after hitting a lead-off double, scored on a double play ball to give UF a 2-1 lead. Held scoreless the next three innings, Florida added single runs in the seventh and eighth.

With junior designated hitter Ben McMahan (1-3, run) on second due to a passed ball in the seventh, Pigott singled past the shortstop to give his team a 3-1 advantage. In the eighth, senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3, run) scored from third when sophomore first baseman Brian Johnson (RBI) reached base on a fielder’s choice.

Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone came in to relieve Randall after the first six innings but was pulled for junior closer Tommy Toledo (S1), who tossed 2.1 scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season.

SUNDAY: Fontana (2-3, 2 runs), leading off with a hit for the second-straight game, was also the first run to cross the plate Sunday. After doubling down the left field line, he reached home when junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, RBI) singled up the middle. The Gators piled on more two runs in the fourth when sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR) hit a lead-off homer to left and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-4, run) scored on a single through the left side by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI). Fontana scored again via a sacrifice fly by Maddox (RBI, BB) in the sixth, and McMahan (run, BB) crossed the plate in the eighth on another single by Pigott.

Completing Whitson’s stellar pitching performance was the trio of junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, who each gave up a hit but combined for four strikeouts.

Fontana posted a stunning .750 average (9-for-12) over the weekend, got on base at a .786 clip and scored five runs in three games.

Florida had 14,003 fans walk through the turnstiles over the weekend, the highest opening weekend and second-largest three-game series attendance in school history. UF’s three defeats of USF extended their winning streak to 11 against the in-state rival.

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Florida baseball tops USF 7-2 in season opener

There is plenty of pressure on No. 1 Florida Gators baseball this year, but the team looked at ease Friday night as they opened the 2011 season with a dominant 7-2 victory over the South Florida Bulls at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Fueled by six scoreless innings from sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson, Florida (1-0) shut out USF (0-1) for the first eight innings of the game. Johnson (1-0) only faced 18 batters, struck out and allowed two singles.

The Gators scored all of their runs in two innings, posting three in the third and four more in the fifth.

With the bases loaded on three consecutive singles in the third, junior right fielder Preston Tucker hit a fourth to left field, scoring freshman third baseman Zach Powers for Florida’s first run of the season. Sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox followed with a deep sacrifice fly to right field to score sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana, and Johnson’s RBI double to right center on the next at bat allowed senior second baseman Josh Adams to cross the plate for the inning’s final run.

Back up at bat in the fifth, UF used a a two-run homer by Tucker with Fontana on third to jump ahead 5-0. A few batters later, senior left fielder Bryson Smith stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and hit a two-RBI single to the third base side to score both sophomore catcher Mike Zunino and Johnson.

Relieved in the seventh, Johnson was supported by back-to-back shutout innings from junior right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and freshman RHP Jonathon Crawford. The Gators’ 2010 ace, junior LHP Alex Panteliodis, came in to close out the game but ended up allowing three hits and two earned runs – including a solo shot to right by Bulls RF James Ramsay – before notching the final out.

Tucker finished the game 3-for-5 with three RBI and was a triple away from the cycle. Fontana (4-5) scored two runs while earning a career-high four hits.

With the victory, Florida won its 16th consecutive game at McKethan Stadium, and head coach Kevin Sullivan improved to 4-0 in season openers. The Gators are back on the field Saturday with sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (8-4, 3.24 ERA in 2010) on the mound for the second of the three-game series. The contest will begin at 4 p.m. and will be available live on GatorVision.tv.

Photo Credit: Brad McClenn/The Gainesville Sun

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Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2010, the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From game-winning baskets to displays of pure emotion, Florida experienced some unique athletic moments in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 On the Field Moments of the Year.

OGGOA RELATED: Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

10 » FLORIDA WINS INAUGURAL LACROSSE GAME (2/20/10)
When Florida decided it wanted to start another women’s athletics program, the University Athletic Association did extensive research and found out that women’s lacrosse would be the perfect fit. In preparation for their first season, the Gators and head coach Amanda O’Leary secured the country’s No. 1 recruiting class (according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine). All the hard work and preparation to get the team ready paid off on Feb. 20 when lacrosse debuted in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium to a boisterous crowd of 2,114 spectators. Florida defeated Jacksonville 16-6 behind four goals and four assists from freshman sensation Ashley Bruns. All-in-all the Gators faced 16 championship-caliber teams and played so well that they reached the 2010 ALC Tournament semifinals. In just their second year of existence, Florida women’s lacrosse is ranked as the No. 17 team in the country going into the 2011 season.

9 » NEAR VICTORIES/HEARTBREAKING LOSSES (5/25/10 * 3/18/10 * 10/9/10)

It is rare for teams to go undefeated and even less likely that an entire athletic program can go through a season without its share of close losses and nail biting finishes. Such was the case for the Gators in 2010. On May 25, No. 3 women’s tennis was barely defeated by the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal for the 2010 NCAA National Championship. Stanford won 4-3 after Florida rallied when they were just two individual games away from being defeated. The Gators forced third sets in two singles matches; sophomore Joanna Mather took down her opponent but senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra was not as lucky. Losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with No. 33 Mallory Burdette by taking the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, she pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead but ended up losing her final three games, the match itself and the championship.

Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, No. 10-seed Florida got in a bit easier than some might have expected. Matched up against the No. 7-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the event’s opening game, the Gators fought hard but could not stop Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette. Allowing BYU to jump ahead 59-46 in the second half, UF came back behind freshman G Kenny Boynton and junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida missed potential game-winners during regulation (Parsons) and the first overtime (Boynton) and eventually fell to Brigham Young 99-92 in a double-overtime heartbreaker with Fredette adding to his game-high 37 points.

Though losing a national championship and NCAA Tournament game are both difficult, Gators fans will probably look back on No. 12/14 Florida’s shocking loss to the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10 as the worst near-victory of the season. Wearing orange jerseys for the first time since 1989, the Gators came back from a 12-point deficit when freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee rumbled in for a touchdown and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley completed a two-point conversion to sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. All Florida wanted when its defense came out was a stop, but LSU put together a 62-yard game-winning drive that included numerous third down conversions and a converted fake field goal attempt on fourth down from UF’s 36-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Back-to-back passes to WR Terrence Toliver (of 28 and 3 yards, respectively) and the Tigers left The Swamp with a 33-29 victory. Players have noted that the loss was a negative turning point in the season, one that may or may not have led to the team dropping their third-straight game one week later at home to Mississippi State.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Seminoles chop Gators 8-5 in elimination game

Faced with elimination from the 2010 NCAA College World Series and the end of a stellar season, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (47-17) lost their second-straight game for only the third time all year, falling 8-5 to the unranked Florida State Seminoles (48-19) on Monday evening at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, NE.

The Gators entered the series hoping to earn their 48th win of the season – one which would tie the program high (2005) – but could not come away with a victory after first falling to UCLA 11-3 on Saturday.

Freshman starter Hudson Randall (8-4) was blasted by the Seminoles for four earned runs in 2.2 innings including a solo shot by outfielder Tyler Holt (3-4, two RBI, three runs) to lead-off the first inning and a three-run homer by outfielder/pitcher Mike McGee (2-4, four RBI, two runs) in the bottom of the third. Freshman Brian Johnson, in relief, fared a little better but still allowed two earned runs in 3.1 innings. Sophomore Anthony DeSclafani and junior Kevin Chapman each gave up an earned run of their own before senior Greg Larson threw the final out.

For the Seminoles, Brian Busch (6-2) only allowed two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Geoff Parker tossed 2.1 innings of shutout relief before Daniel Bennett entered for an attempt to close out the game. However, Bennett would give up a three-RBI double to sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (1-5) in the top of the ninth before being pulled for McGee (S13) who forced freshman catcher Mike Zunino to line into an infield double play to end the game.

Freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-4, two runs), freshman designated hitter Austin Maddox (2-5, RBI) and senior outfielder Jonathan Pigott (2-4, RBI, run) led the way for Florida offensively, but the team was unable to put a rally together until it was too late.

FSU defeated UF for the fourth time in five meetings this season; the Seminoles are also responsible for ending the Gators’ season twice in the past three years after knocking the 2008 team out of the NCAA Tournament in the Tallahassee Regional.

Photo Credit: Daniel J. Muprhy/ Omaha World-Herald

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Errors doom Miami as Florida advances to 2010 NCAA College World Series with 4-3 win Saturday

Advancing to the 2010 NCAA College World Series for the first time since 2005, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (47-15) defeated the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes (43-20) 4-3 in extra innings Saturday after Miami tied a postseason school record with seven errors including three in the final two innings.

As the away team at McKethan Stadium in the second game of the 2010 Gainesville Super Regional, Florida was down 3-2 with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning. Hurricanes shortstop Stephen Perez was charged with a throwing error on a routine ground out hit by Gators freshman catcher Mike Zunino (0-3), which advanced all runners and scored the tying run.

Florida would blank Miami in the bottom frame and move on to extra innings where Gators freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-5) led-off by reaching base on a misjudged fly ball by Canes right fielder Chris Pelaez. Fontana advanced to second and later to third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore RF Daniel Pigott before being driven home by a RBI-double down the right field line by freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (1-5) two batters later with two outs.

UF went up 4-3 and held on to the lead as sophomore reliever Greg Larson earned his third save of the season with a strikeout in 0.2 innings. Freshman pitcher Steven Rodriguez (2-0) earned the win in relief after cleaning up the bottom of the ninth inning and earning an out in the tenth.

Both starting pitchers produced fantastic outings as Gators freshman Hudson Randall posted five strikeouts and only allowed two earned runs on three hits in 6.2 innings, and the Hurricanes’ Chris Hernandez allowed one earned run while striking out four and letting up both three hits and three walks in 8.1 innings.

Florida led 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring the first run in the fifth after two errors helped senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (1-2, three walks) cross home plate; den Dekker scored again in the seventh when freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-3, two RBI) hit an RBI-single to right center field with two outs.

Men were on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when head coach Kevin O’Sullivan removed Randall for closer Kevin Chapman, who immediately gave up a three-run shot to Miami OF Nathan Melendres (1-3, three RBI) to give the Hurricanes their first and only lead of the game.

Florida’s hopes of ending the best-of-three series early looked to be doomed until a string of errors erased UM’s one-run lead.

The Gators continued a 15-game home winning streak and are now 30-9 all-time at home during NCAA play with the victory Saturday. Miami still leads the all-time series 124-99-1, but Florida has mounted a 62-45-1 record in Gainesville and defeated their in-state rivals four times in five games (7-1, 6-9, 4-2, 7-2, 4-3) this season. O’Sullivan is 4-0 against the Canes all-time in NCAA action.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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