FOUR BITS: Parsons, softball, Pouncey, Boynton

1 » The Houston Rockets have chosen to decline the fourth-year option in forward Chandler Parsons’s rookie contract, making him a restricted free agent this summer. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who first reported the team’s decision, the Rockets have every intention of bringing Parsons back but will decline his $960,000 option in hopes of “match[ing] an offer sheet and retain[ing] Parsons on a longer-term contract.” Houston is also looking to keep its cap space this summer so it can go after another big-name free agent. If the Rockets were to otherwise pick up Parsons’s option, he would be an unrestricted free agent next summer with the ability to go to the highest-paying suitor. Speaking with league executives, Wojnarowski estimates that Parsons holds a value of $12-13 million annually. Houston selected Parsons with the No. 38 overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft but signed him to a first round-caliber deal. He has seriously outplayed his rookie contract, averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his third NBA season.

2 » Florida Gators softball fans can welcome home the 2014 NCAA National Champions on Wednesday. The school will open Pressly Softball Stadium at 5 p.m. with a championship celebration expected to begin 30-90 minutes later. The event, which will include highlights and live interviews, can also be viewed live here.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Parsons, softball, Pouncey, Boynton

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Florida softball blasts Washington 8-0 to advance to Women’s College World Series

By Jordan McPherson and Adam Silverstein

Sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt knew her team was tired of waiting.

With No. 5 Florida Gators softball leading the No. 12 Washington Huskies 5-0 in the fifth inning of a rubber match in the Gainesville Super Regional, Merritt ended the contest in one motion when she blasted a three-run homer to meet the run rule and send Florida to the Women’s College World Series for the sixth time in seven seasons.

Outscoring opponents 28-0 thus far in 2014 NCAA Tournament play after run-ruling Washington 9-0 on Saturday, UF dropped game two 4-3 on Sunday but fought against both UW and the elements to win third contest after five hours and 32 minutes.

Gators senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (5.0 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 6 K) impressed by tossing a complete-game shutout to bring her record to 26-8 on the season. She has now gone 21 consecutive innings — 16 in NCAA play, 10 in the Super Regionals — without surrendering a single run.

Just as it had in each of the five NCAA contests before it, Florida (50-12) struck first in game three against Washington (37-15).

Continue Reading » Florida softball blasts Washington 8-0 to advance to Women’s College World Series

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Florida Gators softball run-rules Washington Huskies 9-0 in Gainesville Super Regional

No. 5 seed Florida Gators softball (49-11) made quick work of the No. 12 seed Washington Huskies (36-14) on Saturday, ousting the visitors 9-0 in a five-inning, run-ruled win in the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K) tossed a complete game shutout for the Gators, which led 2-0 through three innings but broke out with a seven-run fourth to leave the Huskies in their dust.

Things got started for Florida in the fourth when sophomore catcher Aubree Munro singled to start the frame and junior shortstop Kathlyn Medina followed with a double down the left field line. A sacrifice fly from sophomore second baseman Kelsey Stewart (2/3, RBI, R) scored Munro from third, and Medina came around one batter later when senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft singled to shortstop.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators softball run-rules Washington Huskies 9-0 in Gainesville Super Regional

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Florida softball sweeps Gainesville Regional; Gators set to host Super Regional

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 5 Florida Gators softball (48-11) is one step closer to making its sixth Women’s College World Series appearance in seven years after closing out a sweep of the Gainesville Regional with a victory on Sunday.

Breezing through its first two opponents at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, UF shut out the Central Florida Knights (43-18) in the regional final on Sunday, winning 7-0 and advancing to the Super Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in an eight-year span.

Gators junior right-hander Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 5 H, 5 K) tossed a five-hit shutout in Sunday’s finale to pick up her 10th win of the season and drop her ERA to a team-best 1.57. After giving up back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the first, Haeger calmed down and retired the next 11 batters, only scatting five singles in the contest.

But her contribution to Florida’s win extended much further than the pitcher’s circle. Haeger (1/5, HR, 3 RBI, R) blasted her team-leading 19th home run of the season — a one out, two-run shot in the first inning — which was also her third homer in as many games during the Gainesville Regional.

Continue Reading » Florida softball sweeps Gainesville Regional; Gators set to host Super Regional

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Two-run seventh pushes Florida past UAB

No. 2 Florida Gators softball blew two opportunities to put Saturday’s showdown with the UAB Blazers away but came up clutch when it mattered the most, registering two runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a 4-3 win in the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida had the bases juiced with no outs in the bottom of the sixth but failed to plate a runner, leaving the game tied 2-2. In the top of the seventh, the Gators dropped a routine pop out that would have ended the frame; shortly thereafter, the Blazers put the go-ahead run on the board, taking a one-run lead heading into the final frame.

Trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, Florida quickly loaded the bases again without coughing up an out as sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (1/3, R, BB) and senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (0/2, RBI, R, BB) drew walks and freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (0/3) was hit by a pitch. Sophomore left fielder Brianna Little (1/1, RBI, 2 BB) was then plunked in the thigh by UAB hurler Leigh Streetman, tying the game at 3-3 with the bases still loaded for the Gators.

Freshman catcher Taylore Fuller (1/4) struck out looking, putting Florida’s first out on the board, but sophomore shortstop Katie Medina (1/3, RBI) erased concerns about wasting a bases-loaded opportunity for the second-straight inning by smacking a walk-off RBI single to left that pushed the Gators ahead of the Blazers for good.

Florida came back from three separate one-run deficits on Saturday, tying the game in the third and fifth innings before pulling away in the final frame. Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (32-5, 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R [2 ER], 4 BB, 4 K) was not her best but nevertheless got the job done for the Gators in a complete game outing.

Gainesville Super Regional action will continue on Sunday as Florida (56-7) and UAB (40-18) return to the field at noon for a game set to air nationally on ESPN. Should a third game in the best-of-three series be necessary, it would begin around 3 p.m. on Sunday and also be shown live on ESPN.

One win Sunday would send the Gators back to the Women’s College World Series for the fifth time in school history (all in the last six seasons).

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Florida Gators softball (3-0) wins Gainesville Regional, advances to Super Regional play

No. 2 Florida Gators softball on Sunday advanced to Super Regional play for the sixth time in the last seven seasons after defeating the South Florida Bulls 2-0 in the finals of the Gainesville Regional round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Despite serving as hosts for the regionals, Florida was the road team in Sunday’s final game. The Gators (55-7) went hitless for 6.1 innings at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL, but made Bulls pitcher Sara Nevins work hard in the fourth inning. Florida scored two runs on four walks and a hit by pitch.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, 5 K) earned the victory, her second of the weekend against USF, by tossing a complete game shutout on Sunday. Rogers (5.0 IP, H, R, 4 BB, 6 K) also helped UF pick up a dominant 11-1 win on Saturday in a five-inning run-ruled affair.

Sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (2/2, HR, 7 RBI, R) led the way for the Gators on Saturday, tying the school’s single-game RBI record in the process.

Sophomore righty Alyssa Bache (7.0 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 4 K) took the mound for Friday’s regional opener against the Hampton Pirates and looked strong despite giving up a run in the top of the first. She had plenty of support from Florida’s hitters with Haeger (2/3, 2 RBI, BB) and senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) each plating two runs. The Gators easily won 7-1.

As the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida the will host UAB in the best-of-three Super Regional in Gainesville beginning on May 23. The Gators return to Super Regional action for the first time since 2011 after being upset during the 2012 Gainesville Regional by the Bulls.

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One night, two late game-winners for Gators

Florida women’s basketball was facing elimination from the 2013 Women’s NIT while Gators softball was about to fall to a heated rival when a late-game swish of the net and an extra-inning crack of the bat turned the fortunes of the respective teams in a pair of nail-biter situations Wednesday evening.

Though Florida women’s basketball did not receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, the Gators have been fighting for their lives on the road. After taking down Florida International 75-68 in first-round action last Thursday, UF earned a dominant 85-53 victory over Winthrop on Monday to advance to the WNIT round of 16.

On Wednesday, the Gators (21-14) took on the Charlotte 49ers (26-6) and were engaged in an absolute dogfight. Florida coughed up its lead with less than six minutes to play and found itself in a four-point hole with possession and 1:05 remaining.

Just 13 seconds into the possession, freshman guard January Miller drained a three-pointer with 52 seconds left to cut the Gators’ deficit to one. On the ensuing possession, freshman forward Christin Mercer swiped the ball from Charlotte’s Ny Hammonds and junior G Jaterra Bonds got fouled on a shot attempt.

At the line with a chance to go ahead by a point with 20 seconds remaining, Bonds made the first free throw but missed the second. Suddenly, senior F Jennifer George swooped in for the rebound and head coach Amanda Butler called a 30-second timeout with 15.6 seconds remaining.

Continue Reading » One night, two late game-winners for Gators

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FOUR BITS: Florida tennis falls, lacrosse reigns, softball triumphs, gymnastics sets the tone

1 » No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (3-1) lost its first match in more than a year as the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (7-1) snapped the visitors’ 25-match winning streak (which dated back to Feb. 12, 2012) with a 4-0 sweep on Sunday in Durham, NC. Though the duo of senior Lauren Embree and junior Sofie Oyen took down Duke’s No. 7-ranked team of Mary Clayton and Ester Goldfeld 8-4, Florida eventually lost the doubles point when junior Alex Cercone/freshman Brianna Morgan lost a 6-4 lead and fell 7-6(7-3) in the third doubles match. The Gators responded by winning the first set on five-of-six singles courts. However, No. 9 Oyen was upset by No. 45 Goldfeld (6-4, 7-5) to put the Blue Devils up 3-0 and Duke picked up one additional singles win despite UF leading in all three of the matches that did not finish. Florida, which was pushed out of the top national ranking at the start of the week by new No. 1 North Carolina, will be in Chapel Hill, NC to face UNC on Monday at 2 p.m.

2 » No. 3 Gators lacrosse (3-0) has won its first three matches of the season for the first time in program history after taking down the High Point Panthers (1-1) on Sunday in High Point, NC. Florida, which picked up a 13-7 victory, was led by three goals apiece from sophomore midfielder Shannon Gilroy and senior attacker Caroline Chesterman. Senior A Kitty Cullen and sophomore M Nicole Graziano added two goals each. UF will host Stony Brook in the program’s home opener on Wednesday.

3 » No. 5 Gators softball (12-0) spent its first weekend of the 2013 season plowing through opponents out west in the Kajikawa Classic. One weekend later, the location changed but the game play remained the same as Florida trounced its competition in the Lipton Invitational at the friendly confines of Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The Gators outscored their opponents by a combined 54-4 over six games in a three-day span. Florida beat the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks 10-0 on Friday and 9-1 on Sunday, shutout the Savannah State Tigers 12-0 on Friday and 14-0 on Sunday, took down the Western Carolina Catamounts 5-0 on Saturday, and squeaked past the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 4-3 on Sunday in an extra-inning affair.

Four Florida players led the way offensively with sophomore first baseman Lauren Haeger (7/15, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB) at the top of the pack. Also making big contributions were sophomore outfielder Jessica Damico (4/11, HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 3 BB, SB), freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart (8/20, HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 7 SB) and freshman OF Kirsti Merritt (4/9, HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 2 SB – four games). A solo homer by Haeger in the bottom of the seventh on Sunday against Charleston Southern sent the game into extra innings, and Damico ended the contest in the bottom of the eighth as she tripled to score the final run of the game. Each of UF’s pitchers picked up a pair of wins over the weekend including Haeger (4-0, 11.0 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, HBP, 15 K), sophomore right-handeder Alyssa Bache (3-0, 10.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 14 K) and junior RHP Hannah Rogers (4-0, 15.0 IP, 9 H, ER [3 R], 5 BB, 13 K).

4 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (6-1, 5-1 SEC) once again proved why it is being labeled as the best team in the country as it came from behind to take down the No. 9 Georgia Gym Dogs (5-5-1, 3-1-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,971 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA. Florida ousted Georgia 197.30-196.175 despite losing two team events (vault, uneven bars) and barely winning the floor exercise. A strong performance on the balance beam gave the Gators a significant 49.300-48.125 advantage over the GymDogs in the event, catapulting them to victory. Freshman Bridget Sloan picked up her third-straight all-around title with a 39.60 and also won bars with a 9.95.

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