FOUR BITS: Bostic, Prather, hidden ball trick

1 » Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic did not have the easiest rookie season as he was thrust into a starting role before he was truly ready for it due to an injury suffered by veteran D.J. Williams. Bostic showed his inexperience (on the NFL level) at middle linebacker and struggled at times during the season, so much so that with Williams set to return, Bostic was moved to strong side linebacker where he was set to compete for the starting gig this offseason. However, according to John Mullin of CSN Chicago, Bostic has been splitting time with Williams as the first-team middle linebacker during organized team activities and is “making a strong impression” in the early going. “Bostic has significantly raised the stakes [of the starting competition] despite training camp not starting until late July,” wrote Mullin. “Bostic is generally considered to have the most pure explosive, sudden speed of all the linebackers [on the roster].”

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Florida baseball swept out of Gainesville Regional

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

There is plenty of baseball left to be played in the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium – and for that matter the entire 2014 NCAA Tournament – but none of it will include the Florida Gators.

The top seed in its regional and No. 2 overall team in the event, Florida (40-23) was eliminated from postseason competition by the regional third seed North Carolina Tar Heels (35-26) on Saturday, dropping the contest by a score of 5-2.

The Gators likely felt like they were experiencing déjà vu in Saturday’s game as, for the second-straight day, UF dealt with a rain delay in excess of three hours.

This time, the game was halted in the third inning with junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, ER, 2 K) on the mound. Poyner did not return after the delay, leaving freshman lefty Kirby Snead (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) with two on and no outs.

Just like Friday night, Florida’s opponent returned from the delay with gusto and a major offensive output. North Carolina teed off on Snead for four hits, taking a 5-0 lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.

Florida chipped away at North Carolina’s lead late in the game but failed to put together a multi-run inning to give it a legitimate fighting chance.

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Florida upset in Gainesville Regional opener

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

After waiting more than three hours for the first pitch on Friday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, Florida Gators baseball saw the game’s deciding run cross the plate before the first out was even recorded.

The No. 2 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional, the Gators (40-22) dropped their first game of the event, falling 3-2 to the regional No. 4 seed College of Charleston Cougars (42-17).

A 195-minute weather delay forced the proceedings to begin late, but Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan nevertheless stuck with his ace, freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore, as the team’s starter.

College of Charleston rallied to push three runs across the plate before Shore retired his first batter. In total, he coughed up seven hits in the opening frame, and the three-run advantage he spotted the Cougars proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.

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LSU tops Florida baseball 2-0 in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

For No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball, playing five elimination games in as many days proved to be a bit too much as the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers pulled away with a 2-0 victory on Sunday in the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

LSU (44-14-1) edged Florida (40-21) by using four pitchers in a shutout victory. A day after collecting 12 hits, the Gators managed only two in nine innings.

Both squads were scoreless through seven innings until Tigers designated hitter Sean McMullen he launched a two-run blast off of junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER).

Florida had six outs left to try to overcome the 2-0 deficit. The Gators managed to get the lead runner on base in the ninth when junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/3) walked, but he was erased on the base paths when sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (0/3) hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Sophomore center fielder Harrison Bader (0/3) was retired on a ground out to end the game.

Turgeon, Martin, Bader and junior catcher Taylor Gushue (0/3) – the first four hitters in UF’s lineup – combined for a dreadful 0-for-12 in Sunday’s tournament final. Bader entered the game 10-for-16 in Hoover.

Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson (6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, K) had his ups and downs all season for Florida but was stellar against LSU and likely pitched his way into UF’s rotation for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

The Gators on Sunday evening learned that they would host one of 16 regional sites for the NCAA Tournament, which will have its 64-team field announced live on ESPNU at noon on Monday.

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Florida Gators baseball edges Kentucky 6-5, advances to SEC Tournament title game

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Overcoming three elimination games in as many days, No. 1 seed Florida Gators (40-20) advanced to the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday with a 6-5 win over the No. 9 seed Kentucky Wildcats (35-23) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Florida rallied late in a back-and-forth contest with junior third baseman Josh Tobias (2/3, RBI, 2 R) knocking in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to pave the way for sophomore right-hander Eric Hanhold (3.1 IP, 2 H, 4 K) to collect the win in a stellar relief appearance.

The Gators looked to be in danger of getting blown out by the Wildcats in the early going, but Kentucky was simply unable to pile on the runs and put the game out of reach. A lineout double play killed UK’s momentum in the first inning, as did leaving the bases full in the second. UF was fortunate to only be down 3-0.

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Florida baseball tops Mississippi State 5-1, advances to SEC Tournament semifinals

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Avoiding elimination for the second-straight day, No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball (39-20) remains alive in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament after pulling off a 5-1 victory over the No. 5 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs (37-22) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Florida advanced to the semifinal round of the event, which is now single elimination for all remaining participants, and will take on No. 9 seed Kentucky in the late game on Saturday. UK is 3-1 vs. UF in 2014 and sent the Gators into the losers bracket of the SEC Tournament with a 4-2 win on Wednesday.

Unable to field a chopper hit by Florida freshman designated hitter Peter Alonso (1/3, 2 RBI, R) with the bases loaded, Mississippi State shortstop Seth Heck was charged with an error as UF jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage in the second inning.

The Gators never pieced together a big inning to bury the Bulldogs, stranding 10 runners on base during the contest, but they were able to tack on insurance runs throughout the night.

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Florida baseball tops USC, stays alive in SEC

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball (38-20) fought off elimination on Thursday in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament, responding to a two-run deficit by scoring seven unanswered runs and earning a 7-2 victory over the No. 4 seed South Carolina Gamecocks (42-16) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

South Carolina jumped out to an early lead through its first three frames, but Florida answered with a three-run bottom of the third and never looked back.

The Gators may not be near the top of many offensive categories within the league, but UF sure knows how to capitalize on opponent mistakes.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Tebow, Watkins, Mincey

1 » No. 18 Florida Gators baseball (24-13) smacked the ball around Tuesday on its way to a 7-1 victory and regular-season series win over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (24-14) at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL. The Gators were embarrassed in a Gainesville, FL round robin from Feb. 27-March 2, splitting a pair of games with the Eagles, but came up big Tuesday. Junior catcher Taylor Gushue (3/4, 2 RBI, R) was one of six Florida players to drive in a run, and sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (3/5, RBI, 2 R) did his job in the batter’s box as well. UF used four pitchers to seal the deal against FGCU with junior right-hander Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, H) earning the start and victory. Freshman lefty Kirby Snead (4.0 IP, H, K) ate up the most innings, and freshman RHP Shaun Anderson (1.0 IP) closed the door. The Gators have now won three-straight and four of their last five games.

2 » Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow last week spoke at the Mississippi Coliseum as part of a fundraiser to help support Afghanistan war veteran CJ Stewart. Not only did Tebow himself pledge $10,000 and get four more audience members to do the same – meeting Stewart’s $100,000 goal – he also fielded questions about his life and football. Tebow said he hopes people won’t “talk about football when they talk about me in 50 years,” preferring his legacy to be “how I cared about people, and that I did something to make their lives better.” Seeing as he was in Mississippi, he also discussed UF’s loss to Ole Miss in 2008. “I consider that one of our biggest blessings,” he said, according to The Clarion Ledger. “We were a very talented team, but we needed more motivation. We went to practice in full pads that Sunday, and it was the most intense practice I’ve ever been in. So, thank you very much, Ole Miss.”

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