Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Texas A&M, Haden, Schutte, Paco

1 » With the Florida Gators’ game against the Texas A&M Aggies under 48 hours away, now is as good of a time as ever to check on ESPN College GameDay’s promotional video for the contest set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

2 » Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren announced on Tuesday that cornerback Joe Haden has indeed been suspended by the NFL for failing the league’s banned substance policy (testing positive for Adderall); however, he is set to play in the team’s season opener on Sunday and every game from that point forward until his already-filed appeal is ruled on by the league. Haden’s suspension, should it be enacted after the NFL reviews his appeal, will be for four games. He would at that time become the second former Gators player in the last three years to receive a suspension for violating that policy as New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes missed the last four games of his rookie season in 2010 after testing positive for an ingredient that was contained in his ADHD medication.

3 » Florida catcher Brittany Schutte, who missed most of the 2012 season after suffering a broken jaw early in the campaign, has decided to skip her final season with the team in order to move on and coach softball at the Oak Hall School in Gainesville, FL. According to Oak Hill, Schutte recently informed Gators head coach Tim Walton that she will not return to the team and “is shifting interest in her academic career with hopes of becoming an educator.” Her departure is a major loss for a Florida team that saw a huge star graduate and suffered three other major defections last season. The Gators lost senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and saw sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle as well as sisters Kasey Fagan and Sami Fagan leave the program after Walton suspended all three during the opening portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. In her first two years with the team, Schutte hit .335 with 41 home runs, 128 RBIs, 118 runs, 83 walks and 82 stolen bases. She also slugged .751 and fielded her position at a .989 clip. Schutte’s departure, coupled with Moultrie’s graduation and the three transfers, leaves the Gators without five of their best players heading into the 2013 season.

4 » Former Florida left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez, selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the No. 82 overall pick in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft, became the first player from that draft to be called up to the majors when Los Angeles brought him into the fold on Wednesday. Rodriguez, who was always thought to be a player who might be in this situation, was dominant in the minors, posting a 0.92 ERA with 32 strikeouts and six walks in 19 2/3 innings over 21 games. “Everybody here’s been great to me,” he told MLB.com this week. “Now I’ve got to perform. I’ve got to get over it. But on the mound, looking up at all the decks, the biggest place I’ve ever played before was Omaha and they only have two decks.”

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Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

A tumultuous weekend and up-and-down season came to a conclusion for No. 5 Florida Gators softball as the team fell 1-0 to the South Florida Bulls and failed in their bid to advance out of the Gainesville Regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Florida (48-13) lost the first game of the regional but won consecutive contests in the loser’s bracket on Saturday to move on to the finals against USF (48-11). The Gators were hoping to win and force a second game on Sunday but instead lost the contest and failed to reach the Women’s College World Series for the fifth-straight season.

Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (28-8) got the nod to start and pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 7.0 innings. Her lone blemish came in the top of the fourth when an infield single allowed the Bulls to score what would end up being the game-deciding run.

Rogers’s complete game performance was matched by South Florida starter Sara Nevens, who allowed five hits and three walks but struck out 12 including two important batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Florida rallied to load the bases with no one out but failed to cross the plate as Nevins struck out consecutive batters and forced an infield groundout to get out of the frame unscathed.

Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, playing her last game in orange and blue, was the only Florida batter to register more than one hit as she went 2-for-4 on the afternoon. She concluded her UF career as the team’s all-time leader in batting average (.385), stolen bases (83) and stolen base attempts (99). Moultrie also picked up a number of awards during her tenure with the Gators including 2010 SEC Player of the Year, 2011 WCWS Co-Most Outstanding Player, 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team and a number of All-American honors.

It is the first time since 2006 that Florida did not move on to the Super Regional.

Though he did not get into specifics regarding the incident that led to him eventually suspending three of his starters, head coach Tim Walton spoke more about the general situation following Sunday’s loss at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Continue Reading » Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

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Florida softball falls 2-1 to FGCU in Gainesville Regional; three players suspended, one returns

Friday was a rough day for No. 5 Florida Gators softball, which not only lost 2-1 to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the second game of the 2012 NCAA Gainesville Regional at Pressly Softball Stadium but did so without three of their star players.

Prior to the game, head coach Tim Walton announced that junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, sophomore outfielder Kasey Fagan and freshman third baseman Sami Fagan were suspended for undisclosed reasons. He said following the contest that the situation is being handled internally but that the trio is suspended indefinitely for the remainder of the season and could be kicked off the team permanently.

More definitive on the subject was Kevin Fagan, the father of Kasey and Sami, who told the Ocala Star-Banner the three players are no longer with the team and are “free to go anywhere they want.” He added that “an altercation on the team…[left] the team sort of divided and Walton felt like it was in his best interest to get rid of those three.”

It was not all bad news for Florida before the game, however, as the Gators also learned junior catcher Brittany Schutte would return after missing more than two months of action with a broken jaw. Schutte went 0/2 with a walk.

FGCU (38-22) got on the board first as Florida (46-12) sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers gave up a solo home run in the top of the second. The Gators tied things up in the bottom of the next inning, rallying to score a run brought home by a single from freshman first baseman Lauren Haeger (2/3, RBI).

The Gators and Eagles stayed tied at 1-1 for the next two innings, but Florida Gulf Coast went back on top in the sixth as Rogers (27-7, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) coughed up her second solo homer of the game. Florida was unable to answer and lost the game, which dropped them into the loser’s bracket of their own regional.

UF has lost seven of their last 11 games and now must win four-straight contests to advance to the Super Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida will face Central Florida at 3:30 p.m. in an elimination game for the opportunity to advance to a second elimination game immediately following the contest at 6 p.m.

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Alabama runs over Florida 10-1 in SEC final

No. 7 Florida Gators softball’s clutch hitting and dominant pitching both came to a halt on Saturday as the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game and downed their rivals 10-1 in a run-ruled five-inning contest.

With home field advantage and arguably the best player in the tournament on their side, Alabama (50-7) beat up on Florida (46-11) for the third time in four matchups this season (all of which took place at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL).

The Crimson Tide hit Gators freshman right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger early and often, rallying for two runs in the bottom of the first and tagging her for two homers (a three-run shot and two-run bomb) and six total runs in the third.

Florida cut Alabama’s 2-0 lead in half by scoring in the top of the second but left six players on base and did not plate another run for the remainder of the contest.

Haeger (14-5, 3.0 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, K) was pulled as the Gators faced an 8-1 deficit, but sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (1.0 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, K) did not fare much better. Rogers allowed two more runs to score in the fourth and gave the Crimson Tide the necessary margin to end the contest early and claim their title.

Alabama won their first SEC Tournament Championship since 2010 while Florida will wait until next year to try and capture their first since 2009. Both teams will learn of their respective seedings in the 2012 NCAA Tournament during the selection show on Sunday at 10 p.m. live on ESPNU.

Haeger, freshman third baseman Sami Fagan and sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle were named to the 2012 SEC All-Tournament Team following the title game.

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Castro powers Florida over Tennessee, into finals

An extra-inning solo home run by freshman pinch hitter Bailey Castro on Friday launched No. 7 Florida Gators softball into the finals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Florida (46-10) used Castro’s tie-breaking bomb to take their first and only lead in a 2-1 victory over the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (46-10) during semifinal action.

Tennessee jumped ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first as a fielding error by freshman second baseman Katie Medina (0/2) allowed the Volunteers to plate the first run. The Gators utilized a two-out rally to tie the contest in the third as freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (4/4, R, SB) singled, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored when sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/3, RBI, BB) singled up the middle.

Florida junior right-hander Hannah Rogers (27-6) pitched a gem after allowing an unearned run in her first frame, ending her outing by giving up just four hits and two walks while striking out four in 7.0 innings. After Castro (1/1, HR, RBI, R) knocked her ball out of the park to left center on a 3-2 count, freshman RHP Lauren Haeger came on to close things out and retired Tennessee in order for her second save of the season.

Two-seed UF will face either one-seed Alabama or four-seed Georgia for the SEC Championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will air live nationally on ESPN.

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Haeger leads Florida over LSU in SEC Tournament

In the first postseason start of her young career, freshman Lauren Haeger pitched a gem for No. 7 Florida Gators softball, which used a late run to take down the LSU Tigers 1-0 in the first game of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Haeger allowed two hits while striking out eight in her complete game outing for Florida (45-10) with her only flaw being the five walks she scattered over seven innings. She was not alone in allowing free passes on Thursday as LSU (34-22) starter Brittany Mack was also generous, giving up three walks and hit four batters in her five innings.

The pitchers’ duel between Haeger and Mack lasted 4.5 innings. Mack was nursing a no-hitter until the bottom of the fifth when she walked freshman designated hitter Bailey Castro (0/2, BB) and gave up her first hit of the game three batters later to freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (1/3, RBI, SB). Fagan’s RBI single scored freshman Brianna Little (who pinch ran for Castro) from second for the only run of the game.

The Gatos advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals where they will face either two-seed Tennessee or seven-seed Auburn on Friday at 2 p.m. live on ESPNU. Three-seed Florida must win that game to compete Saturday in the SEC Tournament final for the first time since winning the event in 2009.

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Michelle Moultrie wins SEC Player of the Year, Florida softball places seven on All-SEC teams

The Southeastern Conference released its annual awards for the sport of softball on Wednesday, and the Florida Gators came away with a prestigious individual award along with nine total placements (seven players) on the various All-SEC teams.

Senior outfielder Michelle Moultrie became the second-straight and fourth Florida player all-time to be named SEC Player of the Year (Kelsey Bruder won the award in 2011). Underrated coming out of high school, Moultrie has been one of the most consistent, reliable and game-changing players that the Gators have seen.

She leads the SEC in batting average (.395) and fielding percentage (1.000) and tops Florida’s roster in runs scored (58), total bases (108), slugging percentage (.667), on-base percentage (.495) and steals (21). Moultrie also has 10 homers, 29 RBIs and 24 walks so far in her senior campaign.

First Team All-SEC
CF Michelle Moultrie (senior)

Second Team All-SEC
P Hannah Rogers (sophomore)
C Kelsey Horton (junior)

Freshman All-SEC Team
P Alyssa Bache (freshman)
P/DH Lauren Haeger (freshman)
3B Sami Fagan (freshman)
OF Jessica Damico (freshman)

SEC All-Defensive Team
P Hannah Rogers (sophomore)
CF Michelle Moultrie (senior)

Photo Credit: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

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