2014 Florida baseball primer: Bounce back year?

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

The unanimously top 25-ranked Florida Gators are hoping to bounce back from a disastrous 2013 campaign that saw the team go 29-27 in the regular season and get bounced out of both league and national postseason play without winning a single game.

UF also lost five players to the 2014 MLB Draft – including three top pitchers – and enters 2014 with a young but talented roster filled with up-and-coming prospects.

In the offseason, seventh-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan signed a top-notch 2014 recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game. The 15-member class makes up 43 percent of Florida’s roster, which features two fourth-year players (redshirt juniors) but not a single senior.

One year ago, the departures of nine MLB draft selections loomed large on opening night. This Friday, when UF begins the 2014 campaign with a three-game home series against Maryland, the most notable absence from the lineup card will be a current Gators outfielder in sophomore Harrison Bader. Bader was indefinitely suspended after police suspected alcohol played a role in a Feb. 2 scooter accident. Without him, Florida lacks its best hitter (.312) and one of only four designated outfielders.

Here’s what O’Sullivan (252-132) has to work with as the Gators open the 2014 campaign looking to bounce back from last season’s disappointments and begin moving in the right direction toward another College World Series berth.

Continue Reading » 2014 Florida baseball primer: Bounce back year?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

Continue Reading » Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has long held up former South African president Nelson Mandela as one of his idols. So for Noah to easily have his best game of the 2013-14 season on the day of Mandela’s passing was certainly no surprise. On Thursday, Noah posted his second-straight double-double with 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and a season-high 15 rebounds in a 107-87 win over Miami. After the contest, he was interviewed by TNT’s Craig Sager and ended the conversation like this:

2 » The Florida Gators are expected to have major frontcourt troubles next season with big-bodied seniors – center Patric Young and forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete – all scheduled to graduate. One of its other big men is on shaky ground and a fifth, who has yet to enroll, could be a one-and-done player. Facing a potential roster that would have its two tallest players – current redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and five-star incoming F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) listed as 6-foot-8 – the Gators may have found some help in the form of current Duke redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy. The brother of Erik Murphy, Alex has decided to leave the Blue Devils at the end of the fall 2013 semester and may very well be headed to Gainesville, FL. He would have to sit out two semesters per NCAA rules and would not be eligible until next spring, but Alex Murphy would nevertheless be a much-needed addition for UF. OnlyGators.com is still working to confirm his transfer destination as of press time.

3 » Florida found another way to disappoint its fans this week. In a story overlooked for the last few days by OnlyGators.com, UF’s basketball team made headlines by displacing 50 passengers on an Atlanta, GA-bound Sunday flight when Delta decided to help the Gators by chartering a new plane for the team to Storrs, CT for its showdown with UConn. According to The Gainesville Sun, a maintenance delay grounded the plane that the team usually charters, so Delta stepped in to help at the expense of customers that had already purchased tickets on the flight. “Passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and given vouchers valid for use through Delta for future trips,” a spokesman told the paper. Florida has gone above and beyond to try and deflect any blame heading its way. The Gators have claimed ignorance regarding Delta’s decision, which he company took completely on its own shoulders.

Check out the statement and three more BITS…after the break!

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ross hits game-winning RBI in World Series win

Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross, a spot starter for Game 5 of the 2013 World Series, came through in the clutch with an RBI double in the seventh inning that later became the difference maker for the road team on Monday evening in St. Louis, MO.

Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Boston jumped ahead by a run when Ross hit a ground rule double to left to score what would become his team’s game-winning run. He was thrown out at home two plays later after trying to tack on an insurance run for the Red Sox following a single to center by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ross has become left-handed pitcher Jon Lester’s personal catcher and led the hurler, from behind he plate, to a terrific performance on Monday (7.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 7 K).

He only spent one year as a member of the Florida Gators baseball team, joining the program as a junior transfer in 1998 after two seasons with Auburn.

Following the 1998 College World Series (the Gators were the No. 1 overall seed but lost in the first round), Ross decided to forgo his final year of eligibility. He was subsequently selected in the seventh round of the 1998 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ross has played for seven different teams over his 12-year MLB career and is currently in his second stint with Boston (2008). A .237 hitter who has spent most of his career as a reserve, he played in his 13th postseason game on Monday, seven of which have come this season with the Red Sox.

After the 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Ross was interviewed on the field by FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews, who was a sophomore at Florida in 1998.

Tags: , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Noah, basketball, Eckstein, Robinson

1 » Despite being sidelined for a large portion of the preseason with a groin injury, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters Sunday that he is “100 percent” sure he will be active for his team’s season opener on Tuesday. Noah has not played more than 66 games in an NBA regular season since 2008-09, but he posted career-highs of 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 blocks last year.

2 » Florida Gators basketball held a “secret” scrimmage on Saturday against Georgia Tech in Valdosta, GA. Though no official score was kept and no one in attendance is allowed to discuss either the outcome or news from the scrimmage, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (citing a source) reported that both Gators point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill – stood out as the most impressive players on the court. Additionally, as expected, senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) was sidelined while junior guard Eli Carter (leg) saw limited action.

3 » Former Florida shortstop David Eckstein received a shout-out on a recent episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation, which just so happens to be OnlyGators.com’s favorite active sitcom (though it is unfathomably on hiatus at this time). The law firm plaque utilized in the last episode to air includes a number of sabermetric measurements along with Eckstein’s name. (Image courtesy of Deadspin.com)


And how did Eckstein respond? By making a fake commercial for said law firm, of course.

4 » 2014 five-star forward Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) will make his verbal commitment official on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., and Florida has been after him hard as of late. Not only did Robinson pay a visit to Gainesville, FL, on Oct. 11, head coach Billy Donovan went in-home with the 20th ranked player in the nation just five days later and has definitely made an impression on the young man. Indiana is believed to be UF’s main competitor for Robinson, and head coach Tom Crean (who had assistants visit Robinson previously) smartly delayed his in-home visit with the prospect until night before he makes his decision. Robinson took his official visit to IU on Oct. 4.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps missed the entire offseason while running track but officially joined the team on Monday in hopes of earning a roster spot and playing football in 2013. The Buccaneers have a roster exemption or Demps, who will have one full week to prove his worth and take one of the 53 available spots or else be released by Tampa Bay. Though the Bucs will certainly see what Demps can do for them, head coach Greg Schiano was perturbed a few weeks ago when asked where Demps was in the world and why he had not reported at the time.

» Former Florida Gators forward Cody Larson, who lost his scholarship and then quit the basketball team before the 2012-13 season but remained at Florida for academics, transferred to play for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in May and had a waiver to play immediately accepted by the NCAA this month. “We want to thank the committee and the NCAA for taking the time to look at Cody’s waiver,” head coach Scott Nagy said in a school release. “We appreciate the fact that this ruling allows him the opportunity to be eligible to compete immediately.” Larson will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining but has not played college basketball in two full seasons.

» One of the greatest tennis players in school history, Jill Craybas has decided to retire at age 39 after spending the last 18 years playing professional tennis. One of two Florida women to win the NCAA Singles Championship, Craybas captured the title in 1996 while leading the Gators women’s program to the team NCAA Championship that same season. Inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2008, Craybas never won a Grand Slam title but advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2005 after shocking Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 in the Round of 16 that year. She also represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long. But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life,” she told Tennis Panorama about her retirement decision. “I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”

Check out 12 more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 15 Gator Bites for Wednesday, September 11

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Harvin, Hill, Beal, Zunino

1 » Though he will officially get a second opinion about his injured hip on Tuesday, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is expected to be able to avoid surgery. According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the “conservative Seahawks doctors … believe the injury isn’t season-threatening” and are allowing him to get a specialist to look at his hip as a method of showing their trust in the player. “Percy’s a confidence player – he needs to feel good about his condition and himself,” a “Seattle source” told King. “This time should give him the best chance to feel right entering the season.” Harvin may (1) not need surgery, just a cortisone shot and some rest, (2) need minor surgery that would force him to miss some time, or (3) need season-ending surgery, which is considered doubtful at this point. This may be about Harvin being a “confidence player,” but it may also be about Harvin following his career-long trend of doing whatever he believes is necessary to sit out training camps and practices.

2 » New York Giants safety Will Hill candidly admitted on Sunday that his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy was for a positive marijuana test from last season. Hill said he failed more than one test and appealed the suspension but ultimately lost. He later explained that he started using drugs again because he felt a massive amount of stress. “It’s from family members, to everyone reaching their hand out thinking I’m an ATM, and people who think you owe them something. It was just a situation where I was visiting my hometown and a guy pulled a shotgun out on me right there in a park for some money. How do you deal with those situations? You really can’t, so I just dealt with it the best way I knew how,” he said.

Hill said he has not used any drugs since his last positive test and accepted the Giants’ offer to send him to a rehabilitation facility in Boston, MA. He was in rehab in March and April and went to an outpatient facility in Parsippany, NJ. “I talked to the team and they just told me to keep on moving forward, keep being positive,” Hill said. “Just take the suspension and leave it at that and don’t’ have any more mishaps.”

3 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was unable to participate in USA Basketball’s most recent minicamp as he is still recovering from a stress fracture in his leg, but he told The Washington Post last week that he will continue to pursue representing his country and will remain involved with the program going forward. He also noted that, after three months on the shelf, he will begin participating in live contact work within the next week or two and will be 100 percent by the time his team’s training camp starts in approximately two months. “I have to take it slow. That’s the reason I didn’t participate [at Team USA minicamp]. I didn’t want to force the issue and end up being reinjured. Patience is definitely the key,” Beal said.

4 » Seattle Mariners rookie catcher Mike Zunino was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday after an MRI revealed he fractured the hamate bone in his left hand. Zunino will undergo surgery this week and is expected to miss six weeks while healing. Should he return to action after that timeframe, there would only be three weeks remaining in the regular season. He was hitting .242 with two home runs and 10 RBI in the first 29 games of his career before being injured on Thursday when he took a foul tip off his hand; he stayed in the game for three more innings.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

SIX BITS: Andrews, Brown, Parsons, Beal, Zunino; Aaron Hernandez updates

1 » Former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews and softball player Jenn Brown, just over one year ago, were both working as sideline reports for ESPN with the former taking on a bunch of other duties as well. Neither remains with the network today, but Andrews and Brown each have a great opportunity to shine with their new company. Andrews, who was hired by FOX Sports last July, spent 2012 sitting at a studio desk as host of a primetime college football pre-game show while also serving as a sideline reporter for major sports events including the MLB postseason. According to SB Nation, her duties will increase this season with the launch of the FOX Sports 1 network. Andrews will move from the primetime half-hour show to hosting a new college football pregame show that will air on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, going head-to-head with ESPN’s College GameDay. Before leaving ESPN, Andrews was given hosting duties for the first hour of College GameDay, which aired from 9-10 a.m. on ESPNU.

Brown, after spending a short stint working with NBC, has signed a deal with the NFL Network, according to The Big Lead. She will start appearing on-air Thursday when she hosts the network’s Total Access show though the breath of her duties is currently unknown. “I’m thrilled to get back to the NFL,” she told the website. “The first sports job I had was on Inside the NFL. Covering college football for ESPN was a great time and I learned a lot, but it’s good to get back to the NFL.”

2 » Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears sat down with Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons to discuss what OnlyGators.com reported almost three weeks ago – Parsons’s role in luring free agent center Dwight Howard to Houston. “I spent a lot of time during the summer in L.A.,” Parsons explained. “We kind of just hit it off. We literally would text every day. [Howard would] call me at 8 p.m. with a question and then he’d call me at midnight with the same question. … I was just that guy trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible. We have very similar personalities. We are both outgoing. We’re always smiling. We like to have fun. I made him really comfortable that he was not only coming to a really good team, but a team with his friends.” Parsons also talks about his pitch, being involved in the official meeting and where he was when he learned Howard chose the Rockets.

Read and watch four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Andrews, Brown, Parsons, Beal, Zunino; Aaron Hernandez updates

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 Page 1 of 16  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »