Takeaways: Florida Gators baseball blows a lead vs. Arkansas, puts national seed at risk

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

The No. 5 seed Arkansas Razorbacks to score three runs in the top of the ninth inning to deliver a crushing 7-6 loss to the No. 4 seed Florida Gators (40-16), in the second round of the 2015 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, early Thursday morning.

Arkansas’ come-from-behind victory, which occurred past 1:30 a.m. local time, puts Florida’s chances of postseason success at serious risk. The Gators have been dumped into the loser’s bracket of the SEC Tournament – and consequently will play an elimination game less than 12 hours after their last completed – and may be at risk of losing the national seed they worked so hard for at the end of the regular season.

Here are three takeaways from the shocking early-morning loss:

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Takeaways from the weekend: Florida Gators baseball drops home series to Kentucky

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 6 Florida Gators baseball (33-12, 13-8 SEC) dropped two games to the Kentucky Wildcats over the weekend, marking the first home series loss of the season for UF as well as a fall from first place in the SEC East.

Florida came up on the short end of a pitchers’ duel in Friday night’s 3-0 loss. A wild, rocky start from sophomore right-handed pitcher Dane Dunning (4-2, 4.29 ERA) put the Gators in a hole they could not overcome, even with a late rally in the 7-6 series clincher for the Wildcats on Saturday. Florida avoided the sweep with a 10-1 thumping of Kentucky in Sunday’s series finale.

Here are five takeaways from the difficult weekend:

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Takeaways: Florida baseball struggles on road

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (24-9, 6-6 SEC) has gone 3-4 in its last seven games since OnlyGators.com was last able to check in following its win over Stetson on March 24. UF posted a flat 3-3 split in its last two conference series with the Alabama Crimson Tide and Missouri Tigers, book-ending a tough 8-3 loss to the Florida State Seminoles in Jacksonville on Tuesday.

In the Alabama series opener, a back-and-forth game swung in the Tide’s favor with a three-run 10th inning that pushed them ahead 12-9. The Gators evened the series with an 8-1 win in the second game of a doubleheader, and they used a late rally to win game three 7-4, claiming the series. Eight walks against Florida State allowed FSU to even the season series. While Florida looked to bounce back with a 5-1 win against Mizzou, UF was outscored 15-4 over the final two contests to drop the series.

Here are five takeaways from the last seven games:

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Florida baseball sweeps, moves to No. 2 in nation

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

Florida Gators baseball (10-1) went a perfect 4-0 on the week, sweeping the Florida Atlantic Owls and Stony Brook Seawolves by a combined score of 31-13 as head coach Kevin O’Sullivan notched the 300th win of his career on Friday night.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore’s stellar outing on Friday night was the first of three quality starts from the Gators’ rotation in the series against the Seawolves, and opposing pitchers struggled to retire senior third baseman Josh Tobias as he tied a school record with eight consecutive hits over the weekend.

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Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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2015 Florida baseball primer: Can a strong junior class finally get the Gators over the hump?

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Florida Gators baseball opens its 2015 campaign against Rhode Island on Friday evening at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Projected to be in the thick of the national championship picture this season, the Gators have opened ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6 in various preseason polls.

In his eighth season, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan (292-155) will manage a squad that returned 22 lettermen and added a highly-touted class of 10 new freshmen, plus one transfer.

Sky-high expectations have become a February tradition in Gainesville during the O’Sullivan era, and back-to-back first-round exits from the NCAA Tournament are not about to deter experts and fans alike from expecting to see the Florida in Omaha for the College World Series.

The Gators return a majority of their 2014 starters in the field and a deep pitching staff, but as always, there are a few areas of uncertainty to be addressed: three incoming freshmen have big shoes to fill behind the plate, starters at second and third base are not yet set in stone, the starting first baseman is sidelined with an injury and one of Florida’s hurlers must establish himself as the No. 3 weekend starter.

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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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