Gators baseball takes series from Gamecocks

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (22-2, 5-1 SEC) traveled to Columbia, SC face the defending NCAA champion No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks (17-7, 1-5 SEC) over the weekend and came away from the three-game series with a victory after coming from behind to win the final two contests.

Florida was hoping for a measure of revenge on South Carolina, a team that swept them in the finals of the College World Series one year ago. The Gators looked to have cracked under the pressure with a late loss on Thursday but fought back to earn victories on Friday and Saturday to take the series from their rival.

USC triumphed 9-3 in Thursday’s series opener, breaking out of a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning and holding on for the victory. UF rallied for a run in the third but was lapped 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth after junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, BB, 11 K) gave up a two-run homer. Florida rallied again to tie things up in the top of the sixth, and Randall exited with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom frame.

Junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (3-1, 0.1 IP, H, ER, K) came on in relief; however, after getting out of the sixth, he gave up a single in the seventh that wound up scoring after junior RHP Austin Maddox replaced him and imploded. Maddox let Rodriguez’s batter to score along with three others, giving up two hits and two walks while allowing three earned runs. South Carolina piled it on with three more runs in the bottom of the eighth and held on for the win.

The Gators played an all-around better game on Friday, posting five runs in the opening frame and pinching lights out for the duration of the contest to earn an 8-2 victory. A three-run homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (1/4, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB) was backed up immediately by a solo shot from junior LHP Brian Johnson (2/5, HR, 2 RBI, R), who made an impact before he even got a chance to take the mound. Johnson (4-0, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) stared the game off with three scoreless innings and added a second RBI in the top of the next inning to give his team a 6-0 lead.

Junior left fielder Vickash Ramjit (3/4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), a replacement during the game, added a pair of homers (one in the sixth and another in the ninth), finishing the contest with the most impressive offensive performance of the evening. UF’s relievers closed things out by pitching three one-hit innings to clinch the win.

Saturday’s rubber match was a fight to the finish even though Florida never fell behind in the contest. The Gators got out to an early 3-0 lead thanks in part to a pair of solo homers in the third by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2/5, HR, RBI, R) and Zunino (1/3, HR, 2 RBI, R). South Carolina erased that deficit over the following two innings, tagging sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (5.0 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 2 K) for three runs though only one was earned as the others were attributed to an error in the outfield.

Rodriguez (2.1 IP, BB, 3 K) replaced him in the sixth and Maddox (2-0, 1.2 IP, H, ER, BB, 2 K) came to close out the game even though he struggled once again by throwing two wild pitches in the eighth. Florida retook the lead in the top of the ninth after junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (2/5, 2 RBI, R) hit a two-RBI triple to right center, but Maddox allowed a solo homer in the bottom of the inning to bring the score to 5-4 before forcing two more outs to end the game.

The Gators’ school-record 18-game winning streak came to an end on Thursday, but Florida hopes that it has started a new one which they will look to keep up as they play a neutral site game against Florida State in Jacksonville, FL on Tuesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on Sun Sports.

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Teddy’s Catch: Florida is playing at another level

A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster put together a solid senior campaign in 2009 with seven homers, 25 RBIs and 11 walks while batting .321 and earning 29 starts (including 15 at catcher, 12 at designated hitter and two at first base). No longer with the team and now serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets, he has joined OGGOA as a baseball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season.

The Florida baseball team is good. Check that, they’re really good. I know that is putting it in simple terms, but the Gators have not lost a game since the opening weekend of the year, running off a school-record 18-straight wins including plenty of tough victories in that stretch. How has Florida been so good for so long? The answer is indeed that simple: they’re really good.

The Gators starting pitching continues to be outstanding. In the game against Florida State last week, freshman right-hander Bobby Poyner looked extremely sharp. When I first walked into the stadium, he immediately reminded me of former Florida lefty Stephen Locke. He’s not a very big kid, but he was mixing in a lot of off-speed pitches (curveball and changeup especially) to get the job done. When he finally let a fastball go, the radar gun clocked him at 90 mph. He may not have pitched deep into the game, but Poyner gave UF fans a glimpse of a future Friday night starter and someone who should have a promising college career.

Read the rest of this edition of Teddy’s Catch…after the break!
Continue Reading » Teddy’s Catch: Florida is playing at another level

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No. 1 Florida takes down No. 6 Florida State 9-2

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (16-1) extended their winning streak to 14 games on Tuesday evening (tying a school record) with a 9-2 victory over the No. 6 Florida State Seminoles (14-2) in Gainesville, FL.

The first of three games to be played between the schools over the course of the season (a home-and-home and one neutral site match-up), Tuesday’s contest also set a school record as 6,005 fans entered the gates of McKethan Stadium.

Florida State scored a pair of runs off an error in the top of the third, sending Florida’s freshman left-handed starting pitcher Bobby Poyner (2.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K) to the bench early. However, the Gators responded immediately in the bottom of the inning as senior right fielder Preston Tucker smacked a three-run homer to put his team in front.

UF scored another run in the fourth, got on the board with a solo shot from junior shortstop Nolan Fontana in the sixth, plated another in the seventh and put the game out of reach by rallying for three more runs in the bottom of the eighth.

Tucker (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) and Fontana (2-3, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) led the way, but Florida also got two RBIs each from senior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-5) and junior catcher Mike Zunino (1-2, 2 BB).

Senior right-hander Greg Larson (3-0) came on for Poyner in the third and earned the victory after just 1.1 innings of work. Junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (3.0 IP, 2 K) did the heavy lifting down the stretch, and junior RHP Austin Maddox (S6, 1.1 IP) closed things out by striking out one of the four batters he faced.

The Gators will head back to McKethan Stadium on Wednesday to take on the Ontario Blue Jays in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. Florida will then have one day off before opening conference play with a three-game series against Vanderbilt on Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (1 p.m., CSS) and Sunday (1 p.m., FSF) in Gainesville.

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No. 1 Florida completes weekend sweep of FGCU

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (15-1) swept a three-game series for the third time this season, taking down the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-8) over the weekend at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida topped FGCU 4-2 in the series opener thanks to a four-RBI night by junior catcher Mike Zunino, who hit a pair of two-run home runs in the bottom of sixth and eighth to propel the Gators to victory. The Eagles got on the board first with a two-run bomb in the top of the fourth, but junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) lasted into the eighth without giving up another run.

Junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K) had gotten UF out of the top of the eighth before Zunino (2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) hit his second blast of the game, and junior RHP Austin Maddox tossed the final frame, striking out three of four batters to pick up his fourth save of the season.

Florida had an easier time scoring on Saturday, rallying for four runs in the bottom of the first and defeating Florida Gulf Coast 8-3. Junior LHP Brian Johnson (2-0, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6 K) got the start and picked up the victory as Zunino (2-5, R) and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 BB) each drove in a pair of runs.

The Gators had to claw their way to a victory Sunday with sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford on the hill for his third start of the season. A two-run homer by freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) in the bottom of the fifth put Florida ahead 2-1, but FGCU rallied for a run in the top of the sixth to tie the game and force Crawford (5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 3 K) off the hill.

It took four more outs for the Gators to get back on top in the seventh as freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (2-3, HR, RBI, 2 R) hit his fourth bomb of the season to put Florida ahead for good. Maddox picked up his fifth save by pitching a hitless final frame.

UF will host Florida State in the first of three games scattered throughout the schedule on Tuesday. The Gators will then play an exhibition game against the Ontario Blue Jays on Wednesday before opening up Southeastern Conference play by hosting Vanderbilt in a three-game series from Friday to Sunday.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, tennis, Young, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball improved to 13-1 this season by defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-5) Friday night in the first of a three-game weekend series. FGCU right-hander Ricky Knapp held Florida in check through five innings, giving the Eagles a 2-0 cushion thanks to a two-run homer by catcher Andrew Valencia in the top of the fourth inning. Junior RHP Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) got the start for the Gators and held on just long enough ensure he did not suffer a loss as junior C Mike Zunino knotted the game with a two-run bomb of his own in the bottom of the sixth. Zunino doubled up with another two-run homer in the eighth, knocking in all four of Florida’s runs on the evening and earning a win for junior left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K). Junior closer Austin Maddox grabbed his fourth save of the season, striking out three of four batters in the final frame.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (9-1, 3-0 SEC) won the team’s 100th consecutive home match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Friday night, defeateing the No. 22 Vanderbilt Commodores (10-5, 2-1 SEC) 6-1. Florida, which holds the longest active home winning streak for a NCAA Division I women’s sports program, has not fallen on their home court since 2004. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather each won their matches to earn the doubles point for the Gators. Florida also won five of six singles matches with No. 1 Wil, No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree, No. 39 Oyen and junior Caroline Hitimana pulling out victories while No. 49 sophomore Alex Cercone fell in a match that lasted over two hours. No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (9-4, 2-1 SEC) also beat the Commodores (5-7, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 on the road in Nashville, TN.

3 » Florida sophomore center Patric Young said after Friday’s game against Alabama that he will return for his junior season in orange and blue, according to a conversation he had with Matt Watts, the sports editor of The Independent Florida Alligator. Young, however, told Watts that he was not sure what freshman guard Bradley Beal planned to do about his future. Beal is currently projected by many analysts as a potential top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft even though his shooting numbers have been suspect for the Gators this season.

4 » No. 3 Gators softball (21-2, 2-1 SEC) dropped their second game of the season on Friday, falling 1-0 to the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (15-3, 1-0 SEC) due to a defensive miscue in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (11-1, 6.2 IP, 5 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K) was tagged for her first loss of the season as Tennessee’s Ellen Renfroe outdueled her, only allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 15 Florida batters. The Gators will look for revenge against the Lady Vols and hope to win the series with back-to-back victories on Saturday on Sunday.

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Tucker sets Florida career RBI record as Gators baseball earns first series sweep of 2012

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (7-1) cruised over the weekend to their first sweep of a three-game series in 2012, defeating the William & Mary Tribe (2-5) by a combined score of 14-5 from Friday-Sunday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida did not trail for a single frame in the series’ first two games, scoring in the bottom of the first inning on Friday, adding a solo home run in the fifth by senior center fielder Tyler Thompson (2-4, RBI, R) and rallying for two more runs in the eighth to pull away with a 4-1 victory. Junior catcher Mike Zunino (1-3, R, 2 SB) and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (0-3) added a RBI each, and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-4, R) and freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (2-3, R) also had impressive outings at the plate.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0) picked up his first win of the season by striking out four and allowing just one earned run on five hits in 6.1 innings. Junior RHP Austin Maddox (S2) came on in the seventh to close out the game, fanning four batters of his in the final 2.2 innings.

The Gators picked up where they left off the next day with senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, 2 R, SB) hammering a solo shot in the bottom of the third. He became Florida’s all-time RBI leader with the dinger, amassing a school record 215 runs batted in over 205 games played (at that point). Tucker received a standing ovation from the home crowd, a highlight moment in the young season.

He continued his stellar outing by singling to lead off the bottom of the sixth, following it up by stealing second and eventually coming around to score thanks to a one-out double by Gushue (1-4, RBI, R), who earned his first start at first base. Turgeon (2-3, 2 RBI, R) concluded Florida’s three-run inning with a two-run homer, the first round-tripper of his career in orange and blue.

Junior left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 2 K) pitched six innings of shutout ball but was relieved shortly after giving up a solo bomb in the top of the seventh. Senior RHP Greg Larson pitched the final 2.2 innings in relief, striking out three and walking just one to clinch the victory for Johnson.

Florida fell behind early on Sunday as sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson took the hill to start the game and looked a bit out of sorts. He gave up an earned run on two hits and a walk while only registering two outs before being pulled by head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. Junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (2-0) and freshman RHP Jonathon Crawford came on in his stead and combined to earn the win by striking out seven and walking two while allowing three hits and two earned runs in the final 5.0 innings of the weather-shortened game.

Tucker (1-3, RBI, R) and Fontana (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB) each homered in the contest, and the Gators also got solid performances at the plate from freshman left fielder Justin Shafer (2-2, 2 RBI, R) and junior 1B Austin Maddox (2-3, R).

UF faces a tough test next weekend, travelling to Coral Gables, FL to take on Miami in a three-game series from Friday-Sunday. Florida will follow that series up with an 11-game home stand, playing from March 6-20 in Gainesville.

Photo Credit: Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

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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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2012 Florida Gators baseball: Just win, baby.

Though basketball has national title aspirations and both softball and lacrosse are getting started on what should be a pair of exciting campaigns, no squad is more hyped entering this season than the unanimously top-ranked Florida Gators baseball team.

Florida went all the way to the 2011 College World Series championship series a year ago before falling to South Carolina, a team they will go back-and-forth with throughout the 2012 Southeastern Conference slate. With so many starters returning to the team and an exceptional freshman class signed to fill in the gaps, the Gators have only one true goal in 2012 – win a national championship.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators baseball: Just win, baby.

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