ESPN College GameDay at Florida on Oct. 20

ESPN College GameDay will emanate from Gainesville, FL for the first time since 2009 as the No. 2 Florida Gators (6-0, 5-0 SEC) host the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS in a game that could go a long way to determining which team will win the SEC East and head to Atlanta, GA in December.

The Gators will be making their third appearance on the program this season. Florida was last featured three times in 2009 – on the road at LSU and in back-to-back weeks at home against Florida State and in a neutral site game against Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. UF has appeared as a visitor in GameDay programs hosted in College Station, TX and Knoxville, TN already this season.

The Gators have been featured on the program a total of 35 times, most out of any team in the country (Ohio State is second with 29 appearances). Florida has hosted 12 times, second-most in the nation (Ohio State – 13) The Gators are 7-4 overall as hosts in Gainesville and 16-7 when playing in a GameDay contest elsewhere.

College GameDay begins with a one-hour show at 9 a.m. on ESPNU before shifting over to ESPN for the primary two-hour broadcast beginning at 10 a.m. It features host Chris Fowler, analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack, and contributor Samantha Steele.

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South Carolina downs Florida 7-3 in CWS opener

An explosive five-run fifth inning for the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks‘ offense erased an early lead by No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (47-19) and allowed South Carolina (46-17) to top Florida 7-3 on Saturday night in both teams’ first game of the 2012 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.

With the loss, UF fell to 27-6 when scoring first and move on to the loser’s portion of the double-elimination tournament where they will have to win four-straight games in order to advance to the Championship Series for the second-straight season, something that has happened only six times dating back to 1988.

Gamecocks left-handed pitcher Michael Roth (6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) earned the victory despite giving up the most earned runs of any of his CWS appearances. Gators LHP Brian Johnson (4.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) got out of jams in the first four innings but came apart at the seams in the fifth.

South Carolina threatened first by loading the bases in the opening frame thanks to an error, single and walk, but Johnson struck out the side to save Florida. The Gamecocks squandered another opportunity to score in the third but failed to score a runner from 90 feet away following a lead-off double and sacrifice fly.

It was the Gators that got on the board first with a rally in the third. Freshman left fielder Justin Shafer (2/4, R) and junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit singled to start the inning, but Florida found themselves with runners on the corners following a failed bunt and groundout. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker then stepped up and cleared the bases with a two-out, two-RBI double to deep left, giving UF an early 2-0 lead.

The Gators were in another tough situation in the fourth after Johnson allowed the first two batters on via a single and walk, but Florida’s deft defense registered three-straight outs to get out of the frame.

UF was not as lucky the next inning as Johnson started by loading the bases without recording an out. He then gave up a bases-clearing triple followed by double to deep right, allowing USC to take a 4-2 lead before being pulled. Senior LHP Greg Larson (1.0 IP, 2 H, K) replaced him and got the Gators out of the jam but not without giving up another run and allowing the Gamecocks to extend their lead to 5-2.

Florida cut into South Carolina’s three-run lead in the bottom of the fifth as a sacrifice fly by junior catcher Mike Zunino scored freshman third baseman Josh Tobias, who had moved over to third after getting on base with a lead-off single.

The Gators threatened again in the bottom of the seventh but came up empty after Ramjit (2/3) and Tobias (2/3, R) led off the frame with singles. The duo moved over to second and third on a sacrifice bunt but never made their way home. Florida ended the inning with Tucker (2/5, 2 RBI) flying out to shallow left and Johnson (0/4) hitting a hard line out to right after Zunino (0/2, RBI, 2 BB) was intentionally walked to load the bases.

UF sophomore right-hander Keenan Kish (3.0 IP, H, ER, BB, 3 K) kept USC at bay but walked the lead-off batter in the ninth, who eventually came around to score after advancing via a ground out and a pair of wild pitches, the second of which came from junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (0.1 IP, H, R, K). One out away from ending the frame, the Gators committed two fielding errors and gave up an infield single in between, allowing the Gamecocks to add another insurance run and increase their lead to 7-3.

Florida will face Kent State (46-19) on Monday at 5 p.m. in an elimination game that will air live on ESPN2. The winner will take on either Arkansas or South Carolina (Monday at 9 p.m.) in another elimination game on Wednesday.

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Field announced for 2012 College World Series

The 2012 College World Series field has officially been set after the final three teams qualified for the final segment of the 2012 NCAA Tournament by winning their respective Super Regionals on Monday.

Though the event will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE, the No. 1 Florida Gators will participate in the last “first round” game when they take on the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday at 9 p.m. live on ESPN.

The CWS is split up in two four-team brackets, each of which is double elimination and can consist of up to seven games. The victors of each bracket will square off in a best-of-three Championship Series beginning on June 24.

Florida (47-18) has been placed in the second bracket along with South Carolina (45-17), No. 20 Arkansas (44-20) and Kent State (46-18). The Gators are 4-3 against that field and 3-0 against the first bracket after registering a season sweep of No. 3 Florida State (48-15). No. 4 UCLA (47-14), No. 11 Arizona (43-17) and Stony Brook (52-13) make up the remainder of the first bracket.

UF is making their third-straight appearance at the CWS for the first time in school history. Florida fell in consecutive contests to UCLA and FSU in 2010 but made it to the Championship Series before being swept by USC last season. South Carolina has won back-to-back national titles and is also making their third appearance in a row.

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Florida basketball adds transfer Damontre Harris

Florida Gators basketball received a significant boost to its frontcourt in 2013-14 after learning Saturday that South Carolina Gamecocks power forward Damontre Harris has chosen to transfer to the University of Florida.

A four-star prospect and the No. 64 player in the country as ranked by Rivals.com in 2010, Harris decided to leave South Carolina after the administration fired head coach Darrin Horn and replaced him with Frank Martin. Florida and Kansas battled for his transfer, and the player also gave consideration to staying in Columbia, SC.

Instead Harris will be forced to sit out the 2012-13 season per NCAA transfer rules but will fill a major position of need for the Gators when his redshirt season is up. He will still be able to practice with the team next year, providing sophomores center Patric Young and forward Will Yeguete with a big, talented opponent to go up against each day.

At 6’9” and 226 lbs., Harris has been an important and effective player for the Gamecocks over his two years with the team. He averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game his sophomore season while shooting .550 from the field and .804 from the free throw line.

Florida has not had a shot blocker average more than two swats per game since Joakim Noah registered 2.4 per contest during his sophomore season (2005-06).

With Young potentially moving on to the NBA after his junior year and the Gators not having received any commitments taller than 6’6” as part of their 2012 or 2013 (so far) recruiting classes, Harris should eventually have a legitimate opportunity to start for Florida though he most certainly will not be handed that role.

Martin has a good relationship with Gators head coach Billy Donovan and did not place any restrictions on Harris as it pertained to contacting or transferring to a SEC East rival.

Despite Harris’s decision, Florida is still pursuing transfer forward Dorian Finney-Smith of Virginia Tech, a source close to the program confirmed to OGGOA on Saturday

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Florida moves on with 7-2 win over USC

Faced with elimination in the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament, No. 2 Florida Gators baseball fought to play another day, defeating the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks 7-2 on Friday evening at Regions Park in Hoover, AL.

Junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (7-4) was the king of the hill for Florida, going the distance for the first complete game of his career while allowing just two earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts and no free passes.

The Gators gave Johnson a nice cushion offensively from the get-go, scoring in each of the first three innings and extending their lead with a three-run top of the fifth.

Florida (42-17) rallied for one run each in the first and second and used a two-run homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, SB, BB) in the third to jump ahead 4-0. UF’s lead extended to 7-0 in the fifth after USC walked in a run and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (2/4, 2 RBI, R) followed by smacking a two-RBI single.

South Carolina (40-17) was able to plate one run in the sixth and another with two outs in the ninth but was otherwise held scoreless by Johnson and the defense behind him.

With the victory, the Gators advance to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Florida will face Vanderbilt on Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. live on Comcast Sports South. UF fell to VU 2-1 on Thursday, ending a seven-game winning streak the Gators had on the Commodores dating back to last season.

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FOUR BITS: Rosario, Harris, Wambach, Tebow

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is one of four American college basketball players who were invited to try out for the Puerto Rico Senior National Team, SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria reports. Rosario, who joined Florida two years ago but played for the Gators for the first time this past season, has a good chance to make the team. “We worked really hard to get Mike this opportunity,” Puerto Rico Playmakers founder Todd Washington told Zagoria. “This is a huge year for Mike. It’s his last year at Florida and his turn to lead the team. Coach [Billy] Donovan was incredibly supportive of Mike coming down to Puerto Rico. He knew how important this was to Mike and his family. Mike is in Jersey City working out twice a day and doing everything he can to get in the best shape of his career.”

2 » While still going after five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) and keeping a close eye on center Bradley Hayes (Jacksonville, FL), Florida basketball continues its pursuit of big men to add to the roster. Enter PF Damontre Harris, a class of 2010 player who committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks but is planning to transfer now that head coach Frank Martin took over the program. According to CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman, Harris is visiting the Gators this week and believed to have narrowed down his future to either Florida, Kansas…or possibly returning to South Carolina. Harris, who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game last season, would be forced to sit out the 2012-13 season. He would have two years of eligibility remaining.

3 » Former Gators striker Abby Wambach, who had a series of unforgettable moments and performances in the 2011 World Cup over the summer, was included on a list of the Top 40 Athletes of the Title IX Era published by Sports Illustrated on Wednesday. Below is the entry explaining why she is on the list.

It’s no pun to say Wambach plays head and shoulders above the competition. That’s where the 5-foot-11 forward, famed for her aerial attacks. In 2004, Wambach headed a goal in extra time to give the U.S. a 2-1 win over Brazil and the gold medal in the World Cup. In the quarterfinals of the 2011 World Cup, she scored on another header, pushing the U.S. past Brazil again. The five-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year led the now-defunct Washington Freedom to the WUSA’s Founder’s Cup title in 2004. At the University of Florida, Wambach set school records for goals (96), assists (49), points (241), game-winning goals (24) and hat tricks (10).

4 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow attended Kingsley-Pierson High School prom on April 28 though he did not necessarily do so in the most conventional way. High school student Rachel Bird asked Tebow to be her prom date over Twitter (as well as through his team and his agent) but did not receive a response. After much consideration, she decided to spend $19.99 to create a cardboard cutout of Tebow at Staples and brought him along to the prom where he appears to have been a big hit. “He was a cheap date, and he didn’t talk much,” Bird joked when interviewed by the Sioux City Journal. “And when I asked him to stand in a corner, he did. I don’t think it even hurt his feelings. The after-prom [party] would have been too much. He was tired. He’d been smiling all night.”

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Gator Bites for Monday, April 16

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah continues to play a major role for his team, posting a line of 20 points and 17 rebounds (13 offensive) on Sunday night to help lead Chicago past Detroit in overtime. Noah now has 21 double-doubles on the season though that was his first in the month of April.

» Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford told OGGOA on Friday that it is “realistic” to believe that he will be able to return to his team for the playoffs after tearing his pectoral early in the season. Horford, who has missed almost the entire shortened season, said he doubts he will be at 100 percent when the playoffs begin because he will not have the proper time to practice and condition. However, he hopes to be able to contribute in some way and help his team win.

» Unlike Horford, Golden State Warriors F/C David Lee will not see a basketball court again this year. Lee, whose Warriors are out of the playoffs and vying for a better draft slot, will be benched for the remainder of the season after injuring his groin last week. He was already dealing with a hip injury and will be rested mostly for precautionary reasons. Lee averaged nearly a double-double this season, posting totals of 20.1 points and 9.6 boards per game.

» Julie Quittner of Gainesville Television Network sent over a copy of her interview with former Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey that aired on Friday. In the piece, Quittner asks Rainey directly about the allegations made recently in a Sporting News column about former Florida head coach Urban Meyer. Below are a few standout questions/answers from the interview:

Did you see the incident when Billy Gonzales was apparently choked by Percy Harvin at practice and apparently he wasn’t disciplined for it? Is that a situation where maybe guys like that got away with certain things?
Rainey: “I heard that story from players; I ain’t never saw it and just like I said, players like that…certain players even the coaches are scared of and there are certain players that the players were scared of but you can’t just answer a question like that because they’re good in sports and you just can’t do nothing about it.

What do you mean by scared?
Rainey: “Scared, like a player if you’re scared of another player…just like that. Coaches can be scared of players.”

What do you have to say to the fact that [safety Bryan Thomas] said at one point that the program got “out of control”?
Rainey: “It wasn’t ever ‘out of control’ they just were scared of certain players and when the younger guys can’t do nothing but watch and see, you’re scared for your life too, so you just got to be quiet because if you say the wrong thing, you might get beat up from him or get in trouble by a coach.”

Do you remember incidents here that happened with [those elite players] specifically that you can remember them getting special treatment or something being covered up for them?
Rainey: “I don’t remember everything being covered up, but I just know a lot of stuff that happened through my college career…like you see people doing bad stuff off the field, fights, getting in trouble in school, whatever it is but if they made it to the NFL, they made it. It’s too late now.”

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, April 16

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Women’s tennis earns SEC regular season title

No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (18-1, 11-0 SEC) completed a perfect Southeastern Conference slate on Saturday to win the 2012 SEC regular season title outright after defeating the No. 27 South Carolina Gamecocks (14-7, 5-6 SEC) 4-1.

In a rare occurrence, Florida dropped the doubles point as both the No. 1-ranked team of junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen and the duo of sophomore Olivia Janowicz/junior Caroline Hitimana both fell. Only the No. 16 team of junior Lauren Embree/senior Joanna Mather was victorious.

However, the Gators made up for it in singles action by winning the first four completed matches before the meeting was suspended. No. 1 Will, No. 10 Embree, No. 21 Mather and No. 73 sophomore Alex Cercone all won in straight sets to clinch the SEC regular season title for Florida.

The Gators will take their 13-match win streak into the 2012 SEC Tournament which begins on April 19 in Oxford, MS. No. 1-seed Florida receives a first-round bye as they hope to win the event for the third-straight season.

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