Tennessee blasts Florida 9-2 in WCWS opener

No. 2 Florida Gators softball (57-8) is now one loss away from elimination in the Women’s College World Series portion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament after the No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers (50-10) took it to the home team early and often, pulling away for a dominant 9-2 victory in Thursday’s opening-round game.

Florida, which edged Tennessee two games to one during a regular-season series that consisted of three-straight extra-inning affairs, struggled with its pitching in the early going and was never able to recover.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers got the start for the Gators but immediately loaded the bases as she had trouble finding the strike zone. Rogers (0.1 IP, H, 3 ER, 3 BB) walked two and gave up a single to load the bases before walking home the Volunteers’ first run of the game and putting her team in a 1-0 hole.

Florida head coach Tim Walton pulled Rogers for sophomore Lauren Haeger, who gave up a two-run double to Melissa Brown that fronted Tennessee a 3-0 lead.

Continue Reading » Tennessee blasts Florida 9-2 in WCWS opener

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Florida softball sweeps UAB in Super Regional, moves on to Women’s College World Series

One day after coming from behind to walk off with a 4-3 victory over the UAB Blazers, No. 2 Florida Gators softball nearly lost a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh but instead held on to win game two of the Gainesville Super Regional 1-0 and advance to the Women’s College World Series for the fifth time in program history.

Florida (57-7) and UAB (40-19) were scoreless through three innings with Gators right-hander Hannah Rogers looking primed for one of her standout performances. Rogers (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K) struck out the first five batters she faced on Sunday, boosting the confidence of her entire team in the early going.

After stranding a total of two runners in the first three innings, Florida finally got on the board in the fourth. Sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (1/2, BB) singled to left before senior Ensley Gammel entered the game as a pinch runner to take her place on first base. Gammel (R, SB) stole second after the Gators registered their second out of the inning and came around to score on an RBI double to left-center from freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (1/3, RBI).

UF was only 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Sunday with Schwarz’s big hit making all the difference.

Rogers continued to deal, stranding a Blazers base runner in the fifth and sixth before closing things out for the Gators in the seventh to conclude her complete-game outing. The bottom of the seventh was not without its share of excitement, however.

A one-out double from UAB catcher Anna Kimbrell came about a foot from leaving the park but instead bounced off the wall. Two batters later, with pinch runner Hailey Glynn replacing Kimbrell, pitcher/designated player Lauren Webster smacked an infield single that was fumbled by Florida freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart (0/3) and therefore allowed Glynn to move over to third.

The Blazers decided Stewart’s mishandling of the ball was its best chance to tie the contest and sent Glynn home from third, but Stewart threw her out by a wide margin at home plate to end the game and begin the Gators’ dog pile on the infield dirt.

Florida’s fifth Women’s College World Series appearance comes one year after the program was uncharacteristically knocked out of the NCAA Tournament during regional play. The Gators were predicted to finish seventh in the Southeastern Conference this season but instead won the league’s regular-season and tournament titles, entering NCAA play as the No. 2 overall seed.

UF is 8-0 in postseason play this year, outscoring opponents by a combined 52-18.

All five of the Gators’ WCWS appearances have come in the last six seasons.

Florida will take on Tennessee in double elimination bracket play beginning Thursday at a yet to be determined time. UF won two of three games against UT during the 2013 regular season in Gainesville, FL. All three games went to extra innings.

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.

(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elam tweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.

(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

A tumultuous weekend and up-and-down season came to a conclusion for No. 5 Florida Gators softball as the team fell 1-0 to the South Florida Bulls and failed in their bid to advance out of the Gainesville Regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Florida (48-13) lost the first game of the regional but won consecutive contests in the loser’s bracket on Saturday to move on to the finals against USF (48-11). The Gators were hoping to win and force a second game on Sunday but instead lost the contest and failed to reach the Women’s College World Series for the fifth-straight season.

Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (28-8) got the nod to start and pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 7.0 innings. Her lone blemish came in the top of the fourth when an infield single allowed the Bulls to score what would end up being the game-deciding run.

Rogers’s complete game performance was matched by South Florida starter Sara Nevens, who allowed five hits and three walks but struck out 12 including two important batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Florida rallied to load the bases with no one out but failed to cross the plate as Nevins struck out consecutive batters and forced an infield groundout to get out of the frame unscathed.

Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, playing her last game in orange and blue, was the only Florida batter to register more than one hit as she went 2-for-4 on the afternoon. She concluded her UF career as the team’s all-time leader in batting average (.385), stolen bases (83) and stolen base attempts (99). Moultrie also picked up a number of awards during her tenure with the Gators including 2010 SEC Player of the Year, 2011 WCWS Co-Most Outstanding Player, 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team and a number of All-American honors.

It is the first time since 2006 that Florida did not move on to the Super Regional.

Though he did not get into specifics regarding the incident that led to him eventually suspending three of his starters, head coach Tim Walton spoke more about the general situation following Sunday’s loss at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Continue Reading » Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

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2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

Spring is here and No. 2/4 Florida Gators softball is set to begin their 2012 season this weekend by playing five games as part of a three-day tournament hosted by South Florida in Tampa, FL from Feb. 10-12.

The Gators enter the 2012 campaign having lost a number of major pieces that formed the core of last year’s team that went all the way to the championship round of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. However, a strong and dynamic freshman class coupled with a crop of extremely talented players and superb coaching by Tim Walton means that Florida may not be far off from yet another successful season.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

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Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2011 (check out Friday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 On the Field Moments of the Year.

11 » JOHNSON, BRANTLEY, KITCHENS SUFFER SCARY INJURIES
Plenty of Florida student-athletes suffered injuries in 2011 but three in particular caused fans to gasp and remain worried about the future of said player. Participating in the semifinals of the 2011 SEC Tournament, Gators baseball wound up dropping a close game 4-3 to Georgia, a loss that forced an elimination game which Florida would later win. However, UF sophomore right-handed pitcher Brian Johnson was taken off a stretcher in the top of the first inning after giving up two earned runs and accidentally being beaned in the back of the head with the baseball by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino. Trying to pick off a runner stealing second, Zunino got his leg tangled with the batter, tripped and flung the ball into the head of a crouching Johnson. He was quickly stabilized, brought to the hospital and deemed responsive though he had a massive headache and was diagnosed with a minor three concussion (no skull fractures or bleeding). Johnson missed the entire Gainesville Regional but returned to action in the Super Regional after being sidelined for more than two weeks.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was in the middle of playing the best game of his collegiate career (despite throwing a costly pick-six) when he went down with an ugly lower leg injury at the end of the first half against Alabama. Brantley had thrown a pretty 65-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose on the first play of the game and was in the middle of driving Florida in for another score before being sacked twice and having his lower leg contorted the second time. Brantley was nearly immediately ruled out of the team’s next game against powerhouse LSU with a high-ankle sprain, and UF was forced to start a true freshman who had not even taken a snap in the team’s first five games in consecutive road contests against LSU and Auburn. Needless to say, the Gators lost both of those contests.

Brantley was never the same after the injury. He nearly helped Florida beat Georgia but was pretty much immobilized in the pocket and threw three interceptions in the team’s first five possessions against Florida State before being knocked out of the game with a head injury that was equally painful to watch. However, that was not the Gators’ only major injury in that game. Perhaps the scariest incident of the year came on kickoff coverage when sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens was hit hard from his blindside and laid motionless on the field while trainers attended to him. To this day Kitchens does not remember anything about being hit. Lucky for him, he was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, released from the hospital and allowed to return to practice with the team just before Christmas. He is expected to play in the 2012 Gator Bowl.

10 » LACROSSE WINS FIRST CONFERENCE TITLE, REACHES ELITE EIGHT

The Florida lacrosse program has been making history since the day it signed the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class prior to the team’s inaugural season in 2010. The Gators were a young but talented group and won over the school even if falling short of some of their goals one year ago. Florida took the next step in 2011, ending the regular season with an 11-0 record at home and on a 13-game winning streak. The Gators capped their stellar regular season by defeating Northwestern for the 2011 ALC Championship just 419 days after the team played its first game in school history. Florida would fall to Northwestern just over three weeks later in the finals of the 2011 ALC Tournament, splitting the season’s conference title down the middle, but took home a number of awards from the league. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen won Player of the Year honors while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year in just her second season. Two more players were All-ALC first team selections and three others earned spots on the second team. The ladies made it all the way to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament as well before being taken down 13-9 by Duke, their only loss at home on the season. The Gators were the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only their second year of existence and defeated some of the top teams in the country on the way to an unforgettable season that sets Florida up as a favorite heading into 2012.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

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NCAA wags finger at Florida Gators softball

The NCAA on Friday publicly reprimanded Florida Gators softball head coach Tim Walton and former outfielder Kelsey Bruder for voicing their displeasure about the officiating following the first game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series Championship Series against the Arizona State Sun Devils.

The NCAA said Walton and Bruder violated the organization’s sportsmanship policy on June 6 when the coach and player criticized home plate umpire Chris Drumm for being inconsistent on balls and strikes during Florida’s at bats and failing to correctly call a hit by pitch in the first inning of the series’ first game.

UF had their eyes on Drumm the whole game because they felt she had made similar inconsistent and questionable calls in the Gators’ second-round contest against the Sun Devils three days earlier. Arizona State won that game 6-5, sending Florida into the elimination round where they had to win three-straight games just to qualify for the championship series. UF won those games by a combined score of 30-6.

The Sun Devils swept the Gators in consecutive games (14-4, 7-2) to win the title.

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