Wednesday, March 29, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 9 Florida Wins Season Series Over No. 10 Florida State

The No. 9 Florida Gators (17-9) won the season series over the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (18-8) with a 4-1 victory in this past Tuesday's contest at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

Making his first career collegiate start, true freshman Garrett Milchin (1-1, 1.54 ERA) was tasked with shutting down the Seminole lineup. Nerves did not get the best of the youngster, as Milchin went 4.1 innings and allowed no runs on just two hits. He had one strikeout while issuing a career-high three walks.

When Milchin exited with one out in the fifth inning and a runner on first base, the Gators had a comfortable 4-0 lead. Coming on in relief was another true freshman in Nate Brown. He had stymied the Seminoles in Gainesville as that game's starter and was called upon to do it again.

He walked the first batter he faced, but then settled down and induced an inning-ending double play to end the FSU threat. In the sixth inning, he generated a groundout for the first out before giving up a double. After falling behind the next batter 2-1, Brown would allow a single that plated FSU's first run against Florida in 36 innings.

That was all Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan needed to see before making a pitching change. He was not about to let Florida blow another four-run lead in back-to-back games. He went to the bullpen and went with sophomore right-hander Michael Byrne to finish this one out.

After a rough outing in the series finale against LSU, Byrne was utterly dominant against FSU. He used two fly outs to end the sixth and ended the game allowing only one hit in 3.2 innings of relief. Byrne struck out four Seminoles and at one point retired nine consecutive batters before allowing a single with one out in the ninth inning.

This late hit would spark no late-game rally as Byrne used a groundout and a strikeout to secure the series win and notch his second save of the 2017 campaign. In the process, Garrett Milchin earned his first career collegiate victory.

Florida had just just six hits as a team and scored all four of their runs in the first inning. Here's how the Gators dropped a four-spot on the 'Noles.

Deacon Liput led the game off with a walk. Dalton Guthrie then got his first hit in a week as he singled into right field to make it runners on first and second. JJ Schwarz then continued his trend of killing FSU pitching as he singled into left field to score Liput for an early 1-0 lead.

After a Jonathan India strikeout and a Nelson Maldonado fly out, Mike Rivera made sure Florida did not waste this early scoring opportunity as he smacked a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence to make it 4-0 Florida. It was Rivera's first home run of the year and gave Garrett Milchin a solid lead to work with going into the bottom half of the frame.

Rivera's long ball was one of two Gator extra base hits as Christian Hicks doubled in the sixth inning. Hicks also singled in the game's opening frame to make him the only Gator with multiple hits on the day. He finished 2-4 and stole his third bag of the year in the first inning as well.

Final Takeaway
The No. 9 Florida Gators continue to show their dominance over Florida State with yet another win on the baseball diamond. Before previewing the weekend ahead, here are my final tidbits on yet another series win over the 'Noles:

  • This is Florida's fourth straight win over the Seminoles. Looking at strictly the regular season matchups, the Gators have won five straight games over Florida State.
  • Florida has won the Florida State series for the second year in a row!
  • This is the sixth time in Kevin O'Sullivan's 10-year tenure that the Gators have won the Florida State series.
  • Florida drew three walks as a team in this game. The benefactors were Deacon Liput (as stated earlier), JJ Schwarz, and Nelson Maldonaldo.
  • Nick Horvath had a rough game out of the nine-hole as he went 0-4 with three strikeouts.
  • Christian Hicks's double was his second of the season.
  • Florida played a clean game as they were error-free for the first time since the series opener against LSU last Friday.
  • For the second straight time, redshirt sophomore right-hander Andrew Karp (0-2, 4.10 ERA) was on the losing end of the midweek game against the Gators.
  • Jacksonville proved to be a good baseball venue as 8,924 fans showed out for the second edition of this season's Sunshine Showdown.

Looking Ahead
With another Top-10 win under their belt, the No. 9 Florida Gators (17-9, 2-4 SEC) will travel to Columbia for their weekend series against the No. 23 Missouri Tigers (21-3, 4-2 SEC).

Florida win go with the usual suspects as their probable starters with junior right-hander Alex Faedo (4-1, 2.39 ERA) on Friday night, sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (3-1, 1.58 ERA) on Saturday afternoon, and sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.48 ERA) on Sunday afternoon

Missouri will go with sophomore left-hander Michael Plassmeyer (4-0, 2.73 ERA), junior right-hander junior Tanner Houck (3-2, 2.80 ERA), and redshirt junior right-hander Cole Bartlett (3-0, 2.87 ERA) as their starters for the weekend.

The games are schedule for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. They all can be seen on the SEC Network+ and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for No. 10 Florida State (18-8, 6-3 ACC), they will yet again return to Tallahassee with the familiar feeling of a loss to Florida. While waiting for that pain to subside, the Seminoles will prepare to host the No. 7 North Carolina Tarheels (19-6, 6-3 ACC) in a compelling Top-10 matchup this weekend at Dick Howser Stadium.

*All stats accredited to



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 12 Florida vs No. 4 LSU Series Recap

The No. 12 Florida Gators (16-9, 2-4 SEC) won their first SEC series of the season as they took two out of three games from the No. 4 LSU Tigers (18-7, 4-2 SEC) in Gainesville. Here is a recap of each game.

Game 1 (March 24th)
In the series opener, the No. 12 Florida Gators (15-9, 1-3 SEC) handed the No. 4 LSU Tigers (17-6, 3-1 SEC) their first conference loss with a slim 1-0 victory.

Junior ace Alex Faedo (4-1, 2.39 ERA) bounced back from his rough outing against Auburn (20-6, 5-1 SEC) and shined under the lights at the Mac. Throwing 114 pitches and walking only two batters, Faedo worked seven strong innings, scattered seven hits, and struck out seven Tigers. Seven seemed to be the magic number for the right-hander.

When Michael Byrne came on in relief for Faedo in the eighth inning, Florida held a 1-0 lead. Byrne faced just two batters. He got the leadoff man to pop up before issuing a walk. That was all Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan needed to see before heading to the bullpen.

Out came true freshman Andrew Baker. With a runner on first base, the left-hander worked a clean frame as he induced a fly out and struck out a batter for the final two outs of the eighth.

In the ninth, true freshman Tyler Dyson entered in an attempt to earn his second collegiate save. It would not be easy as he walked the first batter of the inning. Things then got really interesting when a wild pitch from Dyson put the tying run on second base with nobody out.

In such a tense situation, the true freshman remained unfazed. He settled down and struck out the side to strand the runner at second and secure the Game 1 victory.

Florida banged out just six hits as Tiger ace and future first rounder Alex Lange (3-2, 4.09 ERA) threw an incredible game. The junior went the distance as he tossed eight innings while striking out seven Gators, allowing one earned run, and surrendering just one walk to sophomore third baseman Jonathan India.

Florida's lone run came in the sixth inning of this game. After sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput doubled to lead off the inning, Jonathan India bunted him over to third base. With one out now, junior first baseman JJ Schwarz strode to the plate.

On the first pitch he saw, JJ hit a shot to left field that would have been out had the wind not been blowing in so hard. He had the next best thing though as the ball was deep enough to score Liput and make it 1-0 Gators. JJ didn't have a hit in the contest, but his sac fly would inevitably be the difference.

As for the Gators who did have hits in the contest, Deacon Liput led the way. He was responsible for more than half of the team's offense as he went 3-4 with a double, the only run scored, and his fifth stolen base of the season.

The remaining Florida players with hits were sophomore outfielder Nelson Maldonado (1-3), junior catcher Mike Rivera (1-3), and junior centerfielder Nick Horvath (1-3). All of their base knocks were singles.

Final Takeaway
With this victory, the No. 12 Florida Gators notched their first SEC win of the season and built up some offensive confidence after defeating a pitcher as good as Alex Lange. Before recapping Game 2, here are my final tidbits on Florida's shutout victory:

  • This win against LSU extended the Gators' home winning streak over the Tigers to four.
  • This is the sixth time this season that Florida has shutout an opponent.
  • This is the third time this season that Florida has defeated an opponent by a score of 1-0 at the Mac.
  • Deacon Liput's two-bagger in the game was his fifth of the season.
  • Florida had a chance to chase Alex Lange early when they loaded the bases in the fifth inning with no outs. Alas though, they failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
  • Jonathan India's sac bunt was his third of the season. Christian Hicks also joined him in that department as he laid down his second sac bunt of the season in the bottom of the fifth inning.
  • Ryan Larson had a rough night, as he went 0-3 with three strikeouts.
  • Mike Rivera threw out his sixth baserunner of the year in the top of the first inning.
  • LSU made the only error of the game with a bad throw to first base in the fifth inning, but it did not come back to haunt them.
  • The turnout for this game was slightly disappointing, as only 4,485 fans showed up for this highly touted SEC series opener.

Game 2 (March 25th)
The No. 12 Florida Gators (16-8, 2-3 SEC) won the series against the No. 4 LSU Tigers (17-7, 3-2 SEC) with a dominating 8-1 victory.

Brady Singer (3-1, 1.58 ERA) got the ball with a chance to win the series and did not disappoint. The sophomore right-hander threw the first complete game of his college career as he went nine innings and allowed just one earned run. He scattered six hits, struck out four, hit two batsmen, and walked nobody on a total of 109 pitches.

The Gator bats awoke as they banged out 10 hits to hand LSU's senior left-hander Jared Poche' (5-1, 0.90 ERA) his first loss of 2017. The Gators plated a run in the second through fifth innings as well as the seventh, and then put up a three-spot in the eighth to make sure this game was out of reach.

The middle of Florida's lineup killed it as they combined to go 7-10. Cleanup man JJ Schwarz went 2-5 with a double, three runs scored, an RBI, and his second stolen base of the season. In the five-hole, Nelson Maldonado lived the deuce life as he went a perfect 2-2 with a double, two runs scored, two RBI's, and two walks. Rounding out the trio, Mike Rivera went a perfect 3-3 with a double, two RBI's, and two walks.

The remaining Gators with base hits were Deacon Liput (1-2 with two runs scored, three walks, and three stolen bases), junior shortstop Christian Hicks (1-3 with a double and two RBI's), and senior left fielder Ryan Larson (1-3 with a run scored and a walk).

Final Takeaway
This is the fifth time in Sully's ten-year tenure that the Gators have won the LSU series. Before recapping the series finale, here are my final tidbits on the series clincher:

  • Florida's home winning streak against LSU is now up to six straight games.
  • Florida has now won five straight home series and seven in a row dating back to last season.
  • LSU made one error in the game, which did result in an unearned run. Florida made two errors (both coming from the left side of the infield), which yielded no unearned runs for the Tigers.
  • Christian Hicks showed off his bunting skills for the second straight game as he again laid one down in the fifth inning. He now has three total sac bunts on the year.
  • Florida showed great patience as a team as they drew nine walks in the game.
  • This game had the highest attendance of any in this weekend's series as 4,751 fans came out.

*All stats accredited to

Game 3 (March 26th)
In the series finale, the No. 12 Florida Gators (16-9, 2-4 SEC) let the lead slip away late in the game as they fell to the No. 4 LSU Tigers (18-7, 4-2 SEC) by a score of 10-6.

Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.48 ERA) was on the bump for the Sunday start and kept LSU in check for 5.2 innings. He allowed two earned runs and struck out three, but walked a career-high five batters on a total of 94 pitches thrown.

When Kowar exited the game with two outs in the sixth inning, Florida led 5-0 with LSU runners on second and third. In his place came sophomore Michael Byrne, who proceeded to give up a single that cut the Gator lead to 5-2. A fly out from the next batter would limit the damage.

In the seventh, Byrne was back out there and worked a perfect inning as he sandwiched two strikeouts in-between a fly out. In the bottom half of the inning, Florida would tack on an insurance run to make it 6-2 with two frames remaining in the series.

Once the eighth inning rolled around, everything went south real quick. Byrne gave up a single and then induced a fly out for the first out of the game. With five outs remaining for LSU, Byrne served up a two-run bomb to junior right fielder Greg Deichmann that brought the Tigers within two runs.

Sully had seen enough and went to the bullpen. Out came senior right-hander Frank Rubio to try and get this game to the ninth with the Gator lead intact. That would not be the case. Rubio hit LSU freshman Jake Slaughter with his second pitch out of the pen. Against Tiger designated hitter Beau Jordan he would fare no better.

With the count 2-1, the junior took Rubio deep to left field to knot this game up at six a piece. Unfortunately for the Gators, LSU would not stop there. Rubio was pulled after giving up the second two-run homer of the inning and Andrew Baker came in to try and keep the game tied. He proceeded to hit the first batter he faced and was removed for true freshman right-hander Kirby McMullen.

He too would not escape the LSU long ball, as senior second baseman Cole Freeman tattooed his second pitch of relief for the third two-run dinger of the inning. The Tigers were now up 8-6. McMullen would generate a groundout and walk a guy before being pulled for Tyler Dyson.

A two-run homer would not victimize Dyson as Mike Rivera cut down a runner trying to steal to end the fiasco of the inning. The bullpen had yet again imploded and put a damper on what had been a decent start from Kowar.

In the ninth, LSU showed Dyson some love as they scored two runs off of him to up the lead to 10-6. The last of those runs produce the first out of the inning as it came by means of a sacrifice fly. After a double and a groundout, Dyson hit two straight batters to earn a trip to the showers.

Coming in with the bases loaded was true freshman Nate Brown, who induced a groundout to prevent this game from getting any uglier. In the bottom half of the ninth, Florida would have no offensive response and Andrew Baker would get tagged with his second loss of the year.

Somehow, Florida managed six runs despite only having five hits. They plated a run in back-to-back innings in the third and fourth before erupting for a three-run spot in the fifth. Their final run of the game would come in the seventh, when it appeared a 6-2 lead would be enough to come away with a sweep.

No Gators had multiple hits as five different players registered a base knock. Nelson Maldonado saved Florida from another game without an extra base hit as he hit a solo shot to left field in the fourth inning to extend the lead to 2-0. He finished the game 1-4.

Ahead of Nelly, Jonathan India went 1-4 and collected two RBI's with his bases loaded single in the fifth inning. At that time, it put Florida up 5-0. India also stole his team-leading sixth bag after driving in the two runs.

Matching India with two RBI's on the day was JJ Schwarz. He went hitless (0-2) out of the three-hole, but had a bases loaded walk in the fifth inning to make it 3-0 and a sacrifice fly in the seventh that upped Florida's lead to 6-2.

At the bottom of the lineup, the rest of Florida's hits can be found. Christian Hicks went 1-4 with a run scored out of the seven-hole. Below him, Ryan Larson went 1-2 with two runs scored, a walk, and his fourth swiped bag of the season. Finally, Nick Horvath batted a perfect 1-1 out of the nine-hole with a run scored, one walk, and two stolen bases.

The last Gator I'll mention is Deacon Liput. He went hitless in the game (0-3), but was intentionally walked in the fifth inning and came around to score on the India single with two outs.

Final Takeaway
This was a sour note for No. 12 Florida to end on after playing a fairly good series against No. 4 LSU. Before previewing the week ahead, here are my final tidbits on Game 3 and the series as a whole:

  • Florida is now 11-3 at the Mac against LSU since Sully took over the program in 2008.
  • Florida's six runs given up in the eighth inning are the second most they have allowed in an inning this season.
  • Larson's steal was of home plate and came on a double steal in the third inning.
  • Mike Rivera threw out his seventh and eighth baserunners of the year in the first and eighth innings, respectively.
  • Dalton Guthrie had a dreadful series as he went 0-12 with four strikeouts and one walk. He got thrown out trying to steal the one time he was on base in the bottom of the seventh inning and stranded nine total baserunners. He has still yet to play the field since the March 17th game against Auburn.
  • Jackson Kowar gets hit with his third consecutive no-decision.
  • Florida made two errors in this game with a ground ball getting past Christian Hicks and Tyler Dyson airmailing a throw. Only one of those would result in an unearned run for LSU. The Tigers would also have an error of their own that led to an unearned run for Florida.
  • Florida finished with four errors in the series while LSU had three.
  • Nick Horvath upped his stolen base total to four with his multi-steal effort in this game.
  • JJ's sac fly was his fourth of the season and second of the series. Nick Horvath was unselfish as well as he laid down his first sac bunt in the bottom of the fifth inning.
  • Florida gave up 12 hits to the Tigers in this game. Half of these came in the last two innings.
  • The heat and Gator basketball team in the Elite Eight definitely deterred people, as 3,811 people showed up for the game. This was the lowest total of the weekend.

*All stats accredited to

Looking Ahead
With a much-needed series win under their belt, the now No. 9 ranked Florida Gators (16-9, 2-4 SEC) will prepare for some neutral site action as they hook up with the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (18-7) for their second meeting of the season.

Florida will probably go with a true freshman starter as it seems that FSU could not figure out any of the young Gators who pitched against them last time. Going back to June, Florida has shut out the 'Noles for 31 consecutive innings.

The game is set for 6 p.m. at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. It can be seen on the SEC Network+ and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

After the bout with FSU, the Gators will hit the road for their third SEC series of the year. Their opponent will be the No. 23 Missouri Tigers (21-3, 4-2 SEC) who have surprised everyone with their hot start. This will be the third straight weekend that the Gators play a team whose mascot is the Tigers.

Missouri will want to prove themselves, especially after dropping their opening SEC home series to Arkansas (20-5, 5-1 SEC). From Florida's perspective, they just want to prove to themselves that they can win outside of McKethan Stadium.

The times for the games are 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.  All of them can be seen on the SEC Network+ and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

The probable starters for Florida in the Mizzou series are Alex Faedo on Friday, Brady Singer on Saturday, and Jackson Kowar on Sunday. Missouri will counter with a combination of sophomore left-hander Michael Plassmeyer (4-0, 2.73 ERA), junior right-hander Tanner Houck (3-2, 2.80 ERA), and redshirt junior right-hander Cole Bartlett (3-0, 2.87 ERA).

As for now No. 8 ranked LSU (18-7, 4-2 SEC), they head home for the week to face the Tulane Green Wave (9-15) on Tuesday before hosting the Texas A&M Aggies (16-9, 1-5 SEC) in a three-game set at the Box.

A series loss at Florida may have discouraged them, but the comeback win on Sunday should give the Tigers enough fuel in the fire to take care of business in both the midweek contest and their weekend series.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

UF Basketball: Chris Chiozza Sends No. 4 Florida to the Elite 8!!!

In all my years of watching Florida Gator basketball, tonight's Sweet 16 contest in Madison Square Garden was by far the greatest Florida basketball game that I have ever watched. With a spot in the Elite 8 at stake, the No. 4 Florida Gators (27-8) used a buzzer beater from junior guard Chris Chiozza to defeat the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (27-10) by a score of 84-83 in overtime!

The Final Two Minutes of Regulation
This game remained tight throughout as neither team could really pull away despite them both having double-digit leads at one point. With under two minutes to go in the game, Florida sported a 70-62 lead. All they needed to do was execute offensively and chip in a few defensive stops to punch their ticket to the Elite 8.

After cutting it to 70-64, Wisconsin fouled senior point guard Kasey Hill with 1:44 remaining. Hill sank both his free throws to up the score to 72-64 before Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig nailed a three-pointer to make it 72-67.

After a Badger timeout, Florida killed 28 seconds off the clock but came up empty on their offensive possession as Kasey Hill missed a layup with just over a minute remaining. Wisconsin then missed a three-pointer, but Badger forward Ethan Happ got the offensive board and laid it up to cut the score to 72-69 with 44 seconds to go.

Florida took the ball up and called timeout with 37 seconds remaining. They needed just one bucket to put this game away. Coming out of the timeout, Chris Chiozza drove the lane with 18 seconds to go and kicked it to sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes

Hayes could not get a handle on the ball and Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes came up with the steal. The Badgers now had a chance to tie it with the clock winding down. At the six-second mark, they called timeout to devise a potential game-tying three. Florida now needed just one stop for an Elite 8 berth.

Coming out of the timeout, it looked like Wisconsin did not get a good look as Zak Showalter floated up a three-pointer with time winding down. With 2.5 seconds on the clock, the ball swished through the net to knot the game up at 72. At first it appeared that Showalter had taken a two, but replays showed he was indeed behind the line and the basket was a three-pointer.

Deflated, the Gators called timeout to plan their desperation heave. This would be to no avail as the Gators did not even get a game-wining shot attempt up as time expired. In fact, it was Wisconsin who got the game-winning opportunity as D'Mitrik Trice intercepted the baseball pass and threw up a half court prayer at the buzzer. It was to no avail, and March Madness would finally get its first overtime game.

In OT, the Gators were flat for the first three-minutes. Florida did lead early after KeVaughn Allen split his free throws, but after that Wisconsin went on an 8-2 run. The outcome was starting to look grim after Florida missed three straight three-pointers on one offensive possession down 77-73.

After a Nigel Hayes free throw made it 78-73 with 1:40 left in OT, the Gators needed some offensive spark. Enter SEC Sixth-Man of the Year Canyon Barry. The graduate transfer hit a reverse layup to cut the lead to 78-75 with 1:34 to go.

After Chris Chiozza got hit with a questionable foul call with 1:09 remaining, Florida looked dead in the water as Zak Showalter sank both his free throws to up the score to 80-75. The Gators scored in a hurry as KeVaughn Allen made a layup to cut the lead to 80-77. After Allen's score, Wisconsin was back on the line with 41 seconds to go. Ethan Happ split the free throws and now Florida was down four with less than 40 seconds in overtime.

Canyon Barry drove the lane and got fouled with 37 seconds to go. Florida's all-time leading free throw percentage leader needed to make these two to keep the season alive. Using his trademark underhand style that his dad taught him, Canyon sank both of his charity shots to make it 81-79. What happened next is perhaps the defensive play of the game.

As Wisconsin looked to inbound, they threw an outlet pass to Khalil Iverson. As Iverson drove to the basket, Canyon Barry tracked him down and blocked him from behind to force the turnover with 34 seconds left. Chris Chiozza was there for the defensive rebound, and a few moments later he scored an easy layup to knot things up at 81 a piece with 24 seconds remaining.

The Gators had rallied and tied it, now they needed to get a stop to force a second overtime. As opposed to fouling, the Orange and Blue chose to play this one out to the buzzer. As the clock wound down, Nigel Hayes drove on Justin Leon and drew a foul with four seconds remaining. Hayes would sink both of the shots, and it was now desperation time for Florida down 83-81.

Chiozza's Moment
Canyon Barry inbounded the ball to Chris Chiozza and the junior took off down the left sideline. He then ran back to center court and with 1.2 seconds remaining he threw up a floater from the top of the key. The final buzzer sounded and Florida's season was up in the air as the ball made its descent.

Chiozza had put the perfect amount of touch on his shot, as the ball swished right through the net for the game-winning three-pointer! This game was over! The Gators had won 84-83 and were on their way to the Elite 8!

Florida's Leading Men
Chris Chiozza's buzzer beater was obviously the highlight of the night (and possibly the tournament), but he was not the only Gator to play a role in this victory. Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen scored a career-high 35 points against the Badgers as he shot 11 of 24 from the field.

Allen made 1/3 of his three-point attempts (4-12) while sinking 9 of his 10 free throws. He was on another level, and it was the kind of performance the Gators needed to beat an opponent like Wisconsin.

On the glass, Justin Leon and Kevarrius Hayes were huge. Leon hauled in eight rebounds (two offensive) while Hayes brought in seven (four offensive). Hayes had two blocks in the game as well and made 4 of his 9 free throw attempts.

Off the bench, Chris Chiozza gave Florida a solid 30 minutes that culminated into a buzzer beater to send the Gators to the Elite 8. The game-winning shot aside, Chiozza dished out a game-high five assists while scoring eight points on a 3 of 6 shooting effort.

As stated earlier, Canyon Barry was also huge in his 16 minutes of action. His two clutch free throws kept Florida alive and his block allowed Florida to score the game-tying bucket. Canyon finished with seven points on 2 of 4 shooting, made all three of his free throws, and of course had the biggest block of his career in overtime.

The last of the Gator bench I'll mention is true freshman center Gorjok Gak. Only seeing seven minutes of playing time, Gak had four offensive rebounds that resulted in six second-chance points for the Gators.

Wisconsin's Leading Men
In a tough (honestly heartbreaking) losing effort, all five of Wisconsin's starters scored in double figures. Senior forward Nigel Hayes went 7 of 11 shooting and scored a team-high 22 points with seven rebounds. He made a team-high 7 of his 14 free throw attempts. Redshirt sophomore forward Ethan Happ dropped 21 points on a 9 of 14 shooting effort while also corralling six boards.

Redshirt senior guard Zak Showalter's lone three-point attempt forced overtime, and was part of an incredible 4-6 shooting effort that resulted in 14 points with seven rebounds. Senior guard Bronson Koenig made the most three-pointers on the team (3-9) as he shot 4 for 13 on field goal attempts and scored 13 points.

Finally, senior forward Vitto Brown scored an even 10 points as he went 3 for 6 from the field and 2 of 4 from downtown.

Final Takeaway
I cannot describe the emotions my friends and I felt as we saw Chiozza's shot go in. It was surreal, unbelievable, magical, a full-blown miracle. For goodness sakes I was so excited that I ran outside of my buddy Matt's apartment and sprinted down the hallway in a frenzy. It was an incredible finish to one of the the greatest Gator basketball games in school history.

Before previewing Florida's Elite 8 matchup, here are my final tidbits on their unforgettable Sweet 16 victory:

  • This is Florida's ninth Elite 8 appearance in school history.
  • Florida is now 3-2 all-time against Wisconsin.
  • This is Florida's first postseason buzzer beater since Mike Miller's game-winner against Butler in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
  • Florida is now 9-2 in the Sweet 16.
  • Florida is now 2-1 in overtime games this season.
  • TBS's announcers were legitimately terrible as they were essentially pulling for Wisconsin for a majority of the game.
  • Florida's biggest lead was 12 points (68-56 with 5:24 remaining in the second half) while Wisconsin's biggest lead was 11 points (24-13 with 7:49 remaining in the first half).

Looking Ahead
In the Elite 8, the No. 4 Florida Gators (27-8) will matchup with a very familiar SEC opponent as they face the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks (25-10). The Gators and Gamecocks split their season series as South Carolina won 57-53 in Columbia while Florida won 81-66 in Gainesville.

The Gamecocks come into their first ever Elite 8 feeling pretty good about themselves after crushing the No. 3 seeded Baylor Bears (27-8) by a score of 70-50. Florida, on the other hand, comes into this matchup on a cardiac note after their insane overtime win against Wisconsin. Now, a rubber match between these two conference foes will determine who will represent the SEC on one side of the Final Four.

This is going to be a great game between two teams who most of the country thought would not get this far. Tipoff is set for 2:20 p.m. on Sunday, March 26th. This unofficial SEC Championship can be seen on CBS and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 12 Florida Survives Stetson in Extra Innings

The No. 12 Florida Gators (14-8) avoided another midweek upset with a close 9-8 road victory over the Stetson Hatters (8-15) in 11 innings this past Tuesday.

True freshman Nate Brown (1-0, 3.18 ERA) got his number called as he made his third career collegiate start in this game. He went just 2.1 innings and gave up one earned run on five hits while walking one batter. With Florida down 1-0 and a runner on second with one out in the bottom of the third inning, Brown was pulled for junior left-hander Nick Horvath.

Horvath went 2.1 innings as well and gave up one earned run on four hits with three strikeouts. When he exited with two outs in the fifth, Florida was winning 4-2. In his place came sophomore Michael Byrne, who worked the most relief innings out of all Gator pitchers.

Byrne allowed three hits in 2.2 innings out of the bullpen and gave up two runs in the eighth inning to knot the score up at four a piece. On the bright side, he struck out five of the 11 batters he faced. With the score tied again and a man on first base with one out, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan opted to go with his de facto closer Tyler Dyson.

The true freshman came in and served up a double to put runners on second and third, but he would work out of it. He induced a ground ball that cut the lead runner at the plate and struck out the next batter to keep the game tied. In the ninth inning, Dyson had runners on first and second with two outs. Thankfully, he would generate a groundout to third baseman Jonathan India to send the game to extra innings.

Once the tenth inning rolled around, Dyson had an 8-4 lead to work with. However, two straight singles would prompt Sully to pull him. He would finish the night with four hits allowed, two strikeouts, and one walk.

With no outs and runners on first and second, true freshman Garrett Milchin was tasked with closing the game out. He gave up a double that cut the lead to 8-5 and registered a strikeout before being pulled with two outs remaining in the contest.

The floor was now Andrew Baker's. The true freshman left-hander entered with runners on second and third and a chance to seize the closer role. He would give up a single that cut the lead to 8-6 and put runners on the corners with still one out. Both those runs were charged to Tyler Dyson.

Baker settled down and recorded a strikeout to make it two outs. Florida was now an out away from ending their road woes. Behind in the count 2-1, Baker gave up a single that made it 8-7 and put runners on first and second with still two down. The run would be charged to Milchin. 

Stetson was not going to go away that easy, especially with cleanup-hitter Jack Gonzalez at the plate. Baker fell behind 1-0 to start the at-bat, and the next pitch was sent into center field for the game-tying single. After giving up four runs in the top half, the Hatters miraculously found away to earn all of them back. 

With Stetson in walk off territory, Sully made his third pitching change of the inning and brought in true freshman Kirby McMullen to try and get Florida to an eleventh inning. McMullen remained cool under pressure and induced a fly out with runners on first and second to end the threat.

In the eleventh inning, the Gators scratched across a run to take a 9-8 advantage into the bottom half of the frame. McMullen was back out there to try and seal the deal. He would work a perfect inning, striking out the first two batters and then producing a ground out that he himself fielded and fired to first base to end the four-hour contest. It would be the second victory of both McMullen's career and season.

Florida's offense showed up as the Gators banged out 13 hits. The incredible part about that is that all of them were singles. The Gators did not have a single extra-base hit in this game. In terms of scoring, they had two four-spots in both the fourth and tenth innings while scoring the deciding run in the eleventh.

Four Gators had multiple hits in the extra inning affair tonight. In the two-hole as the designated hitter, Dalton Guthrie went 2-4 with two runs scored, a walk, and his fifth stolen base of the season. Down in the cleanup spot, JJ Schwarz's bat finally came to life as he went 3-6 with two runs scored and two RBI's.

Right behind JJ, Jonathan India went 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Rounding out the offense, catcher Mike Rivera showed that his wrist was no problem as he went 2-5 with a run scored and two RBI's.

Interestingly enough, everyone in the Gator catching corps had multiple RBI's in this game. Joining JJ and Rivera, third-stringer Mark Kolozsvary had a pinch hit knock that plated two in the top of the tenth inning to give Florida a 6-4 lead. Two batters later, Rivera would drive in his pair to up the score to 8-4 Florida.

The ultimate hero for the Gators tonight was junior Christian Hicks. Going just 1-5 on the night, Hicks had the biggest RBI in the top of the eleventh inning with the bases loaded and one out. On the first pitch he saw, Hicks hit a high chopper that went over the pitcher's head and towards first base. Stetson's only play would be at first and Kirby McMullen came across to give the Gators a 9-8 lead.

Final Takeaway
An 11-inning victory over Stetson after blowing a four-run lead was probably not preferred, but nonetheless it gives Florida their first road win of 2017. Before previewing this weekend's series, here are my final tidbits on the midweek triumph:

  • Florida has now won five straight games over the Hatters.
  • Though Florida had an impressive 13 hits, Stetson one-upped them with 20 hits in the game!
  • Stetson had six guys with multiple hits in the game. Leadoff man Jacob Koos led the way as he went 4-6 with a double, two runs scored, and an RBI.
  • Jonathan India laid down two crucial sacrifice bunts in both the tenth and eleventh innings. They were his first two of the season. Christian Hicks also laid down his first successful sac bunt of the season in the tenth as well.
  • The game-winning run for Florida marks the first scored run of Kirby McMullen's collegiate career. He also worked his first collegiate walk to kickstart the inning.
  • Mike Rivera threw out his fifth baserunner of the year in the first inning of the game.
  • Even though the offense picked up, the patience at the plate was nonexistent as Florida's hitters struck out 16 times. It was just as bad for Stetson as 14 Hatters went down on strikes.
  • Five Gators struck out multiple times in this game. Andrew Baker registered a golden sombrero as he went 0-6 with four K's, Ryan Larson (1-5) and Deacon Liput (0-4) both had three K's, and Dalton Guthrie and JJ both struck out twice.
  • With this win, the Gators are now 1-6 in road games.
  • This is the third time this season that Florida's bullpen has blown a lead in the ninth inning or later.
  • Florida is now 1-1 in extra inning games.
  • This is just the second time all year that Florida has not had an extra-base hit in a game.

Looking Ahead
With their three-game losing streak over and the offense showing positive signs, the No. 12 Florida Gators (14-8, 0-3 SEC) will prepare for their opening SEC home series against the No. 4 LSU Tigers (16-5, 3-0 SEC).

The Gators swept the Tigers the last time they came to the Mac in 2014. Since Sully started coaching at Florida in 2008, the Gators are 9-3 against LSU at the Mac. A good home edge is what Florida needs after these recent road struggles. This is not a must-win series, but a series win/sweep would be real good for both Florida's confidence and their spot in the SEC standings.

The probable weekend starters for Florida are junior right-hander Alex Faedo (3-1, 2.93 ERA) on Friday night, sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (2-1, 1.74 ERA) on Saturday afternoon, and sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.35 ERA) on Sunday afternoon.

LSU will trot out junior right-hander Alex Lange (3-1, 5.04 ERA), senior left-hander Jared Poche' (5-0, 0.25 ERA), and freshman right-hander Eric Walker (3-0, 2.67 ERA) as their starters for this weekend.

The start times for all three games are 7 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. All but Game 2 can be seen on the the SEC Network (Game 2 will be televised on ESPN2). All of the games can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for the Stetson Hatters (8-15), all they have is a moral victory after nearly upsetting No. 12 Florida in DeLand. Their next stop will be in NOLA for the weekend as they take on the Tulane Green Wave (7-13) in a three-game set.



Monday, March 20, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 5 Florida vs Auburn Series Recap

The No. 5 Florida Gators (13-8, 0-3 SEC) had a rough weekend in their first SEC series of 2017 as the Auburn Tigers (17-5, 3-0 SEC) took all three games from them in Auburn. Here is a recap of each game.

Game 1 (March 17th)
In the series opener, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-5, 0-1 SEC) were completely dismantled as the Auburn Tigers (15-5, 1-0 SEC) crushed them by a score of 14-3.

Making his first road start of the season, junior ace Alex Faedo (3-1, 2.93 ERA) was not his usual self. In 4.1 innings of work, he walked a career-high six batters while allowing six earned runs on just four hits. He threw a total of 106 pitches while striking out five Tigers and hitting a batter as well.

Auburn was up 3-1 in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one out when Faedo was pulled. Coming in to relieve him was true freshman right-hander Kirby McMullen. From there, the game began to spiral out of control.

McMullen allowed an RBI single, hit a batter to score another run, struck out a batter, and then issued a walk to score another run. All of those runs were charged to Faedo and Auburn's lead increased to 6-1.

Having seen enough, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan pulled McMullen with the bases still loaded for junior left-hander Nick Horvath. Usually very good out of the pen, Horvath was not himself either in this game.

Auburn tagged him for four runs off of three hits and a passed ball. Half of those runs were charged to McMullen and the other half were on Horvath. After an Auburn fly out mercifully ended the inning, it was 11-1 Tigers. They had put up eight runs in the inning, which of course was the most Florida had allowed in any inning all season.

Tasked with finishing out the game and sparing the bullpen anymore labor was true freshman right-hander Nick Long. Entering in the sixth, he gave Florida three solid innings in a 56-pitch outing. He allowed three earned runs on six hits with one walk and one strikeout. As a mop-up man, he did his job.

Offensively, Florida was dreadful as they amassed just five total hits. They did lead this game at one point after scoring in the second inning, but Auburn would immediately knot things up in the bottom half of the frame. Aside from the second, the Gators scratched across one run in both the sixth and ninth innings.

Junior first baseman Christian Hicks was Florida's most productive hitter as he knocked in two runs this game. He had an RBI single in the second inning that scored Keenan Bell to make it 1-0 Florida and a ninth inning groundout that scored Ryan Larson to make it 14-3.

In the third inning, Dalton Guthrie recorded his lone hit of the contest with a single into right field. He would subsequently steal second base for his third swipe of the season, but would not score. He finished the game 1-3.

Florida had two extra-base hits in the game and they both came with the game already pretty much decided. Following the eight-run spot in the fifth, Jonathan India hit a two-out solo home run for his third long ball of the year to make it 12-2 Auburn. It would be his only hit as he went 1-4 on the night.

In the ninth inning, Ryan Larson led off with a pinch-hit triple before coming around to score two batters later. It was the second triple of his collegiate career and it helped raise his batting average to .375.

Rounding out what little offense Florida had was true freshman Andrew Baker. Making his first start as a position player in this series, Baker went 1-4 and notched his first career collegiate hit with a single to center field in the eighth inning.

Final Takeaway
This was by far one of the worst losses I have seen the Florida Gator baseball team suffer in a while. Before diving deeper into the heartbreak of Game 2, here are my final tidbits on this forgettable series opener:

  • Mike Rivera exited the game after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning.
  • Auburn was only able to tie the game up in the second inning after Deacon Liput failed to turn an inning-ending double play. He would get at least one out to avoid an error, but the Tigers would capitalize with a game-tying double in the very next at-bat. 
  • Florida was fortunate to have even scored in the second inning, as Auburn left fielder Bowen McGuffin misplayed a fly ball with two outs that allowed Keenan Bell to reach second base.
  • This is the first time since 2015 that the Gators have lost their SEC opener.
  • To no one's surprise, this is the worst loss of season up to this point and the most runs that Florida has allowed in a game this year.
  • This is Florida's first double-digit loss since May 1, 2015, which was an 11-1 defeat to Georgia.
  • Auburn ace Keegan Thompson (4-0, 0.78 ERA) was lights out against the Gators. He tossed 6.1 innings, allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits, struck out eight, walked two, and hit one batter on 99 pitches thrown.
  • Five Auburn players had multiple hits. Jonah Todd went 2-4 with two doubles, a run scored, and two RBI's; Bowen McGuffen was 3-5 with a double, three runs scored and an RBI; Josh Anthony went 2-4 with an RBI; Jay Estes was 2-3 with two doubles, three runs scored, and two RBI's; and Will Holland went 2-4 with a a two-run home run in the third inning, two runs scored, and 4 RBI's.
  • Alex Faedo's consecutive scoreless streak ends at 23.1 innings.
  • Deacon Liput and JJ Schwarz were the only two Gators to draw walks in the game.

Game 2 (March 18th)
In Game 2, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-6, 0-2 SEC) suffered their first series loss of 2017 as the Auburn Tigers (16-5, 2-0 SEC) defeated them by a score of 2-1.

Brady Singer (2-1, 1.74 ERA) took the bump for Florida and did a good job eating up innings. The sophomore right-hander went seven strong and allowed just two earned runs on five hits while throwing 111 pitches. Singer was his own worst enemy in this game as he balked twice in the third inning to give Auburn their first run of the game.

The Tigers would tack on their second run via back-to-back doubles in the fourth, but after that Singer settled down and stymied their bats. When he departed from the game, it was 2-1 Auburn.

Handling the eighth inning was left-hander Andrew Baker. He worked a clean frame as he struck out the first two batters and induced a groundout to keep it a one-run game.

Despite having the pitching in this game, Florida again was plagued with an inept offense. For the second consecutive game, they totaled just five hits.

Nelson Maldonado and Christian Hicks were responsible for nearly all of the offense as both players had multiple hits in this game. Nelly went 2-4 with a seventh inning double and a run scored while Hicks went 2-4 with a pair of singles in the second and fifth innings.

The only other Gator to record a hit was again Ryan Larson, who went 1-2 with a walk and a single in the fifth inning.

Florida had a plethora of opportunities to take the lead in this game, but failed to capitalize. In both the fifth and seventh innings, they had the bases loaded with less than two outs. Here's how those scenarios played out:

No Outs in the Fifth Inning
Mark Kolozsvary grounds out to third base and Nelson Maldonado is gunned out at the plate on a force play for the first out. Deacon Liput fouls out for the second out. Andrew Baker grounds out to first base to end the inning.

One out in Seventh Inning
Up with the bases loaded again, Deacon Liput lines one to Auburn shortstop Luke Jarvis. He drops it, and decides to go to second base for the force out. With no time to get Liput at first base, Auburn catches Ryan Larson in a pickle. Fortunately for Florida, Larson was able to stay alive in the rundown long enough for Nelson Maldonado to score the first and only Gator run of the contest.

Final Takeaway
It was not a blowout, but still a demoralizing loss as the Gators suffered their first series defeat since the LSU series at the end of last year. Before looking at the painful conclusion in the series finale, here are my final tidbits on Game 2:

  • As stated previously, this is Florida's first series loss of the 2017 season.
  • Jonathan India was responsible for the only Gator error of the game as he made a throwing error to first base in the second inning.
  • It was a rough day at the plate for Florida's No. 3 and 4 hitters as JJ Schwarz went 0-4 with three strikeouts and Jonathan India went 0-4 with two strikeouts.
  • Casey Mize (3-0, 0.30 ERA) followed suit from Friday night and carved up the Gators on this Saturday afternoon. The sophomore went seven innings, allowed one unearned run on five hits, struck out eight Gators, and issued just one free pass to Ryan Larson.
  • Jay Estes and Luke Jarvis carried Auburn's offense in this game as they were responsible for all five of the Tigers' hits. Estes went 2-3 with a double and run scored while Jarvis went a perfect 3-3 with a double and RBI.
  • Nelly's double was his fourth of the season.
  • Mike Rivera did not play in this game because of his wrist.
  • A mental error hurt Florida in the eighth inning as Andrew Baker failed to look where Dalton Guthrie hit the ball as he stole second base. By the time the freshman realized that it was a fly out to center field, he had been doubled off for the second out of the inning.
  • Speaking of Guthrie, he served as the designated hitter in this game (shoulder soreness) while Christian Hicks played shortstop.
  • Mark Kolozsvary reached base in the fifth inning due to catcher's interference with the count 0-2. Catcher's interference is usually not seen all too often.

*All stats accredited to

Game 3 (March 19th)
In the series finale, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-8, 0-3 SEC) suffered a walk off loss as the Auburn Tigers (17-5, 3-0 SEC) defeated them 6-5 to sweep the series.

Sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.35 ERA) got the start for Florida and did his job in terms of getting deep into the game. Throwing 97 pitches, Kowar tossed six frames while allowing five runs (two earned) on six hits. He struck out five Tigers, issued three walks, and hit one batter.

Kowar had some misfortune strike in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Gators up 4-1. With the bases loaded, he induced a lazy fly ball to the shortstop that appeared to end the inning and the Auburn scoring threat.

Keep in mind, however, that it was Christian Hicks at short instead of Dalton Guthrie. As Hicks floated towards the ball, the wind took it and it dropped right beyond the reach of his glove. Two runs would score to cut the lead to 4-3.

Instead of the inning being over, it was still two outs with runners on second and third in a one-run ballgame. This error would affect Kowar, as he threw a wild pitch to the next batter that knotted up the game at four a piece.

After working past the debacle of a third inning, Kowar was again victimized by an error in the seventh inning. After giving up a leadoff triple, Kowar induced a ground ball that ate up third baseman Jonathan India. The runner on third did not score, but it was now first and third with nobody out.

This would be the end of Kowar's outing as he was pulled for Andrew Baker. Once Baker took over, the Tigers struck again, as Jonah Todd hit a sacrifice fly to knot the game up at five and erase Kowar's chance at his fourth win of the season.

Once the game was tied, Sully replaced Baker with sophomore right-hander Michael Byrne. He needed just one pitch to instigate an inning-ending double play. In the eighth, Byrne returned and notched one out via a fly out before his day was over.

In Byrne's place came Nick Horvath, who was pulled after giving up a hit to the lone batter he faced. With one out and a man on first base in a 5-5 game, Sully again went to the pen and called upon senior Frank Rubio to keep the game tied.

The senior gave up a hit to make it first and second for Auburn, but then settled down. He got a fly out for the second out, and a groundout to Deacon Liput to end the inning.

In the ninth inning, the game remained tied and Rubio was back out there. Senior catcher Blake Logan led off the inning with a single, so Florida had to prepare for bunt defense. Auburn did as the Gators expected and laid down a bunt to advance Logan to second base.

However, no one was there to field the bunt and Auburn now had runners on first and second with no one out. After a pinch runner entered for Logan at second base, the Gators again prepared their bunt defense. Auburn again laid down a bunt and Rubio fielded the ball and tried to go to third base with the throw.

The result was a spiked throw that got past India and skirted down the left field foul line. Pinch runner J.J. Shaffer easily came in to score and the Tigers had walked off with a 6-5 victory and a series sweep. This final play summed up the whole weekend for the Gators.

Offensively, Florida was ready to go in this game as they banged out eight hits and scored four runs in the third inning and one run in the fifth.

Two Gators had multiple hits in this contest. First was Jonathan India. Out of the three-hole, the sophomore finished the series on a high note as he went 2-4 with a double, two runs scored, an RBI, and his fourth stolen base of the season.

India's lone RBI knotted the score up at one a piece in the top of the second inning. Joining him in the multi-hit department was Deacon Liput, who went 2-4 with a double out of the nine-spot.

Concluding the Gator double brigade was true freshman Andrew Baker, who notched his first collegiate extra-base hit in the third inning of this game. He finished the game 1-4 with a walk and run scored.

Final Takeaway
This was both a tough loss and series sweep to stomach. Before I can even give an opinion on this weekend, here are my final tidbits on both the series finale and this Auburn series as a whole:

  • This is the first time that Auburn has swept Florida since 1987. That's 30 YEARS in the making.
  • This is the first time that Florida has been swept since the LSU series at the end of the 2013 season.
  • This is Florida's fifth one-run loss of the year.
  • Florida has still not won a road game in 2017. They are 0-6 outside of the Mac.
  • Florida committed a total of five errors in the series. Auburn committed two.
  • Deacon Liput's double was his fourth two-bagger of the year.
  • JJ Schwarz registered his lone hit of the series in this game as he went 1-3 with two RBI's in the third inning. He also notched his first stolen bag of the year on a double steal with Jonathan India. He finishes the series 1-10 with two RBI's, one walk, and four strikeouts.
  • Ryan Larson stole his third bag of the season in this game.
  • Both Christian Hicks and Nelson Maldonado had sacrifice flies in this game. Nelly's gave Florida a 4-1 advantage in the fourth while Hicks broke the tie in the fifth inning. The sac flies were Nelly's second and Hicks's third of the season, respectively.
  • In addition to his sac fly, Nelly also got the lone Gator bunt of the series down in the fifth inning. It was his first sac bunt of the year.
  • This is Florida's second walk off loss of the year (Jacksonville on February 21st).
  • Faedo, Singer, and Rubio all suffered their first losses of the season in this series.
  • Mike Rivera was back in action as he caught the series finale. He went 1-4 from the plate with a run scored and threw out a runner on a delayed steal in the sixth inning.
  • A total of 8,766 fans were in attendance for this weekend series.

*All stats accredited to

Looking Ahead
A sweep at the hands of an unranked opponent is definitely not how the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-8, 0-3 SEC) wanted to start SEC play. It can be expected that they will drop some in the polls and may even fall out of the Top 10 after such a disappointing weekend.

Putting this series in the rearview mirror now, the Gators will again be away from the friendly confines of the Mac as they head to Deland, Florida, to take on the Stetson Hatters (8-14). The Gators have won four straight games over the Hatters and have not lost to them since the 2007 season.

Florida will most likely go with a true freshman on the mound for this game. I am thinking it will be either Austin Langworthy, Garrett Milchin, or Nate Brown who receives the start. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The in-state contest can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

For the weekend series, the good ole LSU Tigers (16-5, 3-0 SEC) are coming to town. Florida swept the Tigers when they came to the Mac in 2014, but struggled in Baton Rouge last season as they dropped two of three. This will be a real fun one to watch as my alma mater takes on my future law school in my favorite sport.

The probable weekend starters for Florida are the usual suspects. Alex Faedo will start Friday night, Brady Singer will start Saturday afternoon, and Jackson Kowar will start Sunday afternoon. LSU will counter with a combination of junior right-hander Alex Lange (3-1, 5.04 ERA), senior left-hander Jared Poche' (5-0, 0.25 ERA), and freshman right-hander Eric Walker (3-0, 2.67 ERA).

All the games can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network, while all but Game 2 can be seen on the SEC Network. Game 2 will be televised on ESPN2.

As for the Auburn Tigers (17-5, 3-0 SEC), they will most likely be ranked in the Top 25 once the new polls come out this week. They will head to Atlanta, Georgia, to play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-6) before heading to Athens for their first SEC road series against the Georgia Bulldogs (8-13, 0-3 SEC).



Sunday, March 19, 2017

UF Basketball: No. 4 Florida Advances to Sweet 16

The No. 4 seeded Florida Gators (26-8) absolutely dominated the No. 5 seeded Virginia Cavaliers (23-11) by a score of 65-39 to advance to their first Sweet 16 since the 2013-14 season. The Gators jumped on the Cavs early and never looked back as they took a 31-17 lead into the half.

Once play resumed, the Gators upped the lead to 40-17 before Virginia scored a basket with 17:15 left in the game. That layup put an end to a 21-0 Florida run that had spanned nearly nine minutes between the first and second halves. After this run, the Gators were able to put it on cruise control as Virginia did not threaten at all in the second half.

Florida's Leading Men
The Gators had two starters score in double figures tonight. First was junior forward Devin Robinson. Coming off a good game in the first round, D-Rob posted a double double as he scored 14 points and corralled 11 rebounds. He shot 5 of 8 from the field with two of these makes coming from three-point land.

The second double digit scorer for Florida was senior forward Justin Leon. Posting a double double as well, Leon also scored 14 points while bringing in 10 boards (one offensive). He was 4 of 8 on his field goal attempts and made half of his three-point attempts (3-6). He made all three of his free throw attempts.

Off the bench, junior guard Chris Chiozza registered a game-high five assists while totaling seven points, four rebounds, and two steals. Also scoring seven points from the bench was graduate transfer guard Canyon Barry, who notched most of those buckets going 4-4 at the free throw line.

As a team, the Gators did a good job getting to the free throw line as they had 18 attempts compared to Virginia's seven. Florida hit 11 of their charity strikes while the Cavs made all but one.

Virginia's Leading Men
The Gator defense shut down Virginia's offense completely. Star senior guard London Perrantes was more than held in check as he shot 2 of 12 from the field with just six points and four turnovers. In fact, Virginia did not have a single player reach double-digit scoring figures in this game.

Redshirt sophomore center Jack Salt was the only Cavs player to register double digits in a stat category as he pulled down 10 rebounds (two offensive).

Final Takeaway
The Florida Gators (26-8) are heading into the Sweet 16 with a full head of steam after dismantling Virginia in the Round of 32. Before previewing their Sweet 16 matchup, here are my final tidbits on the second round victory:

  • This is the 11th time in program history that the Florida Gators have reached the Sweet 16!
  • With this win, Florida is now 2-1 all-time against the Virginia Cavaliers with the two past victories both coming in the NCAA Tournament!
  • Virginia's 39 points is the lowest that they have ever scored in an NCAA Tournament game.
  • Florida's largest lead of the night was 65-36 with under four minutes remaining in the contest. Virginia's largest lead was 6-2 with just under 18 minutes to go in the first half.
  • Florida true freshman center Gorjok Gak had a career-high six points in the victory as he made all three of his shot attempts.
  • Florida senior point guard Kasey Hill notched one steal in this game to give him 179 career steals, which is the fourth most in Gator history!
  • Florida's defensive effort was one for the books as 39 points is the lowest they have allowed all season. 
  • Virginia did not shoot a free throw in the first half. Their first attempts from the line came with 17:15 remaining in the second half.

Looking Ahead
With Virginia dispatched, No. 4 seeded Florida will make a return trip to Madison Square Garden in New York for the Sweet 16. Their opponent will be the No. 8 seeded Wisconsin Badgers (27-9), who just upset the defending National Champions and No. 1 overall seeded Villanova Wildcats (32-4).

Florida and Wisconsin have not hooked up since the 2013-14 season, when the Badgers defeated the Gators by a score of 59-53 in Madison on November 12th. This will be the fourth meeting all-time between the two squads with the series knotted up at two wins a piece.

It is a very compelling matchup as Wisconsin enters with the marquee win of the tournament thus far. Florida, however, comes into this game with just as much momentum. Their win over Virginia is by far the most dominating defensive performance of any team this postseason. In fact, the 39 points that Florida allowed are the least amount that any team has scored thus far in the 2017 NCAA Tournament!

The last time Florida was at MSG was earlier this season in December. Playing in the Jimmy V Classic, the Orange and Blue lost a hard-fought battle to the Duke Blue Devils by a score of 84-74. This time around, the Gators are back in New York with a lot more at stake.

The tipoff time for the Florida/Wisconsin game has yet to be announced, but it will be one of the four possible time slots of 7 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 9:30 p.m., or 9:45 p.m. The game will take place on Friday, March 24th, and will be televised on either CBS or TBS.

*All stats accredited to