TWO BITS: Werner DUI dropped, recruits drafted

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Dan Werner, arrested by Gainesville police on April 12 for driving under the influence, had his case dismissed by the State Attorney’s Office. Werner passed two breath tests, blowing below the legal limit of 0.08 twice, but officers on site said he failed field sobriety tests and arrested him on site. After reviewing video of Werner’s tests, available here courtesy of First Coast News, state attorneys determined there was not enough evidence to pursue the case further. “The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence to sustain conviction,” SAO spokesman Spencer Mann told FCN. “The video doesn’t support what we believe could sustain a conviction. We think he did pretty well on the field sobriety test.” Werner was initially pulled over while driving his girlfriend’s car, which had a tail light out and its high beams on.

2 » Though no Gators were selected Monday in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, two of Florida’s signees were chosen in the compensation round. Right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly (Boca Raton, FL) was picked No. 48 overall by the San Diego Padres, and RHP Hudson Boyd (Fort Myers, FL) went No. 55 to the Minnesota Twins. It is unknown if either will sign with their respective MLB club, though selections that high in the draft are often offered a significant sum of money to skip college for minor league and – hopefully eventually – major league ball.

In addition to the UF’s other signees, 12 Gators are currently eligible to be drafted. Junior pitchers Nick Maronde and Anthony DeSclafani – and junior right fielder Preston Tucker – should be selected the highest out of the remaining pool. Other Florida players who could be picked include seniors second baseman Josh Adams and center fielder Bryson Smith and juniors RHP Matt Campbell, RHP Greg Larson, left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis, RHP Justin Poovey, RHP Tommy Toledo and left fielder Tyler Thompson.

Below is a video of Kelly courtesy of MLB.com:

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Gators to begin MLB season; softball’s draftees

With Opening Day for MLB beginning at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday, the Florida Gators boast six former players on rosters across the league.

2B Mark Ellis – Oakland Athletics
A nine-year veteran, Ellis is Oakland’s opening day starter at second base. He will bat in the lower half of the order seeing as he finished the 2010 season batting .291 with five home runs and 49 RBI in 436 at bats.

1B Matt LaPorta – Cleveland Indians
Praised by the coaching staff for his defensive prowess in the infield, LaPorta is still trying to improve his hitting at the professional level. An offensive force coming out of UF, he only batted .221 with 12 home runs, 41 RBI and 46 walks in 376 plate appearances in 2010 but will start for Cleveland this season.

RHP Darren O’Day – Texas Rangers
A force for Texas during the playoffs, O’Day struggled with his command this spring. He made a team-high 72 relief appearances last season and will likely be the primary reliever in 2011. O’Day finished 2010 with a 6-2 record and 2.03 ERA in 62.0 innings.

RHP Bryan Augenstein – St. Louis Cardinals
Augenstein pitched in seven games (two starts) for Arizona in 2009. He will likely be St. Louis’ long reliever out of the bullpen in 2011.

C David Ross – Atlanta Braves
A nine-year veteran like Ellis, Ross will be the back-up behind home plate for star catcher Brian McCann. He played in 59 games for Atlanta in 2010, batting .289 with a pair of homers, 28 RBI and 20 walks in 121 at bats.

OF Ryan Raburn – Detroit Tigers
Played at UF as a freshman before transferring.
In his seventh professional season, Raburn will be Detroit’s opening day starter in left field. With the Tigers supporting a large number of outfielders on their roster, Rayburn may not start every day but will be given as many at bats as possible. He ended the 2010 season batting .280 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI in 371 plate appearances.

Three of Florida’s senior softball players were drafted in the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch Draft on March 18. Left fielder Kelsey Bruder and first baseman Megan Bush were picked in the second round, while second baseman Aja Paculba was selected in the fifth. Bruder (No. 5 overall) will play for the USSSA Pride in Orlando, FL where former Gators outfielder Francesca Enea was picked last year and won a title in 2010. Bush (No. 6 overall) is joining the Akron Racers in Akron, OH, and Paculba was picked by the NPF Diamonds of Hermitage, TN. Florida head softball coach Tim Walton also leads the Pride and won the league’s title in his first season.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey’s stock, Crowder, Eckstein

1 » Former Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey, expected to be the only member of his team picked in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, told the Sporting News on Monday that he will attend the event if invited regardless of what the NFLPA asks rookies to do. “I haven’t been invited yet, but I’m hoping to get invited,” Pouncey said. “I’ll bring my brother up there and a couple of my family members. I’m going if I’m invited. I just feel like it’s a dream I’ve wanted my whole life. We’ve busted our tails to be in the draft, and it’s a dream come true.” He understands this might ruffle the feathers of some veterans but explained that the day is about the rookies. “I’m not too worried about [any backlash],” he said. “I respect their feelings because they’re great players. But as far as them keeping us from going to the draft, I’m totally against it.”

2 » Speaking of Pouncey, former NFL head coach Brian Billick – who also spoke highly of safety Ahmad Black – praised his versatility on his daily blog published for WNST AM1570 in Baltimore, MD. Below is a portion of what he wrote:

When you watch Pouncey play, you see a good athlete that plays light on his feet, but can anchor down and get physical when needed. That athleticism is on display when you watch him pull on counter and trap plays. He runs a tight line through the hole and gets to the second level quickly to clear a path for the running back. His initial punch is powerful and he keeps good leverage to hold up the defender at the line of scrimmage. […] Late in the game as fatigue sets in, Mike tends to stand up straighter and bend at the waist rather than the knees. He will need to fight off the urge to be a consistent performer in the NFL. Because of his versatility and body of work, Mike Pouncey will be the first interior lineman to be selected.

3 » There has never been any attempt by OGGOA to hide our admiration for Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. Proving our fascination with his ability to make any interview interesting once again, Crowder spouted off on ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. on 560 WQAM in South Florida on Monday, nothing that the high-haired analyst cost him a bunch of money coming out of the University of Florida by over-projecting him. “Mel Kiper and all, he messed me over,” Crowder said. “He lied to me, said I was a top-20 [pick] had me go out and spend X amount of dollars and then owe the bank stuff. They’re just guessing like we guess.” Obviously Kiper didn’t force Crowder to spend a penny; he was being facetious in the statement.

4 » A family man first and baseball player second, former Florida second baseman David Eckstein has decided to put his playing career either on hold or on the shelf permanently in order to donate a kidney to an ailing family member. The Ecksteins, who Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame reports have had “five kidney transplants with six more anticipated” as a family, did not ask David to give up his over the years because of a MLB career that earned him millions. He took it upon himself to save a family member’s life this time around. “Everything my family went through gave me a life lesson at an early age that a game is just a game, it’s not life-or-death,” he said. “But along with that, it taught me to never take a day for granted. I’m looking forward to the transplant. I consider it a privilege. I knew at some point it would be my turn.” Also donating a kidney for his family is former Gators player Rick Eckstein, David’s brother. Read the rest of writer Steve Henson’s amazing story on the Ecksteins here.

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Taylor, Bullock, Macklin

1 » Due to his migraines and a coaching change mid-season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not end up performing up to where he did when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie one year earlier. When If the 2011 season begins, Harvin will be more involved in the offense, according to head coach Leslie Frazier. “I still think there are more things that can be done with Percy [Harvin],” he told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “We did some things toward the end of the year where we definitely tried to isolate him, and that’s one of the reasons I pulled him off kickoff at times. I wanted to feature him more than we were. I wanted him to be a featured part of our offense. There’s different things we can do with him, and hopefully, Sidney [Rice is] in the fold and he’s healthy and there’s some things that we can do with him. Because of Adrian [Peterson], there are opportunities that we can do on the perimeter that a lot of teams can’t. But you still have to account for him on every single play. So, we have to be able to exploit in that sense and I think what we’re trying to do is build to be able to do that. Adrian creates a lot of good situations for our perimeter people.”

2 » Two months ago, veteran running back Fred Taylor sounded like he was going to call it quits after a 13-year NFL career including 10 as a featured rusher. Having amassed 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns (as well as 290 receptions for 2,384 yards and eight more scorers) over his career, Taylor has noted that being healthy enough to spend quality time with his family is important going forward. On Monday, Taylor told Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union that being injured in 2010 may have “bought him some extra years.” At 35-years-old, it remains to be seen if he will decide to continue and what time, if any, would sign him.

3 » Former Florida right-handed pitcher Billy Bullock was traded from the Minnesota Twins – who drafted him in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft – to the Atlanta Braves on Monday in order to complete an long-standing deal. Bullock has spent his time as a professional in the minor leagues and pitched for AA squad New Britain last season, striking out 60 batters in 36 2/3 innings.

4 » Wrapping up Gators basketball for the 2011 season is this story from The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway on a tattoo redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin has on his forearm. Though he has 40+ tattoos, Macklin has one that means a lot more to him the rest – a memorial to his deceased grandmother. Read more about Macklin’s tattoo here.

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Florida grad Davie’s bat grab earns rave reviews

Being a Florida Gators fan these days will not get you much publicity…unless you’re a beautiful woman, happen to be wearing jean shorts or are getting in some kind of trouble. Mitch Davie broke through that barrier by simply attending a Atlanta Braves spring training baseball game on Friday and – not as simply – making an astounding one-handed grab of a baseball bat flying into the stands (without spilling his Red Stripe).

“There was a group of nine of us that went to the game courtesy of our area manager for all our hard work these past months. So everyone on my right in my row is with me,” Davie told OGGOA in his first interview about the catch. “I had told D.J. Ackley, who is in sunglasses, that if a ball came his way I’d catch it.

“Two innings later, I hear the crowd scream and I look up and see the bat flying [in my direction]. So I just timed it and threw my hand out. I told D.J. afterward that he didn’t even react; he told me he put his foot up, but I didn’t even see it because I was so focused on the bat.”

Had the Associated Press’ David Goldman not captured the moment with his camera, only a select group of people would have known about Davie’s catch. Instead, his picture has been featured on numerous websites and mentioned on television programs including Jim Rome is Burning (ESPN) and Regis and Kelly (ABC).

He has been contacted for a handful of interviews but chose to speak with OGGOA first.

“I was surprised it was caught on camera and not video,” he said. “I assumed, it being a game played at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, that it would have been caught by someone’s video camera. The response has been tremendous.”

When a bat is flung into the crowd by accident, the respective team’s equipment manager often retrieves it in exchange for a replacement bat or some other memorabilia. Davie was able to keep the one he nabbed, though he jokingly wished his efforts were somewhat rewarded by the offending batter.

“The bat is in my possession,” he said. “I’m kind of upset [Atlanta second baseman] Dan Uggla left in the eighth inning, so I didn’t get an autograph. I think the least he owes me is dinner and a movie for saving him from a lawsuit!”

Davie may not get to enjoy a steak with Uggla, but he was definitely a part of a moment that Gators fans will be proud of for quite some time.

Photo Credit: David Goldman/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Alvarez, bat saver, Brewer, Johnson

1 » The National Football Foundation announced Monday that former Florida Gators wide receiver Carlos Alvarez (1969-71) has been added to the ballot of 79 players eligible for the 2011 College Football Hall of Fame. Florida’s all-time leading receiver, having compiled 2,563 yards during his career, Alvarez has never been up for the award before. He was the Gators’ top pass catcher every year he was in school and still holds records in passes caught in a single game (15 vs. Miami, 1969) and most 100-yard games in a season (8). Alvarez is second in UF history for career receptions (172), yards in a season (1,329), yards in a game (246) and 100-yard games (13).

2 » There are plenty of Florida fans from Brooklyn, NY but only one, Mitch Davie, made the news over the weekend. Attending an Atlanta Braves vs. Toronto Blue Jays spring training game, Davie saved a few fans and earned himself a souvenir by grabbing bat flying through the air off the hands of Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla with a single hand…all while not spilling a drop of his Red Stripe beer (see below).

3 » Now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, former Gators forward Corey Brewer has already seen two games of action with the team. Last week, ESPN’s Jeff Wade took a look at how Brewer’s addition will add an increased level of flexibility for Dallas as they look to make a run to the NBA title.

On nights where Dallas is faced with the difficult task of contending with a Kobe Bryant or a Kevin Durant, Brewer is your option. If they don’t feel like a Nic Batum or a Grant Hill will kill them, then Peja starts and keeps the floor properly spaced. They key to all this working is that the Mavs keep winning so that everyone stays content in their role. It was also critical that Brewer signs a multi-year deal so that he knows his playing time or lack thereof, depending on the opponent, doesn’t impact where he’ll be next year. Brewer could also see minutes at the two, though that seems less likely considering the giant logjam in the backcourt that has already squeezed Stephenson out of the mix.

4 » Also last week, The Times and Democrat reported that Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan was in the area that Tuesday take a look at four-star 2012 power forward Brice Johnson (Cordova, SC), who is reportedly favoring UF and Clemson.

Photo Credit: David Goldman/Associated Press

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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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FOUR BITS: Dwyer, Holloway, baseball, watch list

1 » The second day of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Swimming Championships, held at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, was just as exciting for the No. 5 Florida Gators men’s team as Wednesday’s opening day. Senior Conor Dwyer, who set two SEC records in one race (800-yard freestyle relay) a day ago, broke yet another on Thursday by swimming the 500-yard freestyle in 4:11.36. The No. 8 women also had some celebrating to do as junior Sarah Bateman set the school record in the 50-yard freestyle. The men’s team jumped up to second place overall after day two (70 points behind leader Auburn), while the women’s team took a hold of first place with a new total of 291 points (five above Georgia).

2 » Florida head swimming coach Gregg Troy was named the head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Swimming Team on Dec. 8. Joining him as a Team USA coach in England for the 2012 London Olympics is Gators head track & field coach Mike Holloway, who was picked as an assistant coach for sprinters and hurdlers on Thursday. “It’s an incredible honor to be chosen by my peers to coach on the United States Olympic staff,” Holloway said, according to the University of Florida. “It’s something that I am very proud of, and I look forward to serving my country.”

3 » No. 1 Florida baseball will begin the 2011 season over the weekend with a trio of home games against the South Florida Bulls. The Gators have announced starters for the series but will be without last year’s ace, junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (11-3, 3.51 ERA), as the team is being cautious with his return from offseason hip surgery. Sophomore LHP Brian Johnson (6-4, 4.03 ERA) will start the season on the hill. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (8-4, 3.24 ERA) takes over Saturday, and freshman RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, will start his career in the orange and blue on the mound Sunday.

4 » Johnson and junior first baseman Preston Tucker received nominations to the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list on Thursday. The award, presented to the top amateur player in the country, is sponsored by Major League Baseball but has never been presented to a Florida player in its 33-year history. Both Johnson and Tucker are preseason All-Americans according to Baseball America.

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