SIX BITS: Macklin, lacrosse, softball, Gilbert, Meyer

1 » Former Florida Gators forward/center Vernon Macklin was recently set down to the NBA Development League for no other reason than that the Detroit Pistons wanted to see him get some in-game action rather than sit stationary on the end of the team’s bench during NBA games. According to M Live, Macklin has been playing for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and has been dominating. In his first five games with the team, Macklin is averaging 16.6 points and 17.2 rebounds (10.6 on the defensive glass) in more than 36 minutes a game. He will remain with the team through April 7 before returning to the Pistons. “He’s playing with a lot of energy and effort. He’s gotten better each and every game,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. “It’s great for him to get that experience. We see continued development. We see progress in Vernon.”

2 » No. 4 Florida lacrosse (11-2) hit two major milestones on Wednesday, recording their first-ever shutout while registering the highest goal total in school history in a 29-0 beat down of the Fresno State Bulldogs (2-6) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano scored a game-high and career-high six goals on seven shots, and freshman attacker Nora Barry joined her in dominating on offense with five goals on six shots. The duo also combined for six ground balls and six draw controls in the contest. Junior As Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand combined for six goals and three assists with Bruns becoming the first player in team history to eclipse 200 career goals. In addition to scoring the most goal sand allowing the fewest in team history, the Gators set or tied a number of other records. Florida had the most points (41), assists (12) and draw controls (24) in team history, tied their records for shots (44), first-half points (17) and second-half points (12) and also committed a record five fouls, the fewest in team history. The Gators accomplished all of this without Juniors A Kitty Cullen and M Brittany Dashiell, two of the team’s leading scorers.

3 » Despite falling to a ranked opponent, No. 4 Florida softball (29-3) suffered a tough 4-1 defeat on Wednesday in Gainesville at the hands of the No. 21 South Florida Bulls (30-5). Freshman right-hander Lauren Haeger (9-2) tossed a complete game, allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits along with five walks and four strikeouts. In addition to going up arguably the nation’s best pitcher in Sara Nevins, the Gators committed a pair of costly errors that put them in a 4-0 hole through three innings. A solo homer by Haeger (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB) in the bottom of the fifth was the only run to cross the plate for Florida, which left eight base runners on including three in the bottom of the sixth and two in the bottom of the seventh with the game-tying run at the plate. UF defeated USF 3-2 in extra innings on Feb. 12 but will not have another chance to earn revenge.

4 » Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will receive a bump in responsibility next season as head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Wednesday that he will help protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side as the team’s new left tackle. Gilbert, who played both left and right tackle in college, was drafted to eventually hold down the former role but was relegated to the latter position in 2011 due to experience and depth issues. “We fully expect him to [move],” Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I probably had more concerns about him being the right tackle than I did him being at left tackle just because of his college experience.” Gilbert is the second Gators offensive lineman to recently be drafted and become an starter for Pittsburgh as center Maurkice Pouncey won his job out of training camp two seasons ago.

5 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for an interview this week with CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd to discuss a number of topics mostly concerning his return to the sidelines and how the Ohio State program is coming along heading into his first season at the helm. However, Meyer also touched on a few things at Florida including what he called an “awful” team that the Gators fielded for his first season in 2005. “We’re not a good team. As a matter of fact, we’re bad, a really bad football team – not aligned, selfish. We had some really good players on defense. On offense we’re a mess. Chris Leak wasn’t ready. Then we lose to South Carolina,” he recounted. “I remember walking to my radio show and there are some boos. The phone calls were absolutely brutal. I’m looking at [Mick Hubert] and I’m just getting greased. I’m thinking to myself, ‘What are you doing here?’” Meyer said the Florida State win really turned things around both on the field and off the field in recruiting. He also spoke about other issues he faced including “the Spurrier culture” in the SEC.

6 » While the Denver Broncos were in the process of signing quarterback Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow was in Tampa, FL helping open up the new D1 Sports Training facility while working out with, meeting and greeting children, teenagers and adults. Despite so much being on his mind about his NFL future, Tebow was obviously thinking about plenty of other things during this special occasion (photo gallery).

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FOUR BITS: women’s bball, baseball, softball, gym

1 » Having returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, nine-seed Florida Gators women’s basketball (20-12) picked up a hard-fought 70-65 victory over the eight-seed Ohio State Buckeyes (25-7) in first-round action on Sunday. Florida led early and maintained their advantage throughout the contest, eventually pulling away in the final few minutes for the win. Junior forward Jennifer George led the way for the Gators with 16 points (she also added six rebounds), but senior guard Lanita Bartley was the player of the game with 15 points, four boards, three assists and two steals. Florida will now face top-ranked Baylor (35-0) and player of the year Brittney Griner on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. live on ESPN2.

2 » No. 1 Gators baseball (19-1, 3-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 17 games, sweeping their series against the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-13, 0-3 SEC) with another pair of wins on Saturday and Sunday. Florida outscored Vanderbilt 23-5 over the weekend, beginning with a 10-2 victory in their Southeastern Conference opener on Friday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The Gators pulled out a 5-1 win on Saturday on the heels of one of junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson’s best outings. Johnson improved to 3-0 while recording a career-high nine strikeouts in 6.0 innings and giving up just two singles. UF was up 1-0 through 4.5 innings but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth including two RBIs apiece from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/3, HR, R, BB) and senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/5, R). Florida captured Sunday’s contest with an 8-2 victory behind another solid outing from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (2-1, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 K). The Gators offense was fueled by a trio of solo homers from Tucker (1/3, RBI, 2 R, BB), freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1/4, 2 RBI, R) and freshman second baseman Casey TurgeonSEC Player of the Week award in his career on Monday.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (26-2, 7-1 SEC) also swept a conference opponent over the weekend, taking down the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-12, 2-6 SEC) by a combined score of 17-3 over three days at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers and freshman RHP/first baseman Lauren Haeger dominated the weekend for the Gators. Rogers (14-1, S 2) earned two victories and a save, while Haeger (8-1) picked up a win and also went 5/8 over the three-game stretch with a homer, six RBIs and a run scored.

4 » No. 6 Florida lacrosse (8-2) defeated the William & Mary Tribe (2-6) 21-8 on the road Saturday. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led Florida with five goals, and UF added four more each from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, gymnastics, Leak

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (17-1, 1-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 15 games on Friday by toppling the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-11, 0-1 SEC) 10-2 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (3-0, 6.2 IP) matched a season-high with six strikeouts while allowing two earned runs on six hits. Behind 2-0 through 4.5 innings, Florida rallied for a five-run bottom of the fifth as eight batters stepped to the plate. The Gators added four more runs in the bottom of the seventh and another in the eighth to pull away for the decisive victory. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/5, 3 RBI, R) and freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (1-4, 2 RBI) led the way offensively but junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, RBI) and senior outfielder Daniel Pigott (3-5, RBI) each crossed the plate twice for Florida. Game two against the Commodores is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday (CSS), and the Gators will conclude the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. (FSF).

2 » No. 4 Florida softball (24-2, 5-1 SEC) got back to their winning ways on Friday with 9-1 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-10, 2-4 SEC) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (13-1) put together a complete game in a run-ruled five-inning outing, giving up one earned run while striking out two, walking two and scattering four hits. Freshmen 1B Lauren Haeger (2-3) and designated hitter Bailey Castro (1-1, HR, R, 2 BB) each notched three RBIs to help fuel the Gators’ offense. UF will wrap-up their three-game series USC by hosting them twice more on Saturday (Sun Sports) and Sunday at 1 p.m.

3 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (11-1) posted the second-highest total in the nation this season to conclude the 2012 regular season with a 197.900-196.475 victory over the No. 7 Utah Utes (7-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. Sophomore Alaina Johnson captured event titles in the vault (9.90), uneven bars (9.95) and balance beam (9.925) while also winning the all-around (39.675). She split two of her titles with teammates as juniors Ashanée Dickerson (uneven bars) and Marissa King (balance beam) matched her scores. King also split the floor exercise event title with freshman Kytra Hunter (9.95). The Gators will next compete in the 2012 SEC Championships on March 24 before moving on to the NCAA Regionals on April 7.

4 » In his first game as starting quarterback of the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks, former Florida signal caller Chris Leak completed 21 of 31 passes for 196 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Jacksonville, the league’s defending champion, scored 38 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 52-28 victory.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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Gators roll over Ducks 7-0, advance to fourth-straight Women’s College World Series

The first team in Southeastern Conference history to advance to four-straight Women’s College World Series, No. 3 Florida Gators softball (52-10) moved on in the 2011 NCAA Tournament with a 7-0 victory over the No. 11 Oregon Ducks (42-16) on Saturday in Super Regionals action at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida won game one 9-1 and outscored Oregon 16-1 over the weekend.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (33-6) got the start for the Gators and was consistently productive all afternoon. She tossed a complete game shutout, striking out three batters, walking one and allowing only four hits in seven innings.

With runners on first and second in the top of the second, Florida junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie hit an infield single up the middle to advance the runners. An error by Oregon second baseman Kaylan Howard allowed junior pinch runner Ellie Langley, in for senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (0-3, BB), to score and put the Gators up 1-0.

Florida added another run in the third, when senior first baseman Megan Bush (1-4, RBI) doubled deep to right center, scoring sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte (on base via a walk) from first to give the Gators a 2-0 advantage.

After Florida loaded the bases in the top of the fourth, senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-3, 2 RBI, R, BB) stepped up and worked her way to a full count. Two pitches later, she singled up the middle to score Moultrie (3-4, RBI, 2 R, SB) and sophomore designated player Ensley Gammel (1-2, R, BB) but was called out at second after trying to stretch it into a double. Schutte followed her by striking out but leaving the Gators with a 4-0 lead heading into the second half of the game.

Looking to close out the contest by tacking on some more runs, Florida found themselves with Schutte at the plate with runners on first and third in the top of the sixth. On the first pitch of her at bat, Schutte (1-2, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB) rocketed the ball out of the park, hitting a three-run homer and propelling her team ahead 7-0. Her performance on Saturday completed a fantastic weekend for the power hitter. Schutte concluded the Super Regionals going 3-4 with three homers, seven RBI, five runs scored and three walks.

The Ducks threatened to score in the bottom of the sixth, but Moultrie nabbed a fly ball in center and tossed it back to first to get the inning-ending double play. Rogers got Oregon’s batters out in order in the seventh to end the game and clinch the Gators’ WCWS berth.

Florida will face either No. 5 Missouri or No. 12 Washington in the first round of the WCWS. UF lost to UW in the final series of the 2009 WCWS.

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Schutte breaks Ducks, leads Gators to 9-1 win

Squaring off against the No. 11 Oregon Ducks just a week after taking down the No. 14 UCLA Bruins in regional action, No. 3 Florida Gators softball jumped out to a hot start and held on for an impressive run-rule victory. On the back of a pair of two-run homers by sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte, Florida (51-10) defeated Oregon (42-15) 9-1 in five innings to open the three-game 2011 NCAA Super Regionals at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Schutte (2-2, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, BB) hit her homers in the first and third inning, giving the Gators a quick 5-1 advantage. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (19-2) got the start and played well but was still pulled after striking out three and allowing one earned run on two hits in three innings.

She was replaced by freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who tossed the final two innings of the game and struck out three during her appearance. Ending Rogers’s outing at two innings was Florida’s offense, which continued piling on runs.

Freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (0-1, R, BB) was hit by a pitch, advanced to second via a sacrifice bunt and scored on two wild pitches in the fourth. The Gators rallied to get the bases loaded in the fifth, allowing senior first baseman Megan Bush’s (1-3, 2 RBI) infield single to score two putting Florida one run away from ending the game. Coyle was walked to load the bases, and a single by the next batter, senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, RBI), scored Schutte from third and gave the Gators the victory.

Also contributing for Florida offensively was senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-2, RBI, 3 R, BB), who plated a base runner in the first and crossed the plate three times. The Gators left three runners on base at the contest’s conclusion.

Friday’s game was not without its interesting moments. The start was pushed back to bad weather in the area, a short rain/hail delay occurred during the contest and a long foul ball from Schutte in the bottom of the first actually broke the window of a car driving by.

Florida and Oregon will square off in game two of the Super Regionals on Saturday at noon. The Gators are one victory away from advancing to the 2011 Women’s College World Series for the fourth-straight season.

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Florida softball responds from 3-2 loss to run-rule UCLA 11-3, advance to NCAA Super Regionals

It was a tale of two games for No. 3 Florida Gators softball (50-10), which struggled to hit the ball early in the day but hit the cover off it in the late afternoon to win the Gainesville Regional and advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Regionals. Florida fell in a come-from-behind 3-2 win by the UCLA Bruins (36-19) but powered their way to victory in the second contest, earning an 11-3 decision at Pressly Softball Stadium.

Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher got the start for Florida in the first game and got out of numerous jams until being pulled with two runners on in the bottom of the fifth. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers relieved her but ended up allowing one of Brombacher’s runners to score before the inning was over.

The Gators offense responded immediately, utilizing a walk and hit-by-pitch to score twice on in the top of the sixth. Florida called a double steal to place junior pinch runner Lauren Heil (in for senior first baseman Megan Bush) on third and freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle on second with one out.

Senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (0-1, RBI), the next batter, hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Heil; an error at third forced by Colye (1-1, R, BB, 3 SB) sliding into the baseman’s foot let the ball loose and allowed her to score the Gators’ second run of the inning.

After getting through the sixth, Florida entered the bottom of the seventh looking to end the game. UCLA would have none of it, getting their lead-off runner on base and scoring her two batters later on a RBI single. The Bruins’ rally continued as UCLA loaded the bases with two outs. A single to right-center by right fielder Amy Crawford plated 1B Andrea Harrison, gave the Bruins the victory and forced a second and final game.

Florida only registered one hit in the opening game and failed to take advantage of their numerous base running opportunities. The Gators stole seven bags in the contest but left six runners on base, many of whom were in scoring position.

Rogers drew the start in the second game and was clutch early, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the first. Florida rewarded her for her efforts, loading the bases in the bottom of the inning and getting on the board right away.

Bush smacked a two-RBI single to score junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie and senior second baseman Aja Paculba, and Coyle followed with an infield single that was thrown home but bobbled for an error to allow two more runs and put the Gators ahead 4-0. DeFelice (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) did not want the fun to end and jacked a two-run bomb to left with one out to give Florida an early 6-0 advantage. Moultrie (2-4, RBI, 2 R, 2 SB) and Paculba (2-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) followed by returning the favor from earlier in the inning with one-RBI and two-RBI singles to give the Gators a 9-0 lead.

The next two innings were all Rogers, who struck out the side in the top of the second and was faced with another bases loaded jam in the third. Instead of panicking, she forced a 1-2-3 double play and ended the third with a strikeout, her fifth of the afternoon.

Florida tacked two more runs on in the fourth when Coyle (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, SB) stepped up with junior PR Ellie Langley on base (in place of sophomore RF Brittany Schutte) and hit a homer to left to put her team ahead 11-0. Rogers (32-6) was roughed up a bit in the top of the fifth and gave up three runs but eventually tossed three more outs and earned a win against UCLA in a five-inning, run-ruled game hours after taking a tough loss. She allowed seven hits and notched six strikeouts in the second game.

The victory advances the Gators to the Super Regional, which will be hosted in Gainesville, FL as Florida takes on No. 13 Oregon beginning Fri., May 27.

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Florida softball wins twice, set for regional final

Hosting the Gainesville Regional as part of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, No. 3 Florida Gators softball (49-9) earned a pair of victories over the weekend and advanced to the regional final set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Pressly Softball Stadium.

Florida got the tournament started by shutting out the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (33-25) 8-0 in five innings on Friday. With senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (18-2) on the mound, the Gators took care of the Wildcats early by rallying for four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Florida added two more scores each in the third and fifth innings to cruise to victory.

Brombacher (5.0 IP, 5 K, 3 H, BB) tossed a gem for the Gators, only allowing three hits while striking out five and receiving plenty of help at the plate from her teammates. Freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (2-2, HR, 3 RBI, R) led UF offensively, but the Gators also got stellar performances from junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-3, 2 RBI, R) and sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI, R).

The result was the same on Saturday though the effort to earn it was much greater. Florida stayed aggressive in front of the home crowd and defeated the No. 14 UCLA Bruins (34-18) 4-2.

UCLA led early, utilizing a two-run homer from left fielder B.B. Bates in the first inning to put UF on its heels. However, the Gators responded quickly by scoring single runs in the bottom of the first, second and third to jump ahead 3-2.

Senior first baseman Megan Bush (1-2, RBI, BB) knocked Moultrie (1-2, RBI, R, SB) home in the first, and Moultrie returned the favor in the second with a RBI double to score freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan (0-3, R, SB), who reached on a throwing error before stealing second base. Senior second baseman Aja Paculba (1-1, 2 R, BB, SB) reached on a walk in the third, stole second and advanced to third on an illegal pitch before scoring on a passed ball.

Florida tacked on one more run in the bottom of the fifth as Paculba hit a single with one out and eventually scored on a wild pitch. The Gators notched five stolen bases on the afternoon as freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (31-5) allowed two unearned runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in a complete game effort.

UF will face either UCLA or Jacksonville in the regional final on Sunday.

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