Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 10 Florida vs No. 18 South Carolina Series Recap

The No. 10 Florida Gators (27-13, 10-8 SEC) kept pace in the SEC East race with a series victory over the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (24-15, 9-9 SEC) at the Mac. Here is a recap of each game!

Game 1 (April 20th)
In the series opener on Thursday night, the No. 10 Florida Gators (26-12, 9-7 SEC) edged the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (23-14, 8-8) by a score of 1-0.

Junior ace Alex Faedo (6-1, 2.47 ERA) threw an absolute gem. Nearly going the distance, the right-hander tossed 8.2 shutout innings while scattering three hits. He struck out nine Gamecocks, walked four, and threw 125 pitches before being removed with a runner on first base and two outs.

In to get the save came sophomore closer Michael Byrne. He made sure no final rally would occur, as he needed just two pitches to induce the game-ending fly out. It was Byrne's seventh save of the 2017 campaign and gave Faedo his sixth victory of the season.

The Gators banged out five total hits while scoring the only run of the contest in the fifth inning. Junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie and true freshman designated hitter Keenan Bell led the way for Florida as the only two players with multiple hits on the night.

Guthrie went 2-4 with a double and his 10th stolen base of the year while Bell went 2-3 with the go-ahead RBI single in the fifth inning. He plated Christian Hicks, who accounted for the only other Gator hit in the game. The junior first baseman went 1-2 with a two-out double in the fifth inning, a walk, and the only run scored in the game.

Final Takeaway
This was a great opening win for the Gators in a crucial SEC series. Before recapping Game 2, here are my final tidbits on Florida's narrow victory:

  • Florida has now won seven straight home games over the Gamecocks.
  • This is the fourth time this year that Florida has won a game by a margin of 1-0.
  • This is the sixth time this season that Alex Faedo has thrown over 100 pitches in an outing.
  • Dalton Guthrie's double was his sixth of the year while Hicks's was his fifth.
  • Mark Kolozsvary had a sacrifice bunt in the third inning, which gives him three for the season.
  • Kolo also threw out his fifth baserunner of the year to end the eighth inning.
  • This is Keenan Bell's sixth multi-hit game of the year while it's Guthrie's 13th.
  • The only error of the game came against Florida in the seventh when JJ Schwarz misplayed a grounder with two outs.
  • Carlos Cortes, Madison Stokes, and Matt Williams were the only Gamecocks to notch a hit off of Faedo.
  • 3,254 fans were in attendance to see yet another dominant pitching performance from Faedo.

Game 2 (April 21st)
In a second straight night game on Friday, the No. 10 Florida Gators (26-13, 9-8 SEC) fell to the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (24-14, 9-8 SEC) by a score of 4-2.

Sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (4-3, 1.94 ERA) took the mound and threw a decent game against the Gamecocks. He went 5.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on six hits. He struck out five, walked two, and hit one batter while throwing 101 pitches.

When Singer departed with one out in the sixth, Florida trailed 3-1 with runners on first and third. Coming on was junior left-hander Nick Horvath to face the left-handed hitting Matt Williams. After Williams bunted the second pitch of the at-bat, Horvath got the lead runner out at third and was then removed after successfully doing his job.

Now with two outs and runners on second and third, senior right-hander Frank Rubio was called upon to get Florida out of the jam. He did just that, inducing a groundout to end the threat. Rubio would get tagged for a run in the seventh, and left at the start of the eighth with the score 4-1 South Carolina. He finished with a stat line of one earned run on two hits in 1.1 innings.

In the eighth, true freshman right-hander Kirby McMullen entered and worked past a leadoff hit to throw a scoreless frame with one strikeout. In the ninth, another true freshman in Tyler Dyson took the bump. The 6'2 true freshman looked excellent as he sandwiched a groundout between two strikeouts to keep the game close going into the bottom of the ninth.

Florida was essentially shut down by Gamecock starter Will Crowe (4-3, 3.25 ERA) as they scored just two runs on eight hits. Crowe was sensational as he went seven innings and allowed one earned run on six hits. He struck out three batters and threw 116 pitches before being replaced in the eighth.

Like the night before, two Gators again had multiple hits. JJ Schwarz went 2-4 and scored in the ninth on a balk. Back at it again, Keenan Bell turned in a  2-4 performance with an RBI single in the second.

Four other Gators accounted for the rest of the team's base knocks. True freshman center fielder Austin Langworthy went 1-4, sophomore right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk, Christian Hicks went 1-4, and junior catcher Mark Kolozsvary went 1-4 with a double.

The Gators had opportunities in the both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not capitalize. They loaded the bases in the eighth with no outs, but could not plate a run against 6'2 flame-throwing closer Tyler Johnson.

In the ninth, Florida got the tying run to the plate, but could not muster up enough offensive power to get past Johnson.

Final Takeaway
Just like last weekend against Vandy, Florida suffered a tough two-run loss behind solid pitching from their opponent. Before recapping the rubber match, here are my final tidbits on the Gator defeat in Game 2:

  • Kolo's double was his third of the year.
  • Keenan Bell registered his seventh multi-hit game of the year. For JJ, it was his eighth.
  • South Carolina had two guys with multiple hits. Carlos Cortes went 2-5 with a two-run home run in the first inning and Jacob Olson went 2-4 with an RBI double in the sixth inning.
  • Gamecock closer Tyler Johnson is the real deal. He sat at 95 MPH the whole night and at one point touched 101!
  • Florida remained perfect defensively in the game while South Carolina registered one error.
  • 4,384 fans showed out for this Friday night contest at the Mac.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com

Game 3 (April 22nd)
In the rubber match, the No. 10 Florida Gators (27-13, 10-8 SEC) used late-inning heroics to stun the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (24-15, 9-9 SEC) and win both the game and the series by a score of 7-5.

Sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (6-0, 3.90 ERA) had the ball and was roughed up a tad in his 6.1 innings of work. He gave up five earned runs on 11 hits, struck out four, and balked TWICE. Both of his balks resulted in Gamecock runs as the first one occurred in the first inning and the second in the fifth inning.

Despite Kowar getting hit relatively hard, Florida remained in the game. It was after he served up a two-run homer to Chris Cullen in the seventh inning that Kowar was pulled from the game. He was the only Gator starter to not top 100 pitches this weekend as he was at 98 when head coach Kevin O'Sullivan gave him the hook.

With Florida down 5-3, Nick Horvath came in with one out and a runner on first. He needed just one pitch to generate an inning-ending double play. In the eighth, Horvath allowed a leadoff single before recording the first out on a sacrifice bunt.

His day would again end after a bunt as true freshman right-hander Garrett Milchin entered. He needed just two pitches for a groundout and a fly out to end the eighth. When Florida took a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Michael Byrne's came on to clinch the series.

After allowing a leadoff single, Byrne used a double play and a fly out to earn his eighth save of year and win the series for Florida. Milchin was awarded his third win of both the season and his collegiate career despite throwing just two pitches in the entire game.

Offensively, Florida had just seven hits and scored a run in the second, third, and sixth innings before lowering the boom and scoring four in the eighth.

Before highlighting any Gator batters, here's how that epic eighth inning went down:

Eighth Inning
With Florida down 5-3, Austin Langworthy singled to right field to leadoff the inning. Ryan Larson then drew a walk. South Carolina made a pitching change and their reliever proceeded to walk Nelson Maldonaldo on four pitches.

Just like last night, the bases were loaded with no outs in the eighth inning. Except this time, Florida had their best hitter stepping to the plate out of the six-hole. That's right, JJ Schwarz came to the plate with the series literally hinging on his at-bat.

After taking one pitch, JJ blasted the next offering he saw two rows in front of me in the left field bleachers for a grand slam! It was JJ's only hit of the game, but could not have come at a bigger moment!

Offensive Performers
Seven different Gators had a hit in this game. Out of the two-hole, Dalton Guthrie went 1-4. Behind him in the three-hole, Austin Langworthy went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk. In the cleanup spot, senior left fielder Ryan Larson went 1-3 with two runs scored, an RBI, and a walk.

In the five-hole, Nelson Maldonaldo went 2-3 with a game-tying home run in the sixth inning, two runs scored, an RBI, and a walk. After him, JJ hit his grand slam to plate four including himself while also drawing two walks. Rounding out the offense from the nine-hole, Mark Kolozsvary went 1-4.

Final Takeaway
As he has done before, JJ Schwarz powered the Gators to victory with a clutch grand slam. Although he has struggled as points this season, JJ proves time and time again how valuable he is to this Florida Gator baseball club. Hopefully this grand slam puts him on a hot streak for the remaining 15 games of the regular season.

After yet another gritty series with the Gamecocks, Florida proved victorious and remains just two games behind the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (28-13, 12-6 SEC) for first place. Before looking ahead to Florida's next SEC series, here are my final tidbits on the both the series clincher and the South Carolina series as a whole:

  • This is Florida's fifth straight series win over the Gamecocks. I am not going to let last year's series interrupt the streak, as the finale up in Columbia was rained out with the series at 1-1.
  • Sully is 20-9 against South Carolina in the regular season.
  • The Gators have not dropped a home series to the Gamecocks since 2011.
  • This is the fourth home series in five attempts that Florida has won over South Carolina and their seventh series victory over South Carolina in Sully's ten seasons.
  • JJ's grand slam puts him at five long balls on the year, while Nelly's gives him three.
  • Both teams finished with just one error a piece in the series.
  • 3,604 dedicated fans braved the heat and showed up for this hot Saturday afternoon game.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com

Looking Ahead
With a second straight (and third overall) SEC series victory under their belt, the now No. 8 Florida Gators (27-13, 10-8 SEC) will prepare for a road trip to Athens to take on the struggling Georgia Bulldogs (16-25, 5-13 SEC). The Dawgs are in last place in the SEC East and are coming off of a series loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores (25-16, 9-9 SEC). Prior to winning Game 2 of the series, Georgia had lost five straight.

Florida has won three straight series over Georgia, with their last series loss taking place in Athens during the 2013 season. The Gators need to avoid playing down to their competition if they wish to extend their streak to four years. Georgia has beaten just one ranked opponent (at the time No. 9 Auburn) this season but may just be saving their best three games of the season for the hated Gators.

Florida has struggled on the road predominantly this season, posting a 7-7 record away from the Mac. Even though Foley Field holds just 3,291 and the students will be preoccupied with exams does not mean Florida will not have to grind to win (and even sweep) this series. It should be a good one, and hopefully I can make some time in my busy weekend to catch the games.

The Gators are now back on the normal weekend series schedule of Friday through Sunday. Like usual for Florida's probables, Alex Faedo will get the Friday start, Brady Singer will throw Saturday, and Jackson Kowar will close things out on Sunday.

As for Georgia, they will probably counter with junior right-hander Chase Adkins (5-4, 3.43 ERA), senior left-hander Andrew Gist (2-3, 3.99 ERA), and possibly freshman right-hander Zac Kristofak (2-1, 4.02 ERA).

The games are scheduled for 7 p.m on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. All of them can be seen on the SEC Network+ and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for now No. 21 ranked South Carolina (24-15, 9-9 SEC), they will return to Columbia for a huge series against the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (28-13, 12-6 SEC). Florida should be rooting for the Gamecocks, as a potential sweep or series win along with Orange and Blue success in Athens could put these two right at the top of the SEC East standings.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 10 Florida Squeaks by UNF

The No. 10 Florida Gators (25-12) won a tight one tonight as they defeated the North Florida Ospreys (26-14) by a score of 2-1 at the Mac.

True freshman Nate Brown (1-0, 3.45 ERA) made his fourth career start and went three innings. He allowed one earned run on six hits with one strikeout. When he was pulled at 54 pitches with no outs in the fourth inning, the game was scoreless and North Florida had runners on first and second.

Enter senior side-armer Frank Rubio, who gave up an RBI single to his first batter with the count 0-2. The run would be charged to Brown and UNF's only one of the contest. After allowing the run, Rubio buckled down as the Ospreys sacrifice bunted for the first out. He then struck out the next batter and induced a pop out to end the frame without any additional damage.

From there Rubio would work a perfect fifth, use a double play to get past a hit and an error in the sixth, and work a perfect seventh. When he was relieved in favor of Garrett Milchin in the eighth, Rubio had thrown a career-high four innings on 49 pitches. He allowed just two hits and struck out three batters.

The true freshman made sure Rubio's hard work did not go to waste. Milchin worked a perfect eighth inning to keep the score at 2-1 set the stage for closer Michael Byrne. In the final frame, the sophomore right-hander came in and nailed down his sixth save of the season. He tossed a perfect inning that culminated with a game-ending strikeout. As a result, Rubio would receive his first win of the season and fourth overall in his career.

The Gators took a step back from their recent offensive outbursts as they scored just two runs on six total hits. Both of Florida's runs came in back-to-back innings in the fourth and fifth.

The Gators knotted things up in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out double from JJ Schwarz that plated Austin Langworthy. In the fifth, the Gators again used clutch two-out hitting as Dalton Guthrie singled to right field to score the inevitable winning run in Keenan Bell.

In addition to the game-deciding base knock, Guthrie was also the only Gator with multiple hits on the night. He went 2-3 with a double, an RBI, a walk, and his ninth stolen base of the season.

For the other four Florida hits, Austin Langworthy went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk while JJ Schwarz went 1-2 with a double and a walk out of the six-hole. From the bottom of the lineup, both Mark Kolozsvary and Keenan Bell went 1-3 with Bell scoring a run.

Final Takeaway
Florida did a good job following up a successful weekend series with a good midweek win over a lesser opponent. The runs may have been few, but the Gators had just enough offense to pull this one out.

Before briefly previewing the weekend series ahead, here are my final tidbits on the victory over UNF:

  • Florida has now won four straight games over the Ospreys.
  • The Gators are now 10-4 against UNF under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan.
  • Dalton Guthrie's double was his fifth of the year while JJ Schwarz's was his seventh.
  • Jonathan India did not play this game. I have no idea as to why he is not seeing as much playing time.
  • Florida had two errors in this game to UNF's one. Nate Brown made a bad throw to second base in the second and Christian Hicks misplayed a ball at third base in the sixth. UNF's lone error would be a backbreaker as it led to Florida scoring the go-ahead run in the fifth.
  • Christian Hicks has now made nine errors on the season to lead the team.
  • JJ Schwarz threw out his third base runner of the year in the top of the first inning.
  • UNF had two guys with multi-hit games. They were Chris Berry (2-4) and Christian Diaz (2-4 with an RBI)
  • 2,777 fans showed out for this Tuesday night game amid finals and no marquee opponent.

Looking Ahead
In another Thursday through Saturday weekend series, the No. 10 Florida Gators (25-12, 8-7 SEC) will prepare for a critical series with the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (22-13, 8-7 SEC). This series will have big SEC East implications and is critical for Florida to win if they wish to keep pace with a hot Kentucky team.

Florida's probable starers for the series will be junior right-hander Alex Faedo (5-1, 2.84 ERA) on Thursday, sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (4-2, 1.68 ERA) on Friday, and sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (6-0, 3.51 ERA) on Saturday.

South Carolina will most likely trot out junior right-hander Clarke Schmidt (4-1, 1.31 ERA), sophomore right-hander Adam Hill (2-3, 2.23 ERA), and junior right-hander Will Crowe (3-3, 3.49 ERA).

Similar to last weekend, Game 1 will be televised on ESPNU, Game 2 can be seen on the SEC Network+, and Game 3 will be televised as well but on ESPN2. Each one can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for North Florida (26-14, 7-2 A-Sun), they will head back home to Jacksonville to host the USF Bulls (29-7) in a Wednesday contest. For the weekend series, they will play host to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (28-11, 4-5 A-Sun) in Atlantic Sun action at Harmon Stadium.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com



Monday, April 17, 2017

Top 10 Moments from the 2017 World Baseball Classic

The fourth annual World Baseball Classic was one for the ages as the United States brought home their first ever championship in the global tournament. With the tournament's prospects only growing after another successful year, I wanted to take a look back at some of the great moments that the WBC gave us in the month of March.

So without further adeiu, here are my Top 10 moments from the 2017 World Baseball Classic. But first, here are the honorable mentions!

Honorable Mention: Javy Baez's Swim Move Slide, Manny Machado's Throw, Giancarlo Stanton's Line Drive Home Run

10) Italy's Ninth Inning Comeback
Photo Credits: NYTimes.com

In the opening game of Pool D action in Jalisco, Mexico, Italy was trailing Mexico 9-5 entering the ninth inning. All hope seemed bleak for Italy as they had not scored since the fifth inning. To make matters worse, Roberto Osuna -who had 56 saves in his two-year major league career thus far- was in to shut the door for Mexico.

Francisco Cervelli got things rolling for Italy with a leadoff double to left field. Sebastian Poma entered the game to run for Cervelli, and he came in to score on a Chris Colabello double to left field. It was now 9-6 Mexico.

Third baseman Alex Liddi then hit the third double of the inning to plate Colabello and make it 9-7. After a meeting on the mound for Mexico, Drew Butera hit a grounder that shortstop that Luis Alfonso Cruz misplayed. Butera advanced to third and Italy had runners on the corners and still nobody out.

Pinch hitter Drew Maggi worked a walk to load the bases, and now the winning run was on first base. After another mound visit, Osuna was pulled for the veteran left-hander Oliver Perez. On a 1-2 count, leadoff man Brandon Nimmo hit a line drive that went in and out of right fielder Alex Verdugo's glove. Butera came across to score and it was now 9-8 with still nobody out.

The stage was now set for Cubs prospect John Adreoli. On a 1-1 count, he hit a hard ground ball that went off the glove of second baseman Luis Urias to score both Butera and Maggi for the game-winning single. Italy had won 10-9 and absolutely shocked Mexico.

Although Italy would not get past the first round of pool play, their win ultimately prevented Mexico from advancing to the second round.

9) Israel Wins Pool A in WBC Debut
Photo Credits: Haaretz.com

In their first ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic, Israel jumped out to a hot start as they won their first four games. They swept through Pool A in Seoul, South Korea, by scores of 2-1 over South Korea in ten innings, 15-7 over Chinese Tapei, and 4-2 over an eventual semifinalist in the Netherlands.

In second round action in Tokyo, Israel kept to their winning ways as they defeated Cuba 4-1. Unfortunatley, the mojo would run out for this dark horse teams as the Netherlands routed them 12-2 in seven innings and Japan defeated them 8-3 to seal their fate. Regardless, it was still an incredible run from a team whose most prominent player was 38-year old pitcher Jason Marquis.

8) Javy Baez's No-Look Tag
Photo Credits: CBSSports.com

In the second round out in San Diego, the Dominicans put their 11-game winning streak to the test against a Puerto Rican team they defeated for the WBC title just four years ago.

With two outs in the eighth inning and Puerto Rico leading 3-1, Nelson Cruz tried to steal second base on the arm of future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina. The 34-year old catcher did not hesitate and fired a bullet down to second base.

Covering the steal, the flamboyant Javy Baez reached second base and pointed at Molina to congratulate him before the ball arrived. When he caught it, the 24-year old second baseman put a no-look tag on Cruz for the final out of the frame. It was an incredible play that summed up the attitude and swagger that Team Puerto Rico played with.

The score would hold and Puerto Rico would win the game 3-1. The Dominican Republic's winning streak had finally seen its end.

7) Wladimir Balentien Has a Day
Photo Credits: CBC.ca

In the second round in Tokyo, the Netherlands were in a de facto elimination game against a Cuban team that had lost both of their games in this stage of the tournament. Having just smoked Israel 12-2 the previous night, the offense carried over as the Netherlands blasted Cuba 14-1 in seven innings.

Within that blowout, former major league Wladimir Balentien put on a show. The 32-year old went 3-4 with two home runs, three runs scored, and five RBI's. His effort along with four RBI's from Yurendell DeCaster and three hits from Jurickson Profar helped propel the Netherlands to their second consecutive WBC Semifinals.

6) Jose Bautista's Game-Saving Throw
Photo Credits: MiamiHerald.com

On the final day of pool play in the opening round, Colombia had runners on first and third in the bottom of the ninth with one out and score knotted up at 3-3. A win for the Columbians would automatically put them in the second round and severely hurt the Dominicans' shot at a repeat.

With Reynaldo Rodriguez up to bat, the 30-year old minor leaguer hit a 1-2 pitch to left field for what looked like a possible game-winning sacrifice fly. As pinch runner Oscar Mercado tagged up and dashed towards home, All-Star outfielder Jose Bautista caught the ball and threw a rocket to the plate.

The throw reached catcher Wellington Castillo right as Mercado came sliding in and the result was an inning-ending double play! Mercado did not even touch the plate and if anything he slid right into Castillo's tag! This incredible play kept the Dominicans alive and allowed them to get to the 11th inning, where runners were put on first and second base with no outs to start the frame.

The Dominicans would use this to their advantage as they scored seven times in the 11th to win the game 10-3 and eliminate Colombia from the tournament.

5) USA Walks Off in WBC Opener
Photo Credits: BaltimoreSun.com

In the opening game of the tournament for both squads, the USA and first-timer Colombia squared off in an instant classic. It was mainly a pitcher's duel as Colombia had just five hits and the USA had six. The USA's final base knock, though, would be the one that mattered.

In the bottom of the tenth inning with the scored tied at 2-2, Daniel Murphy led off with a fly out to left fielder. Then, pinch hitter Christian Yelich and nine-hole hitter Brandon Crawford drew back-to-back walks to put the winning run on second base with one out in the inning. An Ian Kinsler groundout would move them up to second and third, leaving the USA a single away from victory.

Up to bat was five-time All Star Adam Jones, who quickly fell behind in the count 0-2. The 31-year old did not concede, however, as he smacked a hit in the gap to plate Yelich and walk it off for Team USA! This would not be the last of Jones's heroics in the WBC.

4) USA Advances to First Ever WBC Final
Photo Credits: NBCBayArea.com

In just their second ever semifinals appearance, the USA was pitted against the formidable Japan. They had lost to Team Japan in the 2009 semis, so eight years later the Americans repaid the favor. In a low-scoring affair, Adam Jones again played the hero as he plated the go-ahead run with a groundout in the eighth inning.

Now up 2-1, the USA bullpen worked past a leadoff single and sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning to work a scoreless frame. In the ninth, Luke Gregerson was perfect as he used two groundouts and a strikeout to send the United States to their first ever WBC Final.

3) Puerto Rico Walks Off into WBC Final
Photo Credits: TheScore.com

Back in the semifinals for the second consecutive WBC, Team Puerto Rico was locked in a tight one with the Netherlands. This game would need extra innings with the score 3-3, thus invoking the runners on first and second rule.

In the top of the 11th, the Netherlands bunted their two runners over before an intentional walk loaded the bases. With the eight-hole due up, designated hitter Curt Smith jumped on the first pitch he saw and grounded into a double play to end the inning. Puerto Rico had an opportune chance to walk it off now.

In the bottom half of the 11th, Yadier Molina bunted the runners over and Javy Baez was walked to load the bases with one out. With a chance to be the hero, 25-year old Eddy Rosario did not hesitate as he jumped on the first pitch and hit a fly ball to center field.

It would be deep enough to score Carlos Correa, who came racing home to score the game-winning run. For the second straight year, Puerto Rico was going to the WBC Finals!

2) Adam Jones Robs Manny Machado
Photo Credits: WashingtonPost.com

The most impressive play of the entire WBC in my opinion occurred during the elimination game between the United States and Dominican Republic in the second round. With the USA up 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, 24-year old Manny Machado hit a shot to center field. From the look of his walk out of the box, Machado knew ball was out.

Adam Jones, a teammate of Machado's on the Baltimore Orioles, tracked the ball and lea\pt at the wall in center field to rob the home run and record a long out number one. In disbelief, Machado could do nothing else but tip his hat to his teammate for making such an incredible catch. Jones returned the gesture with a hat tip of his own.

This play would turn out to be huge as Robinson Cano went yard in the very next at-bat to cut the lead to 4-3. A two-run eighth would give the USA a 6-3 cushion and they went on to eliminate the Dominicans to advance to their second ever WBC semifinals.

1) USA Wins It All
Photo Credits: Scout.com

Coming in at No. 1 on my list is the USA completing the journey for their first ever WBC title. In my predictions for this year's tournament, I had picked the USA to win it all. So to see them actually get to the championship and shut out a sizzling hot Puerto Rican team was bitter sweet for a Puerto Rican-American like myself.

It was great to see my home country -which I love to death- win and prove me right. On the other hand, it was tough to watch Puerto Rico finish runner-up in back-to-back World Baseball Classics. For the actual game though, this one was a laugher. Marcus Stroman bounced back from his first poor start against Puerto Rico and had a no-hitter through six innings.

After allowing a leadoff double to Angel Pagan in the seventh, Stroman was pulled with the USA up 7-0. He finished with three strikeouts and just one walk in a 75-pitch outing. His efforts would win him MVP honors of the 2017 WBC.

After Stroman's departure, the trio of Sam Dyson, Pat Neshek, and David Robertson would each get three of the final nine outs as the USA comfortably won the title by a score of 8-0.

Ian Kinsler, Christian Yelich, Nolan Arenado, Andrew McCutchen, and Giancarlo Stanton all had multiple hits in the game. Kinsler went 2-5 with a home run, two runs scored, two RBI's, and a walk. Yelich went 2-5 with a double, a run scored, and an RBI. Arenado went 2-5 with two runs scored.

McCutchen went 2-4 with a run scored, two RBI's, and a walk. Rounding out the quintet, Big G went 2-5 with a double and an RBI.

Among the USA players with one hit, Brandon Crawford went 1-5 with an RBI single that extended the lead to 7-0 in the seventh.

This win in my opinion has opened the floodgates for Team USA in future World Baseball Classics. With the Red, White, and Blue going the distance, more marquee players may feel enticed to join and take part in what truly is a unique experience.

Final Thoughts
I hope you enjoyed this Top 10 list! I look forward to see what the World Baseball Classic brings when 2021 rolls around (I'll be in my final semester of law school then)! Until then, stay tuned for my weekly articles on the Gator baseball team as they prepare to take on North Florida this upcoming Tuesday and No. 11 South Carolina this weekend.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 10 Florida vs Vanderbilt Series Recap

The No. 10 Florida Gators (24-12, 8-7 SEC) were victorious this weekend as they took two out of three games from the Vanderbilt Commodores (22-15, 7-8 SEC) up in Nashville. Here is a recap of each game.

Game 1 (April 13th)
Using a ninth-inning comeback, the No. 10 Florida Gators (23-11, 7-6 SEC) won the series opener by a score of 10-6 over the Vanderbilt Commodores (21-14, 6-7 SEC).

Junior ace Alex Faedo (5-1, 2.84 ERA) started this Thursday contest and got touched up a bit against the Commodore offense. Although just two of the them were earned, Faedo gave up six runs on seven hits in six innings of work. He struck out seven Vandy hitters while walking just one.

After 103 pitches, Faedo's night was over with the Gators down 6-4. Taking over pitching duties for the seventh was true freshman Garrett Milchin. He helped keep Vandy at bay as he allowed just one hit and struck out one in two innings of relief.

After Florida rallied from a 6-5 deficit to make it 10-6 in the ninth, sophomore closer Michael Byrne entered to seal the deal. He tossed a scoreless frame while striking out two and allowing a hit. He would induce a fly out for the final out to secure the win. In the process, Garrett Milchin was awarded his second win of both the year and his career.

Offensively, Florida banged out 17 hits while scoring 10 runs and also mounting their first ninth inning comeback of the season. Before I highlight the many offensive dignitaries on the night, here is a rundown of how the ninth inning went:

Ninth Inning
Down 6-5 entering the inning, Florida had the bottom portion of the lineup hitting. Jonathan India led things off with a single to right field. Christian Hicks then followed suit and moved India to third with a single to right field as well.

Up next was Ryan Larson, one of Florida's hottest hitters of late. He jumped on the first pitch he saw and knotted things up at six with a shot into left field. A Mark Kolozsvary bunt would put runners on second and third, which set up an intentional walk for leadoff man Deacon Liput.

With the bases loaded now, Dalton Guthrie came to the plate and smacked a 2-0 pitch into center field to give Florida a 7-6 advantage. This would prove to be just the calm before the storm, as true freshman Austin Langworthy came up to bat and hit a bases-clearing double down the left field line. It was now 10-6 Florida and all the wind had been taken out of Vanderbilt's sails.

Langworthy would swipe third base, but would not come in to score as JJ Schwarz struck out and Nelson Maldonaldo flew out to right field.

Offensive Performers
Five Gators had multiple hits in the game while all but two had at least a base knock in the contest. The top of the lineup accounted for nearly half of Florida's hits!

Starting in the leadoff spot, sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput went 3-5 with two runs scored, an RBI, and a walk. Behind him in the two-hole, junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie went 2-5 with a double, a run scored, and two RBI's. In the three-hole, center fielder Austin Langworthy made Vandy feel his presence as he went 3-5 with a career-high four RBI's, a walk, and three stolen bases.

Two spots down, sophomore right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo went 2-3 with a run scored, an RBI, and a game-high three walks. Finally is the man who stole the show with a career-day: Ryan Larson. The senior left fielder hit the ball all over the yard as he notched a career-high five hits on a 5-5 performance! He had two doubles, three runs scored, and two RBI's.

For the Gators with one hit, both Jonathan India and Christian Hicks went 1-5 with a run scored.

Final Takeaway
Winning the opener in a series of this magnitude is huge for Florida. To do it in the manner they did as well with a ninth inning comeback makes it even sweeter. Before moving to the Game 2 recap, here are my final tidbits on Florida's series opening victory:

  • Dalton Gurthie's double was his fourth of the year, Austin Langworthy's was his third, and Ryan Larson's pair puts him at five on the season.
  • Austin Langworthy's three stolen bases are the most he has ever had in one game and give him four on the year. Prior to this game, his only stolen base had come against William & Mary on February 18th.
  • Dalton Guthrie had a sacrifice fly in the third inning of this game, giving him three for the year.
  • Kolo's sac bunt was his second of the season.
  • The Gators made three errors in this game. Christian Hicks made a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the second inning that gave Vandy a 1-0 lead. Dalton Guthrie made an error in the bottom of the fourth inning on a grounder that eventually led to two Vandy runs and a 4-2 Commodore lead. In the very next inning, Alex Faedo made a bad throw to first base that fortunately did not turn into another run.
  • Faedo's lone walk to Will Toffey would be Vandy's only free pass of the game. On the other side, the Gators drew seven walks as a team.
  • Both teams registered 10 strikeouts between their starters and the bullpen.
  • This is the third time all season that Florida has scored double digit runs in a game.
  • Florida trailed the entire game until the ninth inning.
  • 3,148 fans were in attendance for this highly touted Thursday night matchup.

Game 2 (April 14th)
In the Game 2 contest on Friday night, it was deja vu for the No. 10 Florida Gators (23-12, 7-7 SEC). Similar to last season, Kyle Wright (2-4, 3.98 ERA) went the distance and shut them out as Vanderbilt (22-14, 7-7 SEC) won 2-0 to even the series.

Sticking with Wright pitch for pitch was sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (4-2, 1.68 ERA). He went the distance as the road starter, going eight innings on 101 pitches while allowing two runs on 11 hits. He struck out eight Commodores while walking just one.

On the other side, potential Top 10 draft pick Kyle Wright was phenomenal. After tossing a complete game shut out against Florida in Gainesville last season, the junior right-hander again cut through the Gator lineup.

Throwing all nine innings on just 99 pitches, Wright struck out a career-high 13 Gators while allowing only three hits for his second win of the season. He faced 30 batters, which is just three over the minimum. I tip my hat to Wright after a truly marvelous performance!

As just stated, Kyle Wright shut down the Gator offense on this night. Only three Gators had hits and they were all singles. The culprits were Austin Langworthy, Nelson Maldonaldo, and Mark Kolozsvary. Everyone but Christian Hicks had at least one strikeout. Five Gators (Deacon Liput, Austin Langworthy, JJ Schwarz, Jonathan India, and Kolo) had two strikeouts.

Final Takeaway
Florida just simply could not figure out Kyle Wright. That man was on another level and could not be touched this night. It is hard to even get upset after a loss like this when the opposing pitcher was throwing that good.

I give credit to Brady Singer as well though. He threw a gem himself and made sure Florida would not need to dip into the bullpen during this game.

Before recapping the rubber match, here are my final tidbits on Florida's shutout loss in Game 2:

  • This is the first time all season that Florida has been shut out. Their last shutout loss was to Florida State in Super Regionals back in June.
  • Going back to last season, Kyle Wright is 2-0 against Florida with 23 strikeouts and zero runs allowed in 18 innings. Truly remarkable!
  • This is the third time this season that Brady Singer has gone the distance!
  • Vandy picked up both of their runs in the fifth and seventh innings. They went up 1-0 on a throwing error from Kolo in the fifth and then 2-0 on a Jeren Kendall sac fly in the seventh.
  • This is the fourth game this season where Florida did not record an extra-base hit.
  • Kolo threw out two runners in this game to up his season total to four base stealers wiped off the base paths.
  • Not a single Gator hitter drew a walk against Wright. In fact, Wright had three ball counts on just three of the 30 batters he faced. Julian Infante was the only Commodore to earn a free pass against Brady Singer.
  • 3,626 fans showed out for this game.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com

Game 3 (April 15th)
In the rubber match, the No. 10 Florida Gators (24-12, 8-7 SEC) won their third straight series over the Vanderbilt Commodores (22-15, 7-8 SEC) with an incredible 20-8 rout.

Sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (6-0, 3.51 ERA) remained undefeated on the year as he again turned in exactly five innings for the third consecutive game. In those frames, Kowar allowed six earned runs on 10 hits while striking out six and walking two.

After 79 pitches, Kowar was removed with the Gators holding a commanding 13-6 lead as the sixth inning rolled around. Taking his place was junior left-hander Nick Horvath, who did a great job making sure Vandy did not get back into this one. He gave Florida three solid innings of relief where he allowed two earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts.

When the ninth inning finally arrived and Florida was safely ahead 20-8, true freshman right-hander Tyler Dyson entered and mercifully put the Commodores away. After giving up a leadoff single, Dyson zoned in and sandwiched a strikeout between a pop out and a fly out to clinch the series victory.

Florida's offense was insane. Their 20 runs and 20 hits in this game were both season-highs. Florida scored in every inning except the second and fourth. They put up four in the first, eight in the third, one in the fifth, two in the sixth through eighth innings, and then one final run in the ninth to make it an even 20.

Every starter had at least one hit with all but Austin Langworthy having multi-hit games. I am just going to start with the top of the lineup and work down since I have never written about this prolific of an offensive performance from the Gators.

In the leadoff spot, Deacon Liput posted a 3-7 day with a triple, one run scored, and two RBI's. Liput's triple made it 15-6 Florida while his RBI groundout in the ninth helped the Gators reach the 20-run mark.

Behind him, Dalton Guthrie had himself a day as he went 2-4 with two solo home runs, three runs scored, two RBI's, and three walks. Dalt's first home run kicked off the scoring in the first and his second long ball in the eighth padded the lead at 18-7.

In the three-hole, Austin Langworthy went 1-4 with a double, three runs scored, and an RBI that upped the score to 13-5 in the fifth. He showed great patience like Guthrie as he worked three walks in the game.

In the cleanup spot, Ryan Larson continued to swing it well as he went 2-3 with a double, two runs scored, and two walks. He and Christian Hicks were the only starters without an RBI in the game. Both of them were also pinch hit for in the late stages of the game.

Behind Larson in the five-hole, Nelson Maldonaldo posted a 2-5 day with a home run, two runs scored, four RBI's, and a walk. Nelly jumpstarted things early with a three-run bomb in the first inning to make it 4-0 Florida before later singling in the third to extend the lead to 12-0.

Nelly was one of three Gators to drive in four runs, and that next guy was right behind him in the form of JJ Schwarz. Finally getting in the hit column in the last game of the series, Schwarz went 2-6 with a home run, two runs scored, and four RBI's. Of those four RBI's, his two in the third were the most compelling.

On a 2-2 count, JJ got jammed and broke his ALUMINUM bat as he poked the ball over the shortstop's head to plate both Nelly and Ryan Larson. I had seen an aluminum bat break in middle school ball, but I never fathomed that it could happen at the college level! It was a quite something to witness!

JJ's broken bat single made it 7-0, his solo shot in the seventh put Florida's lead at 16-7, and his ninth-inning ground out scored the 19th run of the contest.

Behind JJ in the seven-hole, Christian Hicks had a 3-5 day with a double and two runs scored. Behind him in the eight-hole, true freshman designated hitter Keenan Bell went 2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. His single in the third inning kept Florida's rally going as the Gators went up 8-0.

Rounding out the offensive explosion from the nine-hole was junior catch Mark Kolozsvary. Tying his career-high of three hits, Kolo went 3-6 with two doubles, two runs scored, and a career-high four RBI's.

Kolo's first double made it an even 10-0 in the third inning as Bell and Hicks came across to score. In the sixth, his second double gave Florida a 14-6 advantage while his seventh inning single made it 17-7.

Florida pinch hit true freshman Austin Bodrato, sophomore Blake Reese, and Jonathan India in the last two frames of this blowout. Everyone but India (who drew a walk) struck out.

Final Takeaway
This was a great way for Florida to win the series after getting blanked the night before. Hopefully the offense is starting to click now and make Florida the national title frontrunner that many in the country expected them to be.

Taking two of three from Vandy on the road puts Florida in sole possession of second place and 1.5 games behind No. 14 Kentucky (24-12, 9-5 SEC). Before looking ahead to another big SEC at the Mac, here are my final tidbits on the series-clinching victory as well as the Vandy series a a whole:

  • This is the most runs that Florida has scored against Vandy since May 1, 1999.
  • Florida's 20 runs against Vandy is the most the Commodores have allowed since Tim Corbin took over in 2003.
  • With this series win, Florida has now won three of five road series against Vandy since Kevin O'Sullivan took over in 2008.
  • In Sully's ten years at the helm, the Gators have won 7 of 10 series over the 'Dores.
  • Under Sully, Florida is now 19-11 against Vandy in the regular season.
  • Florida is now 6-3 against SEC East opponents.
  • This is the fourth game (and second this series) where Florida has put up double digit runs.
  • The last time Florida scored 20+ runs in a game was on April 7, 2015, when they crushed the Stetson Hatters 22-2.
  • The Commodores honored fallen pitcher Donny Everett in this game. As a a 19-year old freshman, he tragically lost his life in a drowning accident last June. Hopefully he was a man of faith and is in a much better place!
  • Austin Langworthy's double was his fourth of the year, Larson's was his sixth, Hicks's was his fourth, and Kolo's pair gave him his first two of the season.
  • Deacon Liput's triple was his second of the year and now gives him the team lead for that stat category.
  • Dalton Guthrie's home runs put him at three on the year, which ties his combined career total from his freshman and sophomore seasons. He is the first Gator with a multi-homer game this year.
  • Nelly's home run gives him two on the season.
  • JJ Schwarz's long ball was his fourth of the season and ties him for the team lead with Jonathan India.
  • As a team, Florida drew 11 walks while Vandy had just two.
  • Despite getting blown out, Vandy still had six guys register multi-hit games on the day (Jeren Kendall, Stephen Scott, Julian Infante, Ethan Paul, Jason Delay, and JJ Bleday).
  • Florida was errorless in this game while Vandy recorded one. For the series, Florida finishes with four total errors and Vandy with just the one in the finale.
  • Yet again, exactly 3,626 fans were in attendance for this game.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com

Looking Ahead
With their third SEC series win of the year under their belt, the No. 10 Florida Gators (24-12, 8-7 SEC) will prepare for a midweek contest with the North Florida Ospreys (26-13) at the Mac this upcoming Tuesday. One of the true freshmen will get the ball and hopefully Florida will carry over the offensive momentum from the series finale against Vandy.

Florida is 9-4 all-time against the Ospreys in Sully's tenure. They have currently won three straight against UNF and have not lost to them to since the 2013 season. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. The game can be seen on the the SEC Network+ and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

For the weekend series, the No. 11 South Carolina Gamecocks (21-13, 7-7 SEC) come into town fresh off a home series loss against the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs (25-12, 10-4 SEC). The Gators have not dropped a series to the Gamecocks since 2011.

Like always, this three-game bout with South Carolina will be vital in the battle for the SEC East crown. Depending if the Gamecocks salvage the series finale against Mississippi State on Easter Sunday, they may have an even 8-7 conference record coming into this series.

Florida cannot afford to drop this series if they want to keep pace with Kentucky for first place. The same can be said for South Carolina, who are the defending SEC East Division Champions. This will be another Thursday through Saturday series as the thick of exams hits many students during this upcoming week.

Florida's probable starers will be the usual suspects. Alex Faedo will get the ball for the 7:30 p.m. game on Thursday, Brady Singer will throw the 7 p.m. game on Friday, and Jackson Kowar will start the noon game on Saturday.

South Carolina will most likely counter with junior right-hander Clarke Schmidt (4-1, 1.31 ERA), sophomore right-hander Adam Hill (2-3, 2.23 ERA), and junior right-hander Will Crowe (3-3, 3.49 ERA).

Like the Vandy series, Game 1 can be seen on ESPNU, Game 2 can be seen on the SEC Network+, and Game 3 can be seen on ESPN2. All of them can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for Vanderbilt (22-15, 7-8 SEC), they will shake off their third straight series loss to Florida as they hit the road for the upcoming week. They will travel to Murfreesboro to take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (19-17) before heading to Athens for a three-game series against the underachieving Georgia Bulldogs (15-22, 4-11 SEC).



Thursday, April 13, 2017

2017 Gator Softball: March Recap

The No. 3 Florida Gators (38-2, 13-1 SEC) were absolutely dominant in the month of March as they posted a record of 16-1 (8-1 SEC). Their lone loss came in the series finale against the then No. 4 ranked Auburn Tigers (34-6, 8-4 SEC).

The Gators played seven games that ended in five innings while posting ten shutouts throughout the month. They won all three of their series in March (sweeping then No. 24 ranked Missouri and unranked South Carolina while taking two of three from Auburn) while defeating five ranked opponents (No. 23 California, No. 7 UCLA, No. 24 Missouri, No. 4 Auburn, and No. 24 Arkansas).

Here are some notable Gator performances and accolades from this past month:

  • 3/2 vs Iowa - Senior left-hander Delanie Gourley throws the first perfect game of her career in a five-inning victory over the Hawkeyes.
  • 3/2 vs Long Beach State - Sophomore right-hander Kelly Barnhill throws the third one-hitter of her career.
  • On March 6th, Delanie Gourley was honored as Co-SEC Pitcher of the Week after throwing her perfect game, striking out 11 in a complete game effort against No. 7 UCLA, and notching her second save of the year against Northwestern State.
  • 3/19 vs South Carolina - Delanie Gourley and Aleshia Ocasio toss the fifth combined no-hitter in school history in a five-inning win over the Gamecocks.
  • On March 21st, Delanie Gourley earned her second SEC Pitcher of the Week award. She went 2-0 in the previous week, was a part of the combined no-hitter, and allowed just two hits in 11 innings of work.
  • 3/25 vs Auburn - Down 3-2 in the seventh with two outs, the Gators used some timely hitting and Auburn errors to walk off against the Tigers.

And now, here are the Gator stat leaders after a month of play:


Hits: Amanda Lorenz (44) (Sophomore)

RBI'sJaimie Hoover (36) (Freshman)

Doubles: Amanda Lorenz/Nicole DeWitt (5) (Junior)

Triples: Jamie Hoover

Home Runs: Amanda Lorenz (7)

Batting Average: Kayli Kvistad (.400)

Slugging Percentage: Amanda Lorenz (.664)

On Base Percentage: Kayli Kvistad (.599)

Stolen BasesJustine McLean (13) (Senior)

Runs Scored: Nicole DeWitt (38)

Total Bases: Amanda Lorenz (75)

StrikeoutsJordan Roberts (25) (Freshman)

Walks: Kayli Kvistad (47)

Hit By Pitch: Nicole DeWitt (13)

Sacrifice Bunts: Sophia Reynoso (5)

Sacrifice FliesNicole DeWitt (5)


Assists: Sophia Reynoso (61)

PutoutsJanell Wheaton (303) (Junior)

Errors: Jamie Hoover (4)

Fielding Percentage: Janell Wheaton/Jordan Roberts/Amanda Lorenz/Aleshia Ocasio (1.000)


Wins: Kelly Barnhill (16) (Sophomore)

Losses: Delanie Gourley (2)

Strikeouts: Kelly Barnhill (175)

Walks: Kelly Barnhill (21)

Earned Run Average: Kelly Barnhill (0.22)

Shutouts: Kelly Barnhill (6)

Saves: Delanie Gourley/Kelly Barnhill/Katie Chronister (2)

Appearances: Delanie Gourley (21)

Innings Pitched: Delanie Gourley (97.1)

Looking Ahead
After cruising through March,  here's what Florida's schedule looks like for this upcoming month of April:

1st: @ No. 24 Arkansas*
2nd: @ No. 24 Arkansas*
5th: North Florida 
8th: Georgia*
9th: Georgia*
10th: Georgia*
12th: No. 2 FSU
14th: @ No.22 Kentucky*
15th: @ No.22 Kentucky*
16th: @ No.22 Kentucky*
19th: UCF
21st: No. 25 Ole Miss*
22nd: No. 25 Ole Miss*
23rd: No. 25 Ole Miss*
28th: @ No. 14 Tennessee*
29th: @ No. 14 Tennessee*
30th: @ No. 14 Tennessee*

Florida has played a little under half their games in April and are 7-0 in the month after walking off against No. 2 Florida State (38-2-1) last night. On a nine-game winning streak, the Gators will prepare to head to Lexington for a three-game set against the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats (25-11, 5-7).