FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, lax win Thursday

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (5-0) kept their hot streak going Thursday with a solid 4-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles (2-2) in the first of a three-game series taking place at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (2-0, 0.00 ERA) shined, retiring the first 17 hitters he faced in a bid for a perfect game; unfortunately he ended up giving up a hit in the sixth and combined with sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez (S1) to toss a two-hit shutout. Johnson’s streak of retiring 27-consecutive batters through two games also set a school record. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) led the way at the plate, with sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (1-4), Johnson (1-3, R) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) also registering a RBI each. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0, 1.50 ERA) takes the mound for game two of the series, Friday at 5 p.m.

2 » Thursday wasn’t all about basketball and baseball as No. 4/5 Florida softball trashed the Indiana Hoosiers (5-6) 7-0 in their first game of the day at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers tossed a complete game shutout for the win, only giving up two hits and three walks while striking out seven. The Gators scored two in the third, four (with two outs) in the sixth and one more in the seventh to put away the Hoosiers. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-3) led Florida offensively by driving in a pair of runs. Freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle, sophomore designated hitter Samantha Holle and freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan each walked twice and were rewarded by their teammates for their efforts, crossing the plate a combined four times.

3 » The early win was nice, but UF softball (11-0) faced a tougher opponent in the evening. Down 4-3 to the No. 11/12 Texas Longhorns (10-2) late Thursday night, the Gators rallied to tie the game first in the seventh and again in the eighth before pulling out a 6-5 victory in nine innings. Senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (0.36 ERA), the team’s ace, got the start and played nearly the entire game, striking out seven while allowing two earned runs, seven hits and four walks in 8.1 innings. She was replaced in the ninth by Rogers (5-0, 0.49 ERA), who struck out both batters she faced to preserve a 5-5 tie into the bottom of the inning.

Tied at three runs apiece in the top of the seventh after the Longhorns scored an unearned run, RF Taylor Hoagland homered to center to give Texas a one-run advantage. Now down 4-3, Florida’s Moultrie (2-3, 2 RBI, R) tripled to center field to score junior Ellie Langley from third base (she replaced sophomore Kelsey Horton, who hit a pinch-hit leadoff single). Trailing 5-4 in the eighth, a single by senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-4, 2 RBI, R) scored senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) from second. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Moultrie hit a walk-off single to score sophomore Ensley Gammel from second and give the Gators the victory.

4 » While baseball and softball had the fun at night, No. 17 Florida lacrosse (3-1) got the day started off right for the Gators with a 16-6 trouncing of the UMBC Retrievers (1-1) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Seven different players scored for Florida with sophomores midfielder Kitty Cullen (five goals) and attacker Ashley Bruns (four goals) once again leading the way.

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Gators sweep Bulls; Fontana and Whitson shine

Topping the South Florida Bulls 7-2 in their season opener on Friday, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball put together back-to-back wins on Saturday and Sunday to sweep the season opening series at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (3-0) took down USF (0-3) 4-1 on Saturday and 5-0 Sunday, outscoring their opponent by a 16-3 margin over the three-game stretch.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0) took the mound for the Gators on Saturday, giving up only one run on seven hits in six innings. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (1-0), the No. 9 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, provided the most impressive performance of the weekend Sunday, striking out nine batters while only allowing one hit and registering one walk in five scoreless innings.

SATURDAY: Down one after the opening frame, Florida quickly evened things up in the bottom of the first when sophomore infielder Austin Maddox (2-4, RBI) scored sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-4, run) from third base on a fielder’s choice.

The Gators jumped ahead two innings later when junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI, run), who ended up on third after hitting a lead-off double, scored on a double play ball to give UF a 2-1 lead. Held scoreless the next three innings, Florida added single runs in the seventh and eighth.

With junior designated hitter Ben McMahan (1-3, run) on second due to a passed ball in the seventh, Pigott singled past the shortstop to give his team a 3-1 advantage. In the eighth, senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3, run) scored from third when sophomore first baseman Brian Johnson (RBI) reached base on a fielder’s choice.

Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone came in to relieve Randall after the first six innings but was pulled for junior closer Tommy Toledo (S1), who tossed 2.1 scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season.

SUNDAY: Fontana (2-3, 2 runs), leading off with a hit for the second-straight game, was also the first run to cross the plate Sunday. After doubling down the left field line, he reached home when junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, RBI) singled up the middle. The Gators piled on more two runs in the fourth when sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR) hit a lead-off homer to left and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-4, run) scored on a single through the left side by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI). Fontana scored again via a sacrifice fly by Maddox (RBI, BB) in the sixth, and McMahan (run, BB) crossed the plate in the eighth on another single by Pigott.

Completing Whitson’s stellar pitching performance was the trio of junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, who each gave up a hit but combined for four strikeouts.

Fontana posted a stunning .750 average (9-for-12) over the weekend, got on base at a .786 clip and scored five runs in three games.

Florida had 14,003 fans walk through the turnstiles over the weekend, the highest opening weekend and second-largest three-game series attendance in school history. UF’s three defeats of USF extended their winning streak to 11 against the in-state rival.

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Miscues, pitching doom UF in 11-3 loss to UCLA

Two of only four ranked teams participating in the 2010 NCAA College World Series, the No. 3 Florida Gators (47-16) fell 11-3 in the opening round of the event at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, NE, to the No. 6 UCLA Bruins (49-14).

What was expected to be a pitching duel turned into a one-sided affair as UCLA’s Trevor Bauer (11-3) struck out 11 Florida batters over seven innings. Gators sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis (11-3) gave up four earned runs in 3.1 short innings after hitting the first two Bruins batters he faced.

Miscues doomed Florida Friday night; the team compiled four hit batters, four wild pitches, a passed ball and an error throughout the course of the game. Every Gators reliever – including freshman Steven Rodriguez (0.2 innings, two earned runs), senior Jeff Barfield (2.0 innings, one earned run), junior Matt Campbell (2.0 innings, two earned runs) and sophomore Tommy Toledo (1.0 inning, one earned run) – was hit hard and often (13 hits combined).

Shortstop Niko Gallego (4-5, two runs), outfielder Beau Amaral (3-4, one RBI), third baseman Dean Espy (3-6, two RBI) and catcher Steve Rodriguez (2-4, two RBI) led the way for UCLA offensively.

Freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-4) hit a two-RBI double in the first inning to put the Gators on the board, and a solo home run from junior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3) in the fourth provided the only other score of the evening.

Florida hopes to rebound in its elimination game Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. against in-state rival Florida State. The game will air live on ESPN and ESPN3.

OGGOA Highlight: Matt den Dekker’s amazing Willie Mays-like catch

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Photo Credit: Matt Miller/Omaha World-Herald

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Errors doom Miami as Florida advances to 2010 NCAA College World Series with 4-3 win Saturday

Advancing to the 2010 NCAA College World Series for the first time since 2005, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (47-15) defeated the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes (43-20) 4-3 in extra innings Saturday after Miami tied a postseason school record with seven errors including three in the final two innings.

As the away team at McKethan Stadium in the second game of the 2010 Gainesville Super Regional, Florida was down 3-2 with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning. Hurricanes shortstop Stephen Perez was charged with a throwing error on a routine ground out hit by Gators freshman catcher Mike Zunino (0-3), which advanced all runners and scored the tying run.

Florida would blank Miami in the bottom frame and move on to extra innings where Gators freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-5) led-off by reaching base on a misjudged fly ball by Canes right fielder Chris Pelaez. Fontana advanced to second and later to third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore RF Daniel Pigott before being driven home by a RBI-double down the right field line by freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (1-5) two batters later with two outs.

UF went up 4-3 and held on to the lead as sophomore reliever Greg Larson earned his third save of the season with a strikeout in 0.2 innings. Freshman pitcher Steven Rodriguez (2-0) earned the win in relief after cleaning up the bottom of the ninth inning and earning an out in the tenth.

Both starting pitchers produced fantastic outings as Gators freshman Hudson Randall posted five strikeouts and only allowed two earned runs on three hits in 6.2 innings, and the Hurricanes’ Chris Hernandez allowed one earned run while striking out four and letting up both three hits and three walks in 8.1 innings.

Florida led 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring the first run in the fifth after two errors helped senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (1-2, three walks) cross home plate; den Dekker scored again in the seventh when freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-3, two RBI) hit an RBI-single to right center field with two outs.

Men were on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when head coach Kevin O’Sullivan removed Randall for closer Kevin Chapman, who immediately gave up a three-run shot to Miami OF Nathan Melendres (1-3, three RBI) to give the Hurricanes their first and only lead of the game.

Florida’s hopes of ending the best-of-three series early looked to be doomed until a string of errors erased UM’s one-run lead.

The Gators continued a 15-game home winning streak and are now 30-9 all-time at home during NCAA play with the victory Saturday. Miami still leads the all-time series 124-99-1, but Florida has mounted a 62-45-1 record in Gainesville and defeated their in-state rivals four times in five games (7-1, 6-9, 4-2, 7-2, 4-3) this season. O’Sullivan is 4-0 against the Canes all-time in NCAA action.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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FOUR BITS: Baseball wins another, five more qualify, doubles advances, softball begins

1 » In their second-straight elimination game, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (42-14), the top seed in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament, topped the fifth-seed Vanderbilt Commodores (41-17) 5-2 on Friday night at Regions Park in Hoover, AL. Freshman starter Hudson Randall (7-3) earned the win after giving up one earned run over 5.1 innings; freshman reliever Steven Rodriguez tossed two shutout innings for his first save of the season. Junior sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-5) led the way for the Gators offensively with a home run and two RBI; freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-2) added a RBI of his own. Florida moves on to face Alabama on Saturday at 2 p.m. in their third consecutive elimination game. The contest will air live on Sun Sports and ESPN3.com.

2 » Five more members of Gators track and field advanced to the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships on Friday while competing at the 2010 NCAA East Preliminary Round at Irwin Belk Track. Junior thrower Kemal Mesic (first – men’s shot put) and sprinters sophomore Jeff Demps (fourth – men’s 100m dash), junior Terrell Wilks (ninth – men’s 100m dash), senior Calvin Smith (second – men’s 400m dash) and freshman Tony McQuay (10th – men’s 400m dash) are all earning trips to Eugene, OR, to compete for titles. They join the seven other Florida track & field stars who qualified on Thursday.

3 » The No. 5-ranked Florida doubles pair of senior Marrit Boonstra and freshman Allie Will have advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2010 NCAA National Championship after squeaking out a three-set victory over Stetson’s pair of Carolina de los Santos and Valentina Galbrini – 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 – at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. As a singles competitor, No. 8 will fell 6-1, 6-5 to Georgia’s No. 12-ranked Chelsey Gullickson earlier in the day.

4 » No. 4 Gators softball (46-8) is set to begin 2010 NCAA Super Regional action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when they host the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils (44-15) in up to a three-game series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The first game will air live on both ESPN and ESPN3.com, while the second game will take place on Sunday at 3:30 p.m., airing live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. Game three, if necessary, will be played Sunday evening.

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No. 4/5 Florida baseball clinches 2010 SEC title with 5-2 victory over No. 6/7 South Carolina

Junior second baseman Josh Adams knocked in two RBI in the top of the seventh inning to propel No. 4/5 Florida Gators baseball (40-12, 22-7 SEC) to a series-clinching and 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship-winning 5-2 victory over the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks (42-13, 20-9 SEC) on Friday evening in Columbia, SC.

Stepping up to the plate at Carolina Stadium in the seventh with two outs and both sophomore outfielder Daniel Pigott and junior designated hitter Bryson Smith on base, Adams (3-4) dropped a double into right-centerfield to break the tie and put the Gators up two runs. He would once again be the hero two innings later, recording his third RBI of the night on a single to score sophomore catcher Ben McMahan.

“Finally! It’s just one of those situations where I had to come through,” Adams explained after the game when discussing his tiebreaking hit. “It was my time, and I knew that. He made a good pitch, and I fortunately got the barrel on it.”

Adams, sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-3) and freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (1-3) combined for all five of the team’s RBI and six of Florida’s eight hits, providing support to freshman starter Hudson Randall, who struggled through 5.1 innings. Relievers freshman Steven Rodriguez (1-0) and sophomore Greg Larson combined for two scoreless innings, serving as a bridge to junior closer Kevin Chapman who tossed the final 1.2 innings for his 10th save of the season.

“[Randall] battled. He’s a tough, tough kid,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said recalling the freshman’s gumption and effort. This was not one of his best starts statistically, but you’re going to have games like that and you’re going to have to make some adjustments as you go. You’re going to have to battle.”

The Gators went into the weekend series at the Gamecocks needing to win two of three games to earn their 11th conference baseball championship and first since 2005. Florida did just that by winning the two opening contests, standing victorious in 22 SEC games and setting a University of Florida single-season record in the process. They also picked up a league-high 20th division championship.

“All the credit goes to the players and the assistant coaches,” O’Sullivan said. “The players are the ones making the plays. They have to go on the road and make pitches and play the game. I’m awful proud of them to come into a place like South Carolina and play with a top five-or-six club. [We are] a younger team – inexperienced. To do what they’ve done…I’m awful proud of them.”

After recording the last out, as is customary, the Gators jumped into a dogpile in the infield. Larson came out of it smiling with a bloody nose as his coach simultaneously celebrated on the field with a brand new evaluation of his team.

“They’re battle-tested now,” he exclaimed.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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Gators baseball recruiting class ranked No. 1

Already ranked the No. 1 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball in September, the Florida Gators 2010 baseball recruiting class earned the same respect from Baseball America on Tuesday. This is the second consecutive top-five class for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who is in his third season with the Gators.

In 2009, O’Sullivan coached Florida to a 42-22 record and a SEC East title – their first since 2005 when the Gators made the College World Series. UF finished the season with a berth in the NCAA Super Regionals and rankings of No. 12 (Baseball America), No. 13 (Collegiate Baseball & USA Today/ESPN) and No. 14 (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association – NCBWA).

Continue Reading » Gators baseball recruiting class ranked No. 1

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