Takeaways: Florida Gators baseball roasts Auburn, advances in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

With its collective back against the wall, No. 4 seed Florida Gators baseball (41-16) showed up big after a half-day turnaround and avoided elimination with a 11-2 thumping of the No. 9 seed Auburn Tigers in the loser’s bracket of the 2015 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama.

Less than 11 hours after a devastating 7-6 loss to Arkansas that ended around 1:30 a.m. local time, Florida got up for a 12:30 p.m. start and made a statement by taking an early lead and never looking back.

Here are three takeaways from the Gators’ dominant win:

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Takeaways: Florida seniors shine vs. Auburn, set Gators baseball up for postseason, national seed

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 7 Florida Gators baseball (40-15, 19-11 SEC) closed out the 2015 regular season with a series win over the Auburn Tigers. It marked the fourth series in a row in which Florida dropped its opener (4-1), the third straight in which it recovered to win the next two games (4-3, 3-1).

UF ultimately finished in fourth place in the league behind LSU (20-8), Vanderbilt (20-10) and Texas A&M (18-10). Nevertheless, the Gators are well-positioned to earn a national seed and host a regional in the 2015 NCAA Tournament due to their high RPI (No. 6), nonconference strength of schedule (No. 13) and recent series win over VU.

The Aggies (No. 7 RPI) and Commodores (No. 11 RPI) will both be entering the 2015 SEC Tournament with the goal of jumping Florida in the national seed pecking order.

Here are five takeaways from the final series of the 2015 regular season:

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Gators softball sweeps Gainesville Regional, No. 1 Florida to host Kentucky in Super Regional

No. 1 Florida Gators softball on Sunday advanced to the Super Regional portion of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, earning a 1-0 eight-inning win over the Florida Atlantic Owls in the final game of the Gainesville Regional.

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was tremendous for the Gators throughout the regional round at Pressly Softball Stadium. Haeger not only threw an eight-inning two-hitter on Sunday in the regional finale, she was also responsible for Florida’s game-winning run, smacking an RBI double with two outs in the top of the eighth.

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FOUR BITS: Florida softball earns No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament; Gators in the postseason

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators softball (50-6) earned the top national seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and as such will host the Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, for the 13th consecutive season. Florida will see the Florida A&M Rattlers (18-37), Florida Atlantic Owls (37-17-1) and Hofstra Pride (37-12-1) come to town for the double-elimination tournament, which begins on Friday. The winner of the Gainesville Regional will face the victor from the South Bend Rgional, which features No. 16 Notre Dame, Kentucky, Northwestern and Ball State. The Gators are the defending 2014 NCAA Champions, capturing the first national title in program history.

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Takeaways: Resilient Florida Gators baseball tops Vanderbilt, aims for national seed

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 9 Florida Gators baseball (38-14, 17-10 SEC) trailed the Vanderbilt Commodores by three runs through seven innings in the rubber match of a pivotal series on Saturday when the team huddled around coach Kevin O’Sullivan in the dugout. Whatever O’Sullivan told his team, it worked. Florida finished the game with five-unanswered runs to post a 9-7 win in extra innings and take the series 2-1.

UF remains in play for a first-place finish in the SEC. When Sunday’s conference games concluded, the Gators were three losses behind first-place LSU. Vanderbilt also holds a one-game lead on Florida in the SEC East going into the final weekend. The Gators are currently fourth overall in the SEC and can keep themselves alive for a first-round bye in the 2015 SEC Tournament if it remains in that position or makes a gain over the final week of the season.

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Takeaways: Florida Gators baseball looks to make a move as postseason approaches

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 9 Florida Gators baseball (36-13, 15-9 SEC) went 3-1 in its recent four-game stretch against the Georgia Bulldogs and South Florida Bulls.

On paper, it should have been an easy sweep for the Gators, but the Bulldogs (22-25, 7-16 SEC) put up a fight until the final out. UGA shocked UF with an 11-1 upset win in the Friday’s opener. Runs were scarce in game two, but Florida managed to edge Georgia 3-2 and even the series. In Sunday’s finale, sophomore right fielder Ryan Larson hit a three-run double that lifted the Gators to a 7-4 victory for the series win. UF then topped USF 5-1 Tuesday night in Gainesville to close out the nonconference schedule.

Here are five takeaways from the past week of Florida baseball:

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Limited oral history of the Final Four-winning 1999-2000 Florida Gators basketball team

Exactly 15 years ago today, then-34-year-old head coach Billy Donovan led the Florida Gators to the first Final Four victory in program history.

The 1999-2000 Gators were a special group, which included four NBA players (three of whom are still in the league), a young but hungry coaching staff (every assistant went on to be head coaches elsewhere) and a 10-man rotation that allowed Florida to be relentless on both ends of the court throughout entire games.

Those Gators captured just the second Southeastern Conference regular-season title in school history, played in the national championship game for the first time in school history and were ranked wire-to-wire that season for, you guessed it, the first time in school history.

It was a transcendent Florida team that came together to overcome tremendous obstacles, including a overall No. 1-ranked team in Duke – with Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Carlos Booser, Chris Carrawell and Mike Dunleavy – that would go on to win the national title the following season.

OnlyGators.com wanted to tell the story of these Gators through the eyes of those who were actually there. As such, we reached out to guard Teddy Dupay and forward Brent Wright to recount one of the biggest moments in program history on its 15th anniversary.

With the 2014-15 Final Four being played in Indianapolis – the same site as the 1999-2000 Four – and featuring two of the same teams (Michigan State, Wisconsin), the stars could not be better aligned for a look back.

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Finney-Smith emerging at right time for Florida

The reigning SEC Sixth Man of the Year, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been a model of consistency for the Florida Gators over the last month.

Consider this: Finney-Smith is averaging team-highs of 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game since Dec. 8, all while hitting 56.0 percent of his field goals and 43.2 percent of his threes during that eight-game stretch.

Through the first half of Florida’s season, Finney-Smith is more accurate than sharp-shooting junior guard Michael Frazier II and simply more effective than anyone else on the Gators’ roster despite the fact that he missed two games and was severely limited in five others after suffering two hairline fractures in his non-shooting hand. He said after Saturday’s game that he feels close to 100 percent healthy.

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