Saturday, May 31, 2014

#2 Florida Gators Eliminated By North Carolina Tarheels

The 100th season of Florida baseball has come to an end in a very disappointing fashion. For the second straight year, the Gators' season has ended in regional play. This time, North Carolina was the culprit, as the Tarheels defeated the Gators 5-2. The Gators finish their season at 40-23 and have now lost six straight NCAA Tournament games.

Bobby Poyner was originally the starter for the Gators in this elimination game. Poyner would not be on the mound for long as a three hour rain delay in the third inning prompted Coach Kevin O'Sullivan to pull him from the game. Poyner's stat line at the time stood at 2.1 innings pitched and two strikeouts. There were two runners on base at the time of Poyner's exit.

After the rain delay, freshman Kirby Snead entered the game and gave up five runs on four hits. It seemed that the UNC hitters continually kept putting the ball in the gap between right and center field. Snead would be pulled after this inning for Dane Dunning who then gave way to A.J. Puk. Together, the two freshmen combined for five shutout innings and six strikeouts. They ended their seasons retiring the last 13 UNC hitters in order.

Offensively, it wasn't much different from last night. The Gators scored late in the game and left 13 runners on base. Casey Turgeon and Josh Tobias led the team in the hits department with two a piece in today's game. Turgeon also joined Zack Powers as the only two Gators to record RBI's today.

On the other side of the diamond, the North Carolina Tarheels (35-26) have kept their season alive and will play the loser of the College of Charleston/Long Beach State game at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

After watching the Gators go two games and out in their own regional, I am stunned at how their offense just completely disappeared. The Gators scored a total of four runs in their two games. The pitching also couldn't avoid the big inning as a three-spot in the first inning of the Charleston game and a five-spot in the UNC game put the Gators away early.

I'm starting to wonder if that late inning loss to LSU in the SEC Championship game might have left an imprint on the Gators' psyche and affected their performance these past two games. The Gators didn't score a run in the SEC Championship and held LSU scoreless until the eighth inning. Whatever it is, it doesn't change the fact that the Gator baseball season has ended in regionals for the second straight year.

Many Gator fans were probably celebrating when rival Florida State, the #5 national seed, was eliminated in two games after the Seminoles' comeback attempt against Alabama fell just short. Little did they know that they would be experiencing the same feeling just a few hours later.

I honestly don't know what's worse: Giving up a five-spot early in the game and realizing that your season might already be over because you know that your offense has been nonexistent, or rallying for five runs in the 9th inning and stranding the tying run on third to lose 6-5 and end your season. Either way, five was the magic number. A five-run second inning sunk the Gators early and a five-run ninth inning proved just not enough for FSU to comeback.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be writing a season wrap-up on the SEC Regular Season Champion Florida Gators. In it, I'll cover: The season's stat leaders, some big wins, my overall opinion on this season, and much more. Stay tuned!

*Stats accredited to &

#2 Gators Upset by College of Charleston

The Gator baseball team is in big trouble as they dropped their first Regional game to the College of Charleston Cougars 3-2. A #2 national seed, the Gators will be taking the field in less than 12 hours to take on #3 UNC with their season on the line. Nobody thought these two teams, especially the Gators this early, would be playing each other in an elimination game. This loss snaps Florida's perfect 12-0 mark in Regionals at McKethan Stadium.

The Gators sent freshman Logan Shore to the mound and tonight was not his night as he gave up three runs on 10 hits in five innings. All three of the runs that the Cougars scored came in the first inning. Shore would settle down after the first inning and go on to strike out six, but the damage had already been done. 

Junior Justin Shafer, who usually plays as an outfielder, came on in relief for Shore in the sixth and was superb as he retired every batter he faced and struck out five. Despite Shafer's ability to halt the Cougar offense, the Gators couldn't muster up enough offense to win the game.

I don't know where to begin with the offensive struggles. The Gators left 11 men on base in total including the bases loaded twice in the third and fourth innings. Florida also lost another run scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fifth inning when Braden Mattson came up with two runners on base and crushed a ball to centerfield that was caught then bobbled on the transfer. It was a long single and Mattson was called out because he accidentally ran past Taylor Gushue at first base. The Gators would score a run in the inning, but Mattson's running gaffe might have cost the Gators a couple more runs. This, of course, is all speculation and I don't blame Mattson as the Gator team as a whole was not hitting well on the night. The box score may say they had nine hits but it sure didn't feel like it on this night.

Even though the Gators lost, I will note that juniors Casey Turgeon, Harrison Bader, and Josh Tobias all had two hits a piece tonight. Sophomores Richie Martin and Mike Fahrman drove in the only two Gator runs tonight as both players had one RBI.

The game was supposed to originally have started at 7 p.m. but inclement weather delayed it for three hours. This worked out because I actually got to see the game. I cannot say the same for the players as the game started a little after 10 p.m. and ended a little after 1 a.m. Whether this time change and the delay affected the Gators is not for me to say.

With their backs against the wall, it is now put up or shut up time for the #2 nationally seeded Gators (40-22) as they will face the North Carolina Tar Heels (34-26) to keep their season alive. I have no idea who the Gators might start on the mound for this game. I have a hunch it might be freshman A.J. Puk but we will just have to wait and see. Game time is at 1 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3. The College of Charleston Cougars, now in a very good position after this huge win, will take on the Long Beach State Dirtbags at 7 p.m. following the Florida/North Carolina game.

*Stats accredited to

WCWS: #5 UF vs #1 Oregon

The #5 Florida Gators continued to stay red hot as they defeated #1 Oregon 4-0.

Hannah Rogers was absolutely phenomenal on the mound with another complete game shutout to earn her 28th win of the year. Rogers allowed just three hits while striking out five Ducks as she pushed her scoreless innings pitched streak to 32.2 innings. To put Roger's performance into perspective, this is just the SECOND time Oregon has been shutout all year (James Madison shut the Ducks out 3-0 on March 15).

The Gator defense behind her was top notch as they perfectly fielded all 10 ground balls induced by Rogers. They also had two inning ending double plays in the second and sixth innings. No Oregon players even reached second base!

My offensive MVP for this game is junior Bailey Castro. She got the ball rolling in the second inning when she blasted a home run to right center to give the Gators a 1-0 lead. She would strike again in the fourth inning with an RBI single that scored Kirsti Merritt. Castro ended the day going 3/4 with 2 RBI's.

The Gators would tack on two more big runs in the 3rd inning in a pretty unusual way. With runners on first and second and two outs, Briana Little hit a shallow fly ball behind second base. Oregon second baseman Karine Shaver tracked the ball and then lost it in the sun. She lost her footing and was unable to catch the ball. Both Kirsti Merritt and Bailey Castro scored and Little rushed into second base with a double. A four run lead combined with Hannah Rogers's dominant pitching all but sealed Oregon's fate.

The #5 Gators (51-12) will not play again until Sunday at noon. #1 Oregon (54-8-1), now 0-2 against the Gators this year, will head to the loser's bracket and take on the winner of the #6 UL- Lafayette/#7 Oklahoma matchup in an elimination game. The winner of that elimination game will face Alabama and needs to beat them twice to advance.

In the meantime, the Gators are now one win away from playing in the Championship Series for the third time in program history. Florida has been firing on all cylinders since their 2-0 loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament. They have outscored all their opponents 65-3 and have recorded seven shutouts.

With a chance to play for a National Championship just a single win away, the Gators should be prepared for whoever survives the mayhem known as elimination games. All elimination games can be seen on the ESPN Networks.

*All stats accredited to

Friday, May 30, 2014

WCWS: #5 UF vs #13 Baylor

The #5 Florida Gators are one step closer to their first ever softball National Championship as they routed the #13 Baylor Bears 11-0 in five innings.

Hannah Rogers toed the rubber for the orange and blue and the senior did not disappoint as she threw a complete game shut out to notch her 27th win of the season. She struck out three batters and gave up just three hits. By the way Rogers was pitching today, she would have been fine if the team had just given her one run to work with. Fortunately for her, the Gators like to score runs and try their best to cut her outings to just five innings.

Offensively, the Gators brought it today as they dropped 11 runs on Baylor today. The Gators jumped on Baylor early by scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning and just added on from there. Eight Gators had at least one hit with sophomore Kirsti Merritt leading the way with two.

In the fifth inning, the Gators went in for the kill as they upped the lead to 7-0 with the bases loaded and no one out. Freshman Chelsea Herndon's number was called to pinch hit and she strode to the plate with a chance to end the game. Her first hit in the Women's College World Series was one to remember as she drove a 1-2 pitch over the center field wall for a walk off grand slam for the mercy rule victory.

Now in the winner's bracket, the #5 Gators (50-12) will turn their attention to the #1 Oregon Ducks (54-7-1). The Ducks defeated the #8 Florida State Seminoles 3-0 to set up this date with the Gators. Both teams met earlier this season in Orlando, Florida, with the Gators winning 2-1 in eight innings. Oregon head coach, Mike White, will likely remind his team of this close loss and I expect the Ducks to throw all they can at the Gators to avoid playing in an elimination game. The game is on May 30 at 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

With their backs against the wall, #13 Baylor (47-15) and #8 Florida State (55-8) will play to survive in their elimination game at 12 p.m. on May 31. This game will be televised on ESPN and whoever wins will have the pleasure of playing a second game at 7 p.m. against the loser of the Florida/Oregon game. Could we get a Florida/Florida State elimination game? Might Oregon and Baylor be dueling to stay alive? Or might we get rematches between Florida and Baylor or Oregon and Florida State? We will just have to wait and see.

*Stats and information accredited to

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gator Softball Advances to Women's College World Series

In a game that lasted 7+ hours because of severe weather delays and a camera protest (which I'll get to later), the Florida Gators softball team prevailed over the Washington Huskies by a mercy-rule score of 8-0 to advance to the 5th Women's College World Series in program history.

Senior Hannah Rogers got what could have been her last collegiate start on the mound for this do or die Game 3 of the Super Regionals. She was superb as she pitched a complete game 1 hit shut out. She fanned six Huskie batters.

The Gators scored the first run of the game on a 2 out RBI single by Briana Little that scored Kelsey Stewart in the bottom of the first inning. Stewart would make her presence felt again in the fourth inning as she smacked a three run home run over the right field fence to boost the UF lead to 4-0. The biggest shot of the day however, would come from Kirsti Merrit. In the bottom of the 5th inning, representing the game ending run, Merrit drove a pitch high and deep over the left field wall to give the Gators the 8-0 win and send them to Oklahoma City. Needless to say I was thrilled at the result.

After being at the field since 12 p.m., the Gators walked off (literally) victorious. Despite two separate delays due to weather and a 13 minute protest over a camera in centerfield, the Gators were able to keep their composure and close out the game in convincing fashion. My hat goes off to them for remaining focused in spite of all the distractions.

Speaking of the camera incident, here's what happened. After the first pitch of the fifth inning, Washington head coach Heather Tarr came out to talk the umpires. Next thing I knew, there were a ton of officials out on the field and the game was stopped again. This was right after the second rain delay of the game. Tarr protested that the Gators were allegedly using a camera situated in the outfield to stream a live feed somewhere else in the ballpark. I didn't completely understand it, and nothing came out of it except that one of the guys running the camera had to close his laptop.

The Gators will be heading to Oklahoma City as they seek to bring the first softball National Championship to Gainesville. Returning a battle-tested squad that made it all the way to the WCWS last year, look for the Gators to make a deep run this time around. Their first game will be on May 29th. Their opponent and game time are yet to be determined.

SEC Championship: #12 UF vs #8 LSU

The Gators fell to the LSU Tigers by a score of 2-0 in the SEC Tournament Final today. Karsten Whitson was masterful on the mound today for Florida as the redshirt junior tossed 6 and 1/3 shutout innings on route to a no decision. The highlight of Whiston's performance was his ability to get a double play ground ball to get him out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the 6th inning.

Ryan Harris came into relieve Whitson and gave up what would be the game winning two-run home run for LSU with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. Freshmen Tyler Deel and Dane Dunning relieved him and pitched a scoreless ninth inning. Offensively, there really isn't much to say. The Gator bats were silent today as they only mustered three hits. No Gator reached second base after the first inning. The Gators who did reach base were erased by double plays.

To lose the SEC Championship like this is a heartbreaker for the baseball team as they were the #1 seed coming into the tournament. However, there is still much more baseball to be played. The Gators will most likely receive the #1 overall national seed (just like the basketball team did) tomorrow on Selection Monday and will be hosting a regional in Gainesville. This loss should motivate the team going forward. Their opponents and game times will be announced when available.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

SEC Tournament: #12 UF vs #6 South Carolina

After dropping their first game of the SEC Tournament to #9 seeded Kentucky (34-22) by a score of 4-2, the #1 seeded Gators found themselves in the loser's bracket and just one more loss away from elimination from the entire tournament! To make matters worse, their opponent was the South Carolina Gamecocks, one of the most talented teams in the country. The #4 seed in the tournament earned its spot in the loser's bracket after suffering a 12-0 loss to #5 seeded Mississippi State (37-20) the night before.

I honestly couldn't believe that two of the best teams in the SEC would be meeting in the loser's bracket to determine who would keep playing. In their regular season matchup, Florida had taken two out of three games from the Gamecocks in Columbia. Both those victories came by one run and one game required extra innings! Things went a little bit different today as the Gators defeated the Gamecocks 7-2 to knock them out of the SEC Tournament.

Freshman lefty A.J. Puk was given the task of stymieing a South Carolina offense that had not scored yet in the tournament. Puk pitched four innings and allowed just three hits, two earned runs, and struck out five batters. He would get a no decision in the contest.

The Gamecocks scored first with an RBI double in the second inning and a long 400+ foot home run to deep center field in the third. Then, the turning point of the game happened. With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, junior Casey Turgeon blasted a single between first and second. Sophomore Richie Martin came up to bat next and surprised me as he laid down a bunt. It looked like a wasted at-bat as South Carolina pitcher Jack Wynkoop prepared to make a play on the ball.

Then, the baseball gods struck. Wynkoop bobbled the ball and Martin made it safely to first. The Gators still had some life in them with two outs. Obviously frustrated from his error, Wynkoop hit Harrison Bader in the knee to load the bases for catcher Taylor Gushue, the team's RBI leader (46) and the best hitter in the Gator lineup. Gushue delivered in crunch time and notched his 47th and 48th RBIs of the season as he smoked a single up the middle. With runners on first and third and the game tied with still two outs, first baseman Braden Mattsen caught everyone off guard with a bunt that scored Harrison Bader. The Gators took a 3-2 lead and knocked Wynkoop out of the game.

After the Gators took the lead, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan let Puk go for one more inning before bringing in the lefty Bobby Poyner for relief in the fifth inning. Poyner was fantastic in his five innings of relief as he gave up no runs on just two hits to earn his fifth win of the year. The Gators gave Poyner some insurance runs to work with as they kept tacking on runs throughout the game.

In the bottom of the fourth, Casey Turgeon knocked in Jordan Shafer with an RBI single and then Richie Martin followed suit with an RBI single that scored Josh Tobias to stretch the Gator lead to three runs. In the bottom of the sixth, the Gators struck again as junior Josh Tobias crushed a home run to lead off the inning and make the score 6-2.

In the bottom of the eighth, Casey Turgeon struck again with his third hit of the day as he knocked home Harrison Bader with an RBI double to make it 7-2 Florida and all but secure the win. Turgeon is my offensive player of the game as he went 3-5 with two RBI's and one run scored. His most important hit, in my opinion, was his first one as it started the two out rally and got the Gator offense going.

Defensively, the Gators limited their mistakes and made just one error in the game. That one error came from a fly ball in the top of the 7th inning that shortstop Richie Martin dropped. Martin's error would not prove detrimental at all as the next batter hit a fly ball to centerfield Harrison Bader, who caught it and proceeded to throw a strike to nail South Carolina's Gene Cone at the plate. This was one of three double plays turned by the Gators on the day.

Still very much alive in the SEC Tournament, the #1 seeded Florida Gators (38-20) will face the loser of tonight's #9 Kentucky/#5 Mississippi State game tomorrow at a time to be determined. South Carolina (42-16) has been eliminated from the SEC Tournament and will head back to Columbia awaiting its draw in the NCAA Tournament. A second place finish in the SEC East division behind the Florida Gators in the regular season should warrant enough of a case for South Carolina to host a regional despite an early SEC Tournament exit.

*Stats accredited to

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gator Softball Advances to Super Regionals

The #5 seeded Florida Gator softball team took the field today needing just one win to advance to the seventh Super Regionals in program history. Standing in there way was the UCF Knights, who the Gators defeated earlier in the season by a score of 10-6. The Knights would have to beat the Gators twice on this blistering hot Sunday in Gainesville if they wished to advance to their first Super Regionals in program history. Two games would not be needed as the #8 Gators defeated the Knights 7-0 to move on in the NCAA Tournament.

Lauren Haeger got things going early for the Gators as she belted a two run home run in the top of the first inning. The Gators would tack on one more run off an error and carried a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the first inning. By the way Haeger was pitching today, three runs would have been more than enough run support. The junior allowed just five hits while striking out five on route to pitching a complete game shutout for her 10th win of the year. She allowed no extra base hits and this can be credited to the good defense behind her. Here are a few good plays I saw:
  • Second baseman Kelsey Stewart fielded a ground ball almost in the outfield and made a spinning throw to first base to get the UCF runner out.
  • Outfielder Briana Little tracked a deep fly ball to the wall to make the catch with two UCF runners on base in the bottom of the first.
  • Shortstop Kathlyn Medina caught a sharp ground ball on the run, tagged second base, and then threw it to first base for an inning ending double play in the sixth inning.
  • Catcher Aubree Munro threw out a UCF runner attempting to steal second in the bottom of the seventh.  
The Gator defense was superb today and will have to stay that way for them as they get deeper into the NCAA tournament.

Offensively, I mentioned the Gators jumped on the board early with a three run first inning. They would strike again in the third inning as Taylor Fuller singled home Justine McLean to make it 4-0 Florida. The very next inning, Haeger would pick up her third RBI of the day on a fielder's choice that plated Kelsey Stewart to push the lead to 5-0. Florida would add their last two runs in the sixth inning on a Kirsti Merrit two run single that scored Justine McLean and Briana Little. The Gators only had three more hits than UCF (eight in total), but it was their smart base running that put them in the right position to score runs. 

My only concern for the Florida offense would have to be the runners left on base. The Gators loaded the bases in both the second and the seventh inning with one out and were able to bring no one home! Granted, it was 7-0 by the time the seventh rolled around and Lauren Haeger did hit a grand slam that the umps called foul. When you win by seven runs and shut out your opponent, I guess it really doesn't matter if you leave 12 runners on base as long as your team gets the win.

Looking ahead, the #5 Gators (48-11) will be back in action May 22-25 as they host the Super Regionals here in Gainesville. They will be taking on the #12 seeded Washington Huskies (35-13) in what will be a rematch of the 2009 Women's College World Series (which Washington won). Here's a quick preview. The Gators outscored all three of their regional opponents by a score of 29-0 while Washington outscored theirs 26-0. Both teams finished fourth in their respective conferences of the SEC and the PAC-12 (with Florida being eliminated in the quarterfinal of the SEC tournament by the hands of Georgia). Based off of these stats, both these teams look to be pretty equal and it should make for a great Super Regional.