Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

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Florida baseball tops UNF 4-3 in 11 innings

Losing to the North Florida Ospreys on April 3 was a noticeable blemish on the Florida Gators’ portfolio this season so there was no doubt that one of the top teams in the country was looking for revenge Tuesday night in Gainesville, FL. It may have taken 11 innings but No. 5 Florida (36-13) got just that by taking down North Florida (28-21) 4-3 at McKethan Stadium to split the season series 1-1.

After wasting a number of opportunities to plate a run in the latter innings of the contest, junior catcher Mike Zunino (3/5, 2 RBI, SB, BB) came through in the clutch with a walk-off RBI double down the left field line in the bottom of the 11th to score redshirt freshman pinch hitter Connor Mitchell (1-2, R).

Freshman right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi got the mid-week start for the Gators but struggled with his command early on, giving up a pair of earned runs on five hits with one walk and no strikeouts in 2.2 innings. Florida was able to match the runs by rallying in the bottoms of the second and third to tie the game 2-2.

The Gators took the lead in the fifth as junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (2/4, HR, RBI, R, 2 BB) began the frame with a solo homer. UF maintained their one-run advantage for the duration of sophomore RHP Keenan Kish’s appearance (4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 K).

Sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (0.1 IP, 2 H, ER, K) took over in the top of the eighth but did not fare well, allowing two hits and the game-tying run while only registering a single out. Florida had multiple opportunities to retake the lead in regulation but left the bases loaded in the eighth and a man on second in the ninth.

UNF threatened in the top of the 10th until junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez struck out consecutive batters with the bases loaded to get UF out of the inning. The Ospreys tried again in the 11th but were equally unsuccessful as freshman RHP Ryan Harris (2-0, 1.0 IP, H, K) got the final three outs of the contest.

The Gators now move on to their final home games of the regular season as they host Mississippi State in a three-game weekend series. Florida will also celebrate Senior Day for five upper classmen; a number of UF’s juniors will also be playing their last regular season game at McKethan Stadium over the weekend.

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Gators baseball wins series, falls in finale at UK

No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (35-13, 14-10 SEC) fell just short of their first weekend series sweep in over a month, winning two of three games on the road against the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats (37-11, 15-9 SEC) at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington, KY.

Florida won Thursday’s contest 5-3 and pulled out a late 5-1 victory on Friday before dropping the series finale 2-1 to Kentucky on Saturday. UF faces an uphill battle to defend their conference championship as they are currently behind both South Carolina and LSU in the standings.

The Gators saw their starting pitching return to form over the weekend.

Junior right-hander Hudson Randall improved to 5-1 on with a 6.2-inning outing on Thursday. He held the Wildcats to one run through six innings but coughed up two more before heading to the dugout (6 H, 3 ER, BB, 4 K) and allowing junior left-handed reliever Steven Rodriguez (2.1 IP, 2 H, BB, 3 K) to pick up his first save of the season.

Sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson followed Randall’s effort by putting forth his best performance since returning from injury on Friday, holding Kentucky to one earned run over 4.2 innings despite allowing six hits, walking three batters, hitting another, throwing two wild pitches and striking out just two. Whitson was relieved by a trio of throwers including freshman LHP Bobby Poyner (1.0 IP, 2 H), senior RHP Greg Larson (W 6-0, 1.1 IP, HBP) and Rodriguez (S2, 2.0 IP, 2 K).

Florida brought junior LHP Brian Johnson out for the finale and saw him work his way through four innings before allowing a run on two hits and a walk in the bottom of the fifth. Johnson (L 5-4, 5.0 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 2 K) was replaced by sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (3.0 IP, 3 H, R, 2 K), who would have held the Wildcats scoreless had it not been for two fielding errors in the bottom of the eighth.

Gators senior right fielder Preston Tucker powered UF through the first two games of the series, hitting a homer on Thursday and finishing the three-game trip 5/11 with three RBIs, three runs scored and a walk.

Johnson (4/11, 2 RBI) and freshman left fielder Justin Shafer (4/10, 2 RBI) knocked in runs as part of Florida’s two wins though senior center fielder Daniel Pigott was the only player to get on the board in the finale with a solo homer in the top of the ninth. The Gators had the tying run on second but were unable to finish their rally on Saturday.

Florida will look to get revenge against North Florida on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Gainesville, FL before hosting their final home games of the season in a three-game series against Mississippi State Friday-Sunday.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Hunter, Every, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (31-9, 11-7 SEC) won their second-straight weekend series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (24-17, 8-10 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won the series opener 3-2 in 16 innings on Friday before dropping Saturday’s contest 5-3 and needing a victory Sunday to clinch the series. The Gators started with a 1-0 lead via a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) in the bottom of the second, tied the game 2-2 in the fourth thanks to a RBI double by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott and fell behind 3-2 in the top of the sixth after the Bulldogs rallied. However, Florida would match and exceed that rally in the bottom frame, scoring four runs including three coming from a homer to right by Pigott (3/3, HR, 4 RBI, R, BB) to take a 6-3 lead.

Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (3.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K) got the start for the Gators but struggled with his command in the fourth. Florida’s bullpen allowed two more earned runs over the next 2.2 innings but was able to close out the contest with 3.1 scoreless innings including junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez striking out three of the five batters he faced. Senior RHP Greg Larson improved to 6-0 with the victory, and junior RHP Austin Maddox notched his 11th save of the season.

2 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics may have come up just short of winning the overall national championship on Saturday but that did not stop freshman Kytra Hunter from picking up her second individual 2012 NCAA Championship on Sunday. Hunter, who won the NCAA all-around title (first in school history) on Friday with a final score of 39.725, captured the NCAA vault title on Sunday with a score of 9.8750. Hunter also came within a hair (0.0125) of taking the floor exercise championship as well.

3 » Speaking of heartbreaking losses, former Florida golfer Matt Every (-7) finished two spots back of Ben Curtis (-9) in the 2012 Valero Texas Open on Sunday, losing out on the title and a $1.116 million championship purse. Every did, however, bring home $545,600 for tying for second place and was not the only former Gators golfer to win big money as Brian Gay (-5) tied for fourth and banked $244,125 and Billy Horschel (+14) came in 75th and won $12,090.

4 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons – averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while starting 56-of-62 games as a rookie so far – was recently profiled in the video below. Hours after this initial posting Parsons posted one of the best lines of his young NBA career, scoring a personal-best 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block.

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No. 4 Florida baseball wins series at Tennessee

Picking up a weekend series victory for the first time since late March, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (28-8, 9-6 SEC) triumphed 2-1 against the Tennessee Volunteers (21-15, 7-8 SEC) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, TN.

Florida and Tennessee kept it close in the first two games, but a blowout victory by the Gators on Sunday gave them their first weekend series win since travelling to South Carolina March 22-24. Sunday’s victory was also UF’s largest since March 16.

Trailing 1-0 early on Friday, Florida rallied for three runs in the middle of the game and held on thanks to some solid relief pitching to deliver sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (4-1, 5.0 IP, 6 H, ER, 3 BB, 5 K) the victory. Juniors left-hander Steven Rodriguez and RHP Austin Maddox combined to strike out seven in four shutout innings with Maddox picking up his 10th save of the season as UF won 3-1.

The Gators’ pitching was not as solid on Saturday with sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson struggling as he continues to work his way back from injury. Whitson gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out just one in three innings, leaving his team in a 4-3 hole as he exited the game.

Florida tied it up in the fourth but eventually fell 5-4 despite a solid effort by freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi. Replacing Whitson, Magliozzi (4-1) only gave up one earned run on two hits with two strikeouts over five innings but was on the hook for the loss as UF failed to plate any of the seven runners they got on base.

Sunday’s series finale featured the Gators’ largest margin of victory in a month as Florida got out to an early 4-0 lead and held on to take down Tennessee 8-1.

Junior LHP Brian Johnson (5-1) earned the win by scattering six hits while walking one and striking out four over 6.0 innings. Five UF relievers combined to end the game by tossing three one-hit innings.

Johnson and junior shortstop Nolan Fontana were both dynamite at the plate over the three-game series. The former went 6/12 with a homer, six RBIs and two runs, while the latter finished 5/8 with a RBI, four walks, two runs and a stolen base.

After playing 12 of their last 15 games on the road, the Gators will come home for a nine-game homestand to close out the month of April. Florida will begin their homestand by hosting Georgia Southern on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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Florida baseball completes season sweep of FSU

Despite entering Tuesday’s game having lost five of their last seven games, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (26-8) completed the season series sweep of the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (27-6) for the first time since 1958 with a big 6-3 victory on the road at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, FL.

Florida came from behind to defeat Florida State in all three of their games in 2012, taking down their in-state rivals 9-2 on March 13 in Gainesville, FL and 4-1 on March 27 in a neutral site game in Jacksonville, FL. With Tuesday night’s victory, UF has now swept FSU and Miami in the same season for the first time in school history.

After going down in order to start the game, Florida found themselves in an early hole as Florida State took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first off a solo homer by second baseman Devon Travis. The Gators loaded the bases with one out in each of the next two innings but stranded all six base runners and failed to get on the board.

The Seminoles made their visitors pay in the bottom of the third, jumping ahead 3-0 after a throwing error by UF junior catcher Mike Zunino and a sacrifice fly by FSU C Stephen McGee allowed two runs to cross the plate.

Florida would not stay down for long, however, finally getting on the board in the next frame. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana walked to lead-off the fourth, moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a looper double to right by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2/4, RBI, BB).

The Gators tied things up in the fifth when freshman 2B Casey Turgeon singled up the middle and Zunino (2/5, HR, 2 RBI, R) followed by smacking a two-run homer to left. It was not long before Florida took and increased their lead on Florida State. UF loaded the bases again in the sixth though only Fontana scored after Turgeon (3/5, RBI, R) singled to left with two outs. Fontana (2/3, HR, RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) continued his stellar offensive performance the next inning with a solo shot to right in the seventh to give his team a two-run cushion.

Though the Gators undoubtedly got the help of some clutch hitting in the middle innings, the pitching in relief of junior left-handed starter Brian Johnson (3.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K) was perhaps even more impressive.

Freshman right-hander Ryan Harris forced eight ground ball outs and registered one strikeout in three no-hit innings, and junior LHP Steven Rodriguez followed by striking out the side (all looking) in the bottom of the seventh. Junior closer Austin Maddox then came on to finish things up, registering the final five outs of the ballgame.

Florida will look to build on Tuesday’s victory when they travel to Knoxville, TN for a three-game weekend series against Tennessee on Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (3 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.). Saturday’s contest will air live on FOX Sports Florida.

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No. 1 Florida baseball drops first series this season to No. 16 Ole Miss in Oxford

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (24-4, 6-3 SEC) dropped their first series of the 2012 campaign and first regular-season series in 11 months by losing two of three games over the weekend to the No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (20-8, 5-4 SEC) in Oxford, MS.

Florida found themselves fighting from behind the entire weekend, dropping the series opener to Ole Miss 3-0 on Friday, overcoming a one-run deficit to pull away with a 9-4 win on Saturday and losing a late lead in a 7-6 walk-off defeat on Sunday.

Gators junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (3-1, 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, BB, 4 K) gave up three earned runs in the bottom of the first inning on Friday but threw five strong innings to conclude his outing. His teammates were unable to make up for his rough start, however, only registering three hits (two singles and a triple) while on their way to being shutout for the first time since March 8, 2011.

It did not take long for Florida’s bats to come alive as the team combined to tie a season-high with 17 hits in the second game of the series on Saturday. The Gators took a one-run lead in the top of the first but kept swinging back and forth with the Rebels, falling behind 2-1 through four innings and 3-2 through five. UF took the lead for good in the top of the eighth, scoring six runs on six hits including a three-run homer by junior left fielder Vickash Ramjit (3/5, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R). Junior left-hander Brian Johnson (4.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R [2 ER], BB, K) got the start, but freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi (4-0) picked up the victory by registering just one out in the seventh.

Florida fell behind early once again on Sunday with sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (1.2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, BB, K) struggling in his start. However, junior LHP Steven Rodriguez replaced him and steadied things for the Gators, striking out six in four shutout innings. His teammates capitalized on his steady arm by tying the game 5-5. A four-run fourth inning began with a solo shot by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2/5, HR, RBI, R), and junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (3/4, HR, RBI, 2 R, SB) added a solo homer of his own in the sixth.

Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) gave Florida a lead for the first time with UF’s third solo dinger of the game in the top of the seventh, but Ole Miss rallied to tie the contest in the bottom frame. The game appeared to be headed towards a tie as travel time restrictions would have cut off the contest following the ninth inning, but the Rebels took advantage of a throwing error by Tucker with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth for the walk-off victory. Junior closer Austin Maddox (2-1) picked up the loss after giving up two hits in the final frame.

The Gators will look to end their eight-game road trip on a high note when they take on North Florida in Jacksonville, FL on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Florida is 4-3 in the first seven games of the road trip.

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No. 1 Florida tops No. 4 FSU 4-1 in Jacksonville

A three-run sixth inning led No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (23-2) to a 4-1 victory over the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (21-4) in front of 10,751 fans on Tuesday night at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL. The win was Florida’s second against their in-state rival this season and clinched the three-game season series that is spread over 27 days in three separate locations.

The Gators defeated the Seminoles 9-2 on March 13 and will travel to Tallahassee, FL on April 10 to play the final game of the series.

Senior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson got the start for UF and began the contest on fire by allowing just one hit over his first three frames. However, Larson (3.2 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 4 K) encountered some resistance in the top of the fourth as a lead-off double came around due to some solid base running and questionable fielding decisions. He was replaced by sophomore left-hander Daniel Gibson (1.2 IP, H, 2 BB, K), who got the final out of the inning to limit the damage.

Florida stranded pairs of runners on base in the fourth and fifth. Gibson struggled in the top of the sixth, giving up a leadoff walk and a single before throwing two passed balls and an intentional walk to load the bases. Freshman RHP Johnny Magliozzi entered the unenviable situation but was able to force a grounder that the Gators’ defense turned into a 5-4-3 double play to get out of the inning unscathed.

The momentum appeared to swing at that point as Florida capitalized in the bottom of the inning. With two on and two out, freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (1/3, 2 RBI, R, BB) lofted a ball just over the center fielder’s head and legged it out into a triple to score both base runners. He reached home one batter later when junior left fielder Vickash Ramjit (2/4, 2 RBI) hit a sharp single to right to give the Gators a 4-1 lead.

Magliozzi (3-0, 0.2 IP) earned the victory as junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (2.0 IP, H, 2 K) and junior closer Austin Maddox (S8, 1.0 IP, 2 K) shut the door on FSU.

The victory marked UF’s first over Florida State in Jacksonville since 2007. It was also the first time the Gators had defeated the Seminoles in a regular season series since 2009. Turgeon and senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/4) each registered their first career triples in the contest.

Florida now has 13 come-from-behind victories in 2012 as well as a 10-2 record against ranked opponents (7-1 against top-10 teams).

The Gators are now halfway through their eight-game road trip and will pick it up on Friday for the beginning of a three-game series against Ole Miss in Oxford, MS.

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