FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics did everything they could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six on Saturday but came just short of earning their first national title as the Alabama Crimson Tide edged Florida 197.850-197.775 to win the 2012 NCAA Championship. One of four teams in 31 years to win the national title, Alabama captured their sixth in school history by a 0.075 margin thanks to a stellar 49.500 effort on the balance beam in the final rotation. The Gators led the Crimson Tide by 0.025 heading into the final rotation; however, Florida posted a 49.400 on the floor exercise, allowing Alabama to leap them and earn the championship. All is not lost for the Gators as UF’s individual gymnasts will compete for event national titles on Sunday. Freshman Kytra Hunter already won the NCAA Championship in the all-around on Friday.

2 » Looking to carry some momentum from the 16-inning marathon win Friday night, No. 1 Florida baseball (30-9, 10-7 SEC) was not as fortunate Saturday night falling 5-3 to the Georgia Bulldogs (24-16, 8-9 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. UF led 2-1 after the first inning thanks to a two-run bomb by senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, HR, 2 RBI, R, SB) but found themselves in a 4-2 hole after UGA rallied for three runs in the top of the third. A solo homer by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/4, HR, RBI, R) cut the Gators’ deficit to a single run in the bottom of the fourth, but Bulldogs’ starter Michael Palazzone and reliever Blake Dieterich combined to no-hit Florida over the final five innings of the game. Georgia’s timely pitching and clutch defense handed the loss to junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (5-2, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5 K). UF has not swept a weekend series in over a month hopes to pick up a series win in the rubber match on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2).

3 » No. 1-seed Gators women’s tennis (20-1) swept the No. 4-seed Ole Miss Rebels (17-8) in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday, using a 4-0 victory to propel them into the finals on Sunday against No. 3-seed Georgia. Florida captured the doubles point in entertaining fashion having split the first two matches 1-1 before the No. 1 duo of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen earned a 9-8 (7-5) victory. Singles action was a more of a breeze for the Gators with No. 23 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 10 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-0) and No. 51 Oyen (3-6, 6-1, 6-0) picking up three wins to end the match. UF, which improved to 25-0 all-time in SEC Tournament quarterfinals action on Friday, is now 23-2 in the semifinals and competing for their 18th conference tournament title.Florida defeated Georgia 4-3 on March 4 in Athens, GA in the teams’ sole meeting this season.

4 » No. 3/4 Gators softball (41-5) completed their sweep of the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-23) with a 7-1 victory on Saturday at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida and FIU were scoreless through four innings with Gators sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (24-3) holding the Golden Panthers hitless for most of the contest. Florida jumped ahead 1-0 in the fifth on a RBI double by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/3, RBI, BB), but Rogers allowed FIU to even things up in the top of the sixth. Junior RF Ensley Gammel (1/2, HR RBI, R) put the Gators ahead for good in the sixth with a solo homer that spurned a six-run bottom of the inning including two RBIs by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3, 2 RBI, R, BB) and another solo bomb by freshman left fielder Jessica Damico (1/1, HR, RBI, R). Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 7 K) completed the outing and her team’s third-straight weekend series sweep.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, gymnastics, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (30-8, 10-6 SEC) prevailed in a 16-inning marathon on Friday, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (23-16, 7-9 SEC) 3-2 in the teams’ series opener at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida gave up a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth as Georgia tied things up but neither team posted a run in the following 16 frames. Finally the Gators ended the game by forcing the Bulldogs to commit the first error of the contest for either team. Junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit walked with one out, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved over to third thanks to a wild pitch. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana stepped up to the plate with hopes of driving Ramjit home but struck out swinging; however, Fontana’s third strike was dropped and an error by the catcher (a bad throw to first) allowed Ramjit to cross the plate. Right-handed relievers junior Austin Maddox and senior Greg Larson tossed the final 8.2 innings of the game. Maddox struck out five and allowed four hits in 5.2 innings, but Larson (5-0) earned the win after striking out two in three no-hit innings to conclude the contest. Friday’s game was the longest UF has participated in since 1996.

2 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics finished second in Session II of the 2012 NCAA Championships on Friday, advancing to the 2012 NCAA Super Six for a chance to win the first national title in team history. UF finished with a final score of 197.650, just 0.025 behind session winner Alabama. Freshman Kytra Hunter also captured the NCAA all-around individual national title – the first in team history – with a 39.725 in the event. The Gators will compete for the team national championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. (streamed live on ESPN3.com) and the rest of the individual titles on Sunday.

3 » No. 1-seed Florida women’s tennis (19-1) swept the No. 8-seed Tennessee Volunteers (14-12) in 2012 SEC Tournament second-round action on Friday, advancing to the semifinals where they will face No. 4-seed Ole Miss on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Gators easily won the doubles point and got three quick wins from sophomores No. 68 Alex Cercone, No. 51 Sofie Oyen and No. 121 Olivia Janowicz to end the contest relatively early. Florida will participate in the semifinals for the 25th time in school history, continuing their undefeated streak (25-0) in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The No. 4-seed Gators’ men’s tennis team (14-9) was not as fortunate, falling 4-1 to the No. 5-seed Ole Miss Rebels (13-7) and eliminating themselves from the event.

4 » No. 3/4 UF softball (40-5) swept a doubleheader against the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-22) on Friday and will look to close out the series with a victory in game three on Saturday. Florida won the early contest 7-4 behind the offense of freshman left fielder Briana Little (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) and closing ability of freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (S2, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 K). The Gators used the strong arm of freshman RHP Lauren Haeger (12-2, CG, 5.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K) to help them coast to a 9-0 shutout victory in the evening game. Haeger (1/4, HR, R), freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2/3, 2 R, BB), sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/1, HR, R, 2 BB) and junior catcher Kelsey Horton (1/3) contributed two RBIs each in the contest.

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Florida softball passes road test in Palm Springs

Participating in the 2012 Cathedral City Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Palm Springs, CA over the long weekend, No. 1 Florida Gators softball (13-1) won four of the five games they played and went 2-1 against top 25-ranked opponents. Though Florida may get knocked down from their top ranking when the new polls are released Tuesday, the Gators still found plenty of success over the weekend.

Florida started the event with back-to-back games against top competition on Thursday afternoon. UF defeated the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies in a 1 p.m. start before falling to the No. 5 Washington Huskies at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators scored six runs on five hits in the early contest, using sharp hitting from junior catcher Brittany Schutte (1-2, 2 RBI, R, SB) and senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) to help propel them to a 6-5 victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers pitched a complete game, striking out seven while giving up four earned runs (three in the top of the seventh) on nine hits with two walks.

Freshman RHP Lauren Haeger suffered her first loss of the season in the latter contest, allowing five runs (three earned) on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5.0 innings. Washington led 1-0 through 2.5 innings, but Florida took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third after a triple from freshman second baseman Katie Medina (2-3, RBI, R) and a single by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-4, RBI) sent two runs in. UF would not score again, leaving six on base over the course of the contest), as UW scored pairs of runs in the top of the fifth and six to pull away with a 5-2 win.

Gators head coach Tim Walton gave Haeger an immediate opportunity for redemption, throwing her in the team’s 1 p.m. game against the Brigham Young Cougars on Friday. Florida took down BYU 3-0 thanks partially to Haeger (4-1), who struck out five while scattering five hits and two walks in six innings. Fellow freshman RHP Alyssa Bache came on for the final inning, striking out two to earn her first save of the season. UF scored all three of their runs on two dingers including a solo shot by junior designated hitter Ensley Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and a two-run bomb by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) one inning later.

Gammel and Coyle found their power strokes again in the Gators’ second match-up on Friday, a 5-1 victory over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns. Florida got to the plate in the top of the first, but Texas matched the score with a run of their own in the bottom of the second. Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and Coyle (1-3 RBI, R) then each connected on home runs in the top of the fourth, vaulting UF ahead of UT permanently. Haeger (1-2, 2 RBI) and Schutte (0-2, RBI, BB, SB) were responsible for the other runs in the game, while Rogers only gave up four hits while striking out eight in a complete game outing that did not include an earned run.

Rogers (8-0) earned her third win in as many days on Saturday by striking out five and scattering five hits with only one walk in a complete game outing as the Gators took down the Boise State Broncos 3-0 to close out their road trip. Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI) hit a two-RBI single in the top of the first to give Florida an early advantage, and junior right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-3, RBI, R) smacked a solo homer in the fifth to extend UF’s lead.

It should come as no surprise that some of the team’s best performers over the weekend – Schutte, Coyle, Gammel and Medina – all hail from the state of California.

The Gators returned to Gainesville, FL on Saturday and will remain in town by hosting an event next weekend. Florida will take on Eastern Michigan on Thursday before competing in the Lipton Invitational from March 2-4. UF will take on EMU again on Friday as part of the event along with Gardner-Webb (twice), Tennessee State and Campbell. The Gators are set to open Southeastern Conference play on March 7.

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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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SIX BITS: tennis and lacrosse fall, Junior Day ahead, McCarney doing OK, softball rising

1 » After only giving up two points in their first five matches this season (both to No. 5 Baylor), No. 1 Florida Gators women’s tennis (5-1) was rocked Sunday by the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (4-0) 5-2 at the Taube Tennis Center in Stanford, CA. Florida, which ended Stanford’s 184-match home winning streak while winning the 2011 NCAA Championship a year ago, had its own 26-match winning streak broken on Sunday. The Cardinal swept the Gators in doubles competition with No. 1 duo Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs thrashing sophomore Alexandra Cercone and junior Allie Will 8-3. Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay beat junior Lauren Embree and sophomore Sofie Oyen 8-3 as well. Will (3) got a form of redemption in singles action, beating Gibbs (5) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Burdette (1), looking for revenge of her own after being beaten for the title one year ago, got just that on Embree (25) by taking her down 6-1, 6-2 in straight sets. Oyen (34) was the only other ranked Florida player to win her match by defeating Ellen Tsay (31) as senior Joanna Mather (4) and Cercone (41) both fell in singles action. UF will play two more non-conference matches before heading into SEC competition.

2 » Suffering a similarly tough loss over the weekend, No. 4 Gators lacrosse (0-1) fell on the road against the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels (1-0), fighting back from a 7-3 halftime deficit to lose 11-9. Florida took an early 2-0 lead on North Carolina, but the Tar Heels then outscored the Gators 7-1 to end the opening half. Pairs of consecutive goals by junior attackers Ashley Bruns and Kitty Cullen reduced UF’s deficit but even Florida winning the scoring battle 4-1 over the final 12:07 was not enough to put away North Carolina. Bruns and Cullen finished with three goals apiece, but junior goal keeper Mikey Meagher only notched two saves on the afternoon. Midfielder Kara Cannizzaro led UNC with four goals on six shots, and GK Lauren Maksym was stingy in the net, saving 10 goals while only allowing nine. After losing to the Tar Heels in the season opener last year, the Gators exploded on a 14-match winning streak.

3 » Florida will be holding its second Junior Day of the 2013 recruiting cycle on Saturday and is set to host a number of the country’s top prospects, many of whom are strongly considering playing for the Gators after their respective senior seasons. Among them are a trio of four-stars from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, FL – linebacker James Hearns (No. 157) and wide receivers Reggie Davis (No. 118) and Taj Williams (No. 177). Hearns committed to Florida on Feb. 2, becoming the Gators’ fourth pledge of the cycle. Davis and Williams also have offers from UF but neither has committed yet; the former will be going on his second visit to Gainesville, FL this month while the latter has expressed on Twitter that he hopes to play for the orange and blue down the line. Other big-time recruits expected to be on campus Saturday are five-star offensive lineman No. 3 Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, FL) and four-stars LB commit No. 53 Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), defensive tackle commit No. 82 Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL), defensive back No. 39 Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL), WR No. 45 Stacy Coley (Oakland Park, FL), four-star running back No. 90 Ryan Green (St. Petersburg, FL), DB No. 94 Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL), RB No. 111 Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and WR No. 234 Rodney Adams (St. Petersburg, FL)…just to name a few. UF believes it is in a great position to add a number of commits by the weekend’s end.

4 » Former Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, now head coach of the North Texas Mean Green, remains in hospital Tuesday morning after suffering stroke on Sunday. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, McCarney said he had the stroke after working out but is expected to make a full recovery with no permanent damage lingering. “I’ve got too much Irish in me to stay down very long,” he joked. “I’m supposed to get out of the hospital in a couple days. I feel good right now. I’ve got a little tingling feeling, but hey, if that’s the worst of it, I’d say I’m a pretty lucky guy. Nothing wrong with me that a little Grey Goose won’t cure.” OGGOA wishes Coach McCarney our best wishes as he recovers.

5 » Going 5-0 in the 2012 season’s first weekend, Florida softball received some good news early this week. On Monday, the Gators learned that third baseman Sami Fagan won SEC Freshman of the Week honors after hitting .666 with three RBI, seven runs, two walks and a pair of stolen bases in five games. Florida was then crowned the new No. 1 team in the country (with 16 of 30 first-place votes) when USA Today and the NFCA released their latest coaches’ top 25 poll. Gators softball and baseball are both ranked as the top team in the nation.

6 » Conflicting reports emerged this week about whether or not Tim Davis was actually Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s first choice to be the team’s new offensive line coach. According to a number of stories, including one from ESPN’s Chris Low, Muschamp first reached out to South Carolina Gamecocks running game coordinator and OL coach Shawn Elliot, who turned down Florida even though UF was offering more than his new $300,000 annual salary pays at South Carolina. However, Muschamp himself denied to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley that he went after Elliot for the position. Regardless of who his first choice was, Davis is the one now wearing orange and blue and looking to improve an offensive line that struggled in performance and development one year ago.

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No. 2 Florida softball owns weekend with 5-0 start

In a weekend that saw some Florida Gators teams falter and others come out on top, No. 2 softball ensured that everyone knew they were for real by winning five games over two days at the USF-Fairfield Inn & Suites Tournament in Tampa, FL.

Florida (5-0) spent Saturday wiping the floor with their competition, shutting out Long Island, Maine and Illinois State in a trio of run-ruled affairs by a combined 27-0.

Sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers threw nine scoreless innings, striking out 14 while giving up just five hits and two walks combined in the first and third games, while freshman P Lauren Haeger earned her first win, shutout and complete game in orange and blue with a three-hit, 11-strikeout performance against Maine.

Haeger struggled a bit in the second appearance of her career, allowing an earned run on four walks and three hits with only three strikeouts against South Florida. Rogers came on to pitch the final 2.2 innings of the affair and helped lead the Gators to a 3-2 extra innings victory. She retook the hill in Florida’s final game Sunday against Florida Gulf Coast, striking out nine while only giving up three hits and walking one in a 5-0 win.

The hot starts of Rogers (4-0) and Haeger (1-0) were only matched by the hitting showcase put on by their teammates behind the plate.

The veteran Gators did their part with junior catcher Brittany Schutte finishing 5/15 with six RBIs, five runs and three walks; sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle powering Florida by going 4/13 with two home runs, seven RBIs, three runs and two walks; junior right fielder Kelsey Horton hitting 7/13 with two homers, five RBIs, four runs and three walks; and senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie ending up 4/12 from the plate with eight runs, three walks and five stolen bases.

Florida’s freshmen played their part in the offensive breakout as well. Third baseman Sami Fagan hit .666 (10/15) with three RBIs, seven runs, two walks and a pair of stolen bases, and Haeger did double duty behind the plate and in the field by hitting 5/16 with a home run, eight RBIs, three runs and two walks while also playing first base.

There is no rest for the weary Gators coming any time soon as Florida will play four home games before the week is up including one against Jacksonville on Wednesday and a three-game series against Michigan State Friday-Sunday. UF will then travel to Palm Springs, CA the following week to participate in the Cathedral City Classic.

Photo Credit: SEC Digital Network

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2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

Spring is here and No. 2/4 Florida Gators softball is set to begin their 2012 season this weekend by playing five games as part of a three-day tournament hosted by South Florida in Tampa, FL from Feb. 10-12.

The Gators enter the 2012 campaign having lost a number of major pieces that formed the core of last year’s team that went all the way to the championship round of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. However, a strong and dynamic freshman class coupled with a crop of extremely talented players and superb coaching by Tim Walton means that Florida may not be far off from yet another successful season.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

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TWO BITS: Draftees staying? Fagan awarded.

1 » Of Florida Gators baseball’s four high school signees drafted in the first four rounds of the 2011 MLB Draft, at least two are expected to enroll in school and delay their professional debut three more years. One of them, right-handed pitcher Kyle Smith told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that college is most definitely in his future. “It’s a long shot I sign,” Smith told Porter. “I’m very committed to the University of Florida.” Smith was selected by the Kansas City Royls with the No. 126 overall pick in the fourth round. Porter previously noted that Smith’s advisor, who also works with RHP Michael Kelly (the No. 48 overall pick in the second round by the San Diego Padres), believes both players will be wearing orange and blue next year. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” he said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment.”

2 » Only a freshman, third baseman Kasey Fagan had a strong year for Gators softball, starting all 68 games she played and accounting for 41 hits, 43 runs, 22 RBI, 30 walks and 16 stolen bases. Her sister, shortstop/catcher Sami Fagan has committed to and will join Florida next season and hopes to have just as much early success. With the older Fagan capturing the Gatorade Softball Player of the Year award for the state of Florida twice (and the national award just last year), her younger sister has plenty to live up to…and did just that Thursday when she was honored with the 2011 version of the state award. According to The Gainesville Sun, Sami hit .693 last season, has a .629 mark for her high school career and notched a state-record 63-game hitting streak over the course of her sophomore and junior years.

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