Florida Gators baseball falls to Virginia 5-4, gets eliminated from 2015 College World Series

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 4 Florida Gators (52-18) baseball saw its season come to an end on Saturday, one game shy of advancing to the 2015 College World Series Championship Series as the Virginia Cavaliers edged UF 5-4 in a drama-filled game with multiple ties and lead changes.

Virginia jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Florida sophomore first baseman Peter Alonso (1/3, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB) answered with a 429-foot two-run homer in the second inning, breaking his own record for the longest home run hit in the history of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Cavs tied the game at two in the fourth inning, but junior left fielder Harrison Bader (4/5, HR, RBI, R) put the Gators up 3-2 with a solo shot in the top of the fifth, as UF was marked as the visitor on Saturday. It was the last time Florida would hold a lead this season as Virginia fought back to go up 4-3 in the bottom frame and broke a 4-4 tie with multiple hits in the seventh.

The loss is a difficult one for the Gators, which have advanced to the CWS four times in the last six seasons but never come back to Gainesville with a national title.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators baseball falls to Virginia 5-4, gets eliminated from 2015 College World Series

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Takeaways: Florida Gators upend Virginia 10-5, force rubber match for Championship Series berth

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (52-17) lived to fight another day, thumping the Virginia Cavaliers 10-5 on Friday afternoon to force a Saturday rubber match with a spot in the 2015 College World Series Championship Series on the line.

Virginia struck first, using two first-inning singles off sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) to take a 1-0 lead. But unlike Monday night, one run was not going to be enough to beat Florida.

The Gators had two bursts of offense, a four-run third inning to reclaim the lead and a five-run sixth inning to put the game out of reach, battling back in the contest to keep their season alive.

Florida has thrived under the pressure of must-win games in the 2015 postseason. The Gators won four straight elimination games in Hoover, Alabama, to win the 2015 SEC Tournament Championship out of the loser’s bracket and have now come out on top twice with the season on the line at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. UF will need to do it one more time on Saturday to advance to the CWS finals.

Here are three takeaways from UF’s important win:

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Takeaways: Gators’ bats go cold, Florida falls into CWS loser’s bracket after 1-0 loss to Virginia

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

The Virginia Cavaliers shut down and shut out No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (50-17) on Monday in the second round of the 2015 College World Series, ending UF’s 10-game winning streak and handing it a loss (1-0) for the first time in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Runs were hard to come by for both the Gators and Cavaliers late Monday in a game that did not start until 10:09 p.m. ET. Sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (5.1 IP, 4 H, ER, 3 BB, 5 K) allowed only one hit through his first five innings but ran into trouble in the sixth, giving up three straight singles to load the bases. Junior right-hand pitcher Taylor Lewis (1.1 IP, H, 2 BB) forced a fly out that resulted in a sacrifice run, the game’s only score, to cross the plate.

Virginia LHP Brandon Waddell worked Florida, retiring 12 straight batters while holding the Gators to only two hits into the eighth inning. The Gators had runners at the corners with no outs in that frame but saw RHP Josh Sborz (2.0 IP) work his way out of the jam.

Florida, which accumulated 98 runs over its 10-game win streak, went a combined 2-for-31 at the plate. The Gators’ 1-5 hitters combined to go 0-for-17 with two walks.

Here are three takeaways from the UF’s excruciating loss:
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Florida adds Virginia transfer TE Jake McGee

The Florida Gators on Friday locked up the long-awaited transfer of Virginia Cavaliers tight end Jake McGee, a fifth-year player who will be eligible to play immediately and compete in 2014.

Virginia’s leading receiver last season – 43 catches for 395 yards, two touchdowns – McGee received his undergraduate degree in May and will play while taking graduate school classes at Florida. He was likely able to avoid the Southeastern Conference’s transfer rule by going for a graduate degree not offered at UVA.

“It’s been an interesting process. It’s definitely weird to leave a school you graduated from and have been with for four years and I have a lot of good memories there, but I’m excited to play my last year at Florida and hopefully we’ll win some ballgames,” McGee told the school’s website, which says he will begin classes on Monday. “Everything will be new to me, but I’m confident in my ability to get to know guys and create relationships. I don’t think it will take too long for the guys to accept me as one of their own.”

The addition of McGee is big for the Gators, which have been searching for a sure-handed pass catcher to take pressure off redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel.

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FOUR BITS: fun video, LSU, WNBA, McGee

1 » Florida Gators gymnastics won its second-straight National Championship this month, so it should come as no surprise that some teams on campus hope to emulate its success. Enter a couple Florida football players and swimmers who tried to complete as gymnasts in this video shot for the Florida Letterman Awards, which were actually held in early April before gymnastics went back-to-back at the NCAA Championships.

2 » LSU athletic director Joe Alleva may not have gotten its way when it came to the Southeastern Conference’s most recent scheduling announcement – specifically regarding the retention of permanent cross-divisional opponents – but he is pleased that SEC commissioner Mike Slive has decided to help his school lobby for more night games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “There has developed an understanding that CBS, ESPN and all its platforms will recognize the importance of LSU home night games in their scheduling process with assurances that every effort will be made to maximize the number of LSU home games at night,” he wrote in a letter fans of the team. UF has not only dealt with a significant absence of night games recently but also a groundswell of desire to see them increase as fans are tired – both figuratively and literally – of being forced to sit outside in the insane heat at noon in Gainesville, Florida. This type of preferential treatment for the Tigers may not sit well with Gators fans or perhaps even the administration, which could use as many night games as possible when convincing people to purchase season tickets.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: fun video, LSU, WNBA, McGee

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3/16: Florida vs. Virginia post-game notes

Head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with media following the No. 7-seed Florida Gators impressive 71-45 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers action on Friday. With the second-round victory, Florida will advance to third-round action on Sunday for a chance to earn a Sweet 16 berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

THIRD-ROUND OPPONENT: NORFOLK STATE

No. 15-seed Norfolk State defeated No. 2-seed Missouri in the bottom of the West Region bracket and will advance to take on UF on Sunday at a to-be-determined time. Below is a video of the team celebrating their upset victory in the locker room.

PRATHER STEPS IT UP AT THE RIGHT TIME

Faced with one of their toughest defensive challenges of the season, Florida was confident in their ability to score but wanted to make sure they could equal Virginia on the other end of the court. Donovan conceded after the game that sophomore forward Will Yeguete, who is out for the season with a broken foot, would have been the Gators’ best bet at stopping Cavaliers F Mike Scott. However, he thought sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather might do well in his stead.

He was right.

Prather held Scott to 15 points and six rebounds while also performing well on the offensive end, scoring a team- and career-high 14 points to go along with four boards. It was the best game of his career in a Florida uniform, something that made Donovan smile a bit wider after the contest.

“Very happy for Casey because he’s a guy I get a chance to be around every single day and he has the same attitude,” he said. “I’ve been around so many young players where they don’t get a chance to play or it’s not going well for them and they pout and they sulk and they have no resiliency to come back the next day and work. […] I’m just personally very happy for him because he really has stayed the course as a player and has tried to figure out just how to get better and how to improve. He obviously gave us a huge lift.”

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Florida pulls away for 71-45 win over Virginia

The West Region’s No. 7-seed Florida Gators (24-10) shut down the No. 10-seed Virginia Cavaliers (22-10) in the second half of their second-round game on Friday afternoon in Omaha, NE, pulling away for an impressive 71-45 victory and advancing to the third round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Florida hit 80 percent of their shots from inside the arc and was led by 14 points each from sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather and freshman G Bradley Beal. Prather’s total was a career-high and came in the flow of the game as he played quality defense and did his best to limit the effectiveness of Virginia F Mike Scott.

The Gators outscored the Cavaliers 41-23 over the final 20 minutes and outrebounded the lower seed 36-21 and 9-2 on the offensive glass.

Virginia opened up with the early advantage, outscoring Florida 10-2 as UF coughed the ball up four times. Despite struggling from downtown by starting 0-for-13 from three-point range, the Gators used a 9-0 run to take a 22-18 lead with 5:04 remaining in the first half and ended the first 20 minutes on an 8-2 run to hold an eight-point lead at the break.

The Cavaliers also struggled from long distance in the opening half, going 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. However, Florida was much more efficient from inside the three-point line, hitting 11-of-15 shots and outrebounding Virginia 21-13 (7-1 offensively).

Gators sophomore center Patric Young extended his team’s lead to 10 points with a quick dunk to start the second half but was sent to the bench with 18:25 left in the game after picking up two quick fouls and having three total on the afternoon.

A pair of threes by Virginia guard Sammy Zeglinski cut Florida’s lead to six, but UF responded with an explosive 17-2 run including five points each from Prather and Beal to take a 21-point lead, 53-32 with 9:16 to play.

At the end of a possession defended nicely by UVA, Young found Beal wide open on the wing for a dagger three. Beal then added a mid-range jumper under a minute later to help put the game out of reach.

The Gators extended their advantage to 26 points thanks to another layup by Prather with 4:55 remaining. He also added an explosive dunk on an alley-oop by Walker with 2:37 left to finish the contest with a career-high 14 points.

Florida nearly doubled up Virginia over the final 23:50 of the game, playing excellent defense outscoring the lower seed 49-25

In addition to helping Prather lead the way with 14 points each, Beal registered his sixth double-double of the season with a game-high 11 rebounds. Young had seven boards and scored 13 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting. Walker and junior G Kenny Boynton combined for 17 points while going 6-for-18 from the field and 0-for-7 from downtown.

“I’m so proud of him,” head coach Billy Donovan said of Prather after the game. “People don’t realize this. A lot of the time when young players go through adversity and they don’t get to play a lot, they have a tendency to pout and not work hard. If there’s anybody that deserves success, it’s him.

“Since he’s been a freshman, every time – whether he’s played 20 minutes or two minutes or not even gotten in the game – he’s the first guy in the gym. He’s always working to get better. I told him if anybody deserves success, it’s him. Obviously on such a big stage, I’m so proud of him and so happy for him for just staying the course and believing in himself.”

Prather saw 22 minutes of action and spent most of it covering Scott, who he held to 15 points and six rebounds. Scott averaged 18.1 and 8.4, respectively, over the course of the season and had scored 23, 35 and 28 points over the Cavaliers’ last three contests.

The Gators will advance to third-round action on Sunday but must wait to learn who their opponent will be. No. 2-seed Missouri and No. 15-seed Norfolk State will go head-to-head at 4:40 p.m. with the winner taking on Florida in two days.

Photo Credit: Nati Harnik/Associated Press

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2012 NCAA Tournament: (7) Florida vs. (10) UVA

Location: CenturyLink Center – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 17,260]
Time: 2:10 p.m. (ET)

TV: TNT/TNTHD
SiriusXM: 74/193
Online Video: TNT.tv
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(7) FLORIDA GATORS (10) VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Tony Bennett
Record: 23-10 Record: 22-9
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3.5; O/U 122

KNOW THE OPPONENT

No. 10-seed Virginia ended the regular season with the fourth-best record in the ACC (9-7) as well as a marquee victory over then-No. 15 Michigan on Nov. 29. The Cavaliers boasted a 12-game winning streak spanning nearly two full months before falling by three on the road to then-No. 6 Duke on Jan. 12. UVA only averages 63.1 points per game but have held 26 of 31 opponents below that total. Forward Mike Scott leads the way for Virginia with 18.1 points (on 56.2 percent shooting) and 8.4 rebounds per game. He has size and strength (6’8, 237 lbs.) and is dangerous in the paint, even more so because he hits free throws at an 81 percent clip.

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and 12th under Donovan. The Gators are 29-12 all time in the event (25-9 under Donovan) with two national titles in three championship game appearances and four trips to the Final Four.
» Virginia is making its 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament but first under Bennett. The Cavaliers, with two Final Four appearances and five trips to the Elite Eight all-time, have not participated in March Madness since 2007 .
» UF’s men’s basketball team will play its first-ever game in Omaha, NE.
» Florida is on a six-game winning streak against ACC opponents and are 19-9 against the conference since Donovan took over the program.
» All five of the Gators’ normal starters are averaging 10.0 points per game or more.
» Florida has made a three in 684 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators have registered a school record and nation-high in three-pointers this season with 328 over 33 games. UF’s 9.9 treys per game is No. 1 in the country.
» Florida is 18-2 (two losses to Kentucky) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and are just 5-8 when the margin is even or negative.
» The Gators are 238-39 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game and 288-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Virginia boasts the No. 2 scoring defense nationally, allowing opponents to score an average of just 53.7 points per game. The Cavaliers are also ranked 10th in the country in three-point field goal defense (.295).
» UF is 5-6 against the NCAA Tournament field with four losses coming against No. 1 seeds (Kentucky, Syracuse) and one to a No. 2 seed (Ohio State). Conversely, UVA is 2-6 against the same field with two losses to No. 1 North Carolina, one to No. 2 Duke and two to No. 3 Florida State.

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