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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SIX BITS: Wuerffel, Tebow, Pouncey, women

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel has been added to the ballot for induction as part of the 2012 class for the College Football Hall of Fame. Wuerffel is one of 76 players on the candidate list, which also includes eight former coaches. Should he be nominated for induction, he would be the seventh Florida player and 10th representative of the Gators (three coaches) to be placed in the hall of fame. The National Football Foundation will announce the 2012 class on May 15 and induct it at an awards dinner on Dec. 4, 2012.

2 » Speaking at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine last Friday, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway had some positive comments to throw the way of Tim Tebow, who will enter the team’s training camp as the starting quarterback. “Hopefully, he can be the franchise guy for a long time, but those are things we don’t know at this time,” Elway said, according to NFL.com. “He made tremendous strides last year, and that’s without an offseason. He’s our starter going into training camp, and we have great expectations for him.” Denver will bring in two more quarterbacks to compete with Tebow but how they acquire them should give some insight into their thoughts on Tebow. If the Broncos draft a signal caller high or sign a high-profile free agent like Matt Flynn, it could be an indication they have not bought in, whereas should they sign a lower-tier free agent and draft a quarterback in the later rounds, it could speak to the opposite. Elway is confident in Tebow’s intangibles but plans to work with him on his footwork and ability to read coverages in the offseason.

3 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey missed another critical playoff game this year with a high-ankle sprain after reaggravating the injury he suffered one year ago that caused him to out of the 2010-11 Super Bowl. He had surgery on the injury after the season and is expected to make a full recovery going forward. “The reports we got and the last time we saw him, he was progressing just fine,” team general manager Kevin Colbert said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “High-ankle sprains, they’re a different injury and then when you re-injure it sometimes you’ve got to do some procedures to shore that joint up.” Pouncey is no longer wearing a cast on his foot/ankle but is in a boot for the time being. He and his brother were at the NFL Combine this past week to support running back Chris Rainey, their close friend and former teammate.

4 » No. 4 Florida lacrosse (4-1) extended their winning streak to four games with consecutive victories over Siena (23-5 on Friday) and Detroit (22-3 on Sunday). Junior attacker Ashley Bruns scored a school-record eight goals against Siena, helping the Gators post their highest total in program history. One of the eight was Bruns’s 100th career goal, making her the second player in school history to reach that mark. Bruns scored four more on Sunday (12 for the weekend), leading the way for Florida in both contests and helping earn her the ALC Offensive Player of the Week award on Monday. Junior attackers Kitty Cullen (seven goals, three assists) and Gabi Wiegand (six goals, three assists) joined her in the scoring party.

5 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (9-1, 5-1 SEC) tore through the league this year and took down the No. 3 Georgia Gym Dogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) in exciting fashion at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Friday. Florida, which defeated Georgia 197.525-196.825, had two gymnasts win a total of five events. Freshman Kytra Hunter, named SEC Gymnast of the Week on Monday, took the vault (9.95), floor exercise (9.95) and all-around (39.675), while junior Marissa King won the uneven bars (9.925) and balance beam (9.95). UF swept UGA in the meet and is set to take on Nebraska and Utah over the next three weeks before participating in postseason action.

6 » After earning a season-highlight win on Senior Day in the O’Dome, Gators women’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 SEC) concluded the 2012 regular season by falling 75-59 at the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (21-8, 12-4 SEC) due in part to 20 costly turnovers. Though Florida was unable to continue their magic against Tennessee, eight-seeded UF will hope to make a splash in the 2012 SEC Tournament, which begins for them against Auburn on Thursday at 1 p.m. The Gators also got some good news on Tuesday when it was announced that junior forward Jennifer George (first-team All-SEC) and senior guard Deana Allen (SEC Co-6th Woman of the Year) earned awards from the conference’s coaches.

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FOUR BITS: basketball, softball, gym, tennis, lax

1 » Participating in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament beginning on Thursday, Florida Gators women’s basketball did a great job beating the Arkansas Razorbacks 68-59 in the event’s opening round but ended up falling to the top-seeded No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols 92-75 in quarterfinal action on Friday. Florida (18-14) saw five players reach double-digit point totals in the opening game with sophomore forward Jennifer George, junior guard Deana Allen and redshirt junior F Ndidi Madu scoring 12 a piece while freshman G Jaterra Bonds and redshirt junior G Jordan Jones each posted 11. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Lady Vols routed them for the third time this season, beating them by 17 Friday after wins of 43 and 22 earlier in the year. Allen (13), Madu (13), Bonds (12), Jones (10) all scored double-digit points while junior G Lanita Bartley led the team with 14.

2 » Achieving a much better outcome over the weekend was No. 2/3 Florida softball (19-0), which swept the 2011 Lipton Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL with five victories in three days. UF beat Valparaiso 13-4 and Syracuse 2-0 on Friday before throttling the North Dakota State 18-0 and Pacific 10-2 on Saturday. The Gators closed the tournament with a 9-0 victory over NDSU, combining to outscore them 27-0 in a two-game span. Florida senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (11-0) won three of the five games, only giving up one earned run and four hits in 14.2 innings while striking out 20. Finishing the sweep was freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (8-0), who spelled Brombacher and won both of her games while allowing two earned runs and seven hits while striking out 14 in 13 innings of work.

Senior second baseman Aja Paculba, sophomore outfielder Brittany Schutte and senior first baseman Megan Bush all had spectacular weekends. Paculba (9-17) hit a pair of homers while knocking in five RBI and scoring eight runs. Schutte (5-15) hit two home runs in the opening game and another each in the final two games to total four over the weekend along with 14 RBI, eight runs and six walks. Bush (8-16) was equally impressive with two homers, eight RBI, five runs and three walks. Not to be outdone, freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan hit a grand slam in the third game of the weekend, and sophomore catcher Kelsey Horton hit dingers in back-to-back games.

3 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (12-1, 5-1 SEC) helped set a NCAA attendance record on Friday, defeating the No. 5 Utah Utes (7-2) 197.00-196.75 in front of 15,558 fans at the Huntsman Center. Florida won the match overall by capturing the vault, bars and beam team events even though they lost the floor by .075. Event winners included sophomore Ashanée Dickerson on the beam (9.875) and vault (9.90), where she tied freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King. Johnson and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto tied to win the bars (9.925), too. With the regular season now complete, UF will defend their SEC title at the 2011 SEC Championships beginning March 19.

4 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (13-1, 2-0 SEC) and No. 11 Florida men’s tennis (9-3, 2-0 SEC) each came away from their respective SEC opening weekends with a pair of decisive victories. The women swept the LSU Tigers (2-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-0 and No. 16 Arkansas 7-0 on the road, while the men stayed home and beat the Tigers (3-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-1 and Razorbacks (3-7, 0-2 SEC) 7-0. No. 7 sophomore Allie Will and No. 26 sophomore Lauren Embree won both of their singles matches over the weekend for the women, while No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix and No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. mirrored their performances on the men’s side.

Extra BIT » Continuing their steady rise in the sport, No. 14 Florida lacrosse (4-1) defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-2) 15-10 after fighting back from a 5-5 tie on Saturday afternoon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Standout sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen once again led the way for the Gators with foul goals, while sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns added three of her own.
 

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SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

1 » ESPN has taken to praising 2011 athlete recruit A.C. Leonard (Interlachen, FL), a current Florida Gators commitment. Called “a jack-of-all-trades in high school,” Leonard is projected as a tight end or defensive end in college and worked out extensively at the former position during the Jacksonville, FL, Under Armour combine over the weekend. Leonard continues to impress and remains a solid verbal commitment.

2 » No. 4 Florida men’s golf took home its seventh straight SunTrust Gator Invitational title on Sunday, shooting a team score of 279 (-1) in the final round at the Mark Bostik Golf Course. Up nine strokes going into the final round, the Gators doubled it up and won by 18. Seniors Tyson Alexander and Tim McKenney, along with redshirt junior Andres Echavarria, tied for third place with a total score of 212 (+2).

Four more BITS on tennis, women’s b-ball and softball’s rebound after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: A.C. Leonard, golf, tennis, b-ball, softball

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SIX BITS: Tough loss, Stamper, Wuerffel, 2011

1 » One year ago, the Florida Gators women’s basketball team upset the then-No. 12/17 Tennessee Lady Vols 66-57 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Looking to repeat history, a much younger Florida team (9-8, 2-2 SEC) had the game tied at 64 against a significantly more experienced No. 4 Tennessee squad (15-1, 3-0 SEC) until Lady Vols guard Angie Bjorklund hit a reverse lay-up with 2.3 seconds left in the second half to pull ahead and ultimately win 66-64. Four Gators scored in double figures, and Florida led for much of the second half but could not hold on.

2 » In a news item that OGGOA broke Thursday via twitter, former Gators linebacker Ryan Stamper was invited to be a participant in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. Stamper is currently slated to play in the game but may have to pull out if the ankle injury he suffered in the 2010 Sugar Bowl flares up. The game will air live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. In other Stamper news, he has decided to sign with agent Garriet Blair of GMB Sports and Entertainment. Quarterback Tim Tebow has declined an invitation to the East-West Shrine and will instead participate in the 2010 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.

All-Americans, Wuerffel, 2011 recruits and Gators in the pros after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tough loss, Stamper, Wuerffel, 2011

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SIX BITS: Haiti, Werner, Lady Vols, Horschel

1 » The tragic earthquake in Haiti is affecting hundreds of thousands of locals, so it is no surprise that it has come home to the University of Florida. In addition to two Florida journalism students being reported missing after the quake in Port-au-Prince, Florida Gators senior cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis’ family has suffered terrible losses. You can donate to the relief effort through the Red Cross. Thanks to Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald for pointing out the news on Pierre-Louis. UPDATE: Both UF students are safe, and co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater told Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel that Pierre-Louis’ parents are as well. However, other members of his family have perished.

2 » Florida senior forward Dan Werner has hit only two of his last 23 attempts from beyond the arc. Kevin Brockaway of The Gainesville Sun asked head coach Billy Donovan last week if he has considered changing the starting lineup in order to give junior forward Chandler Parsons more minutes. “On those situations, with two upperclassmen, I would have a tendency to talk to those guys about that,” Donovan said. “Chandler comes into the game pretty quickly. It’s not that big of a factor for me, the last two games the guy has come into the game with 17:44 on the clock.”

3 » On the heels of a spectacular 29-point performance from then-senior guard Sha Brooks, the Gators took down the mighty Tennessee Lady Vols in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center 66-57 on Feb. 8, 2009. Hoping to repeat that performance, a much younger Florida team (9-7, 2-1 SEC) goes up against a more veteran No. 4-ranked Tennessee squad (14-1, 2-0 SEC) as they match-up again Thursday at 7 p.m.

4 » Florida seniors quarterback Tim Tebow and swimmer Gemma Spofforth have been named the 2009 recipients of the Ben Hill Griffin Award. Recognizing and honoring the top male and female student-athlete who excel in both athletic and academic achievement as well as extra-curricular involvement, the award is presented by the University Athletic Association. Tebow is its first three-time winner.

5 » Former Gators golfer Billy Horschel is taking his newly minted PGA Tour card with him on a trip to Honolulu, HI, as he prepares to tee off in his first official PGA event, the Sony Open. “It’s pretty awesome,” Horschel told Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun. “Monday I went out and played nine holes, and I was thinking when I teed it up on the first hole, ‘I’m going to be doing this every week.’ It’s exciting, but it’s a little nerve-wracking.” Read more about Horschel’s first event.

6 » New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has recently begun to have his name mentioned for head coaching gigs throughout the NFL. A former Florida quarterback, Schottenheimer has remained comfortable with his position on the Jets and actually turned down an interview request from the Buffalo Bills for their top job. Though it is unlikely he lands a promotion this season, look for Schottenheimer to have a legitimate chance to work in the league as a head coach in 2011.

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