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Florida Gators news, information and analysis
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    1 » Former Florida Gators currently playing in the NBA collectively had an interesting last three days. Centers Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls each started March off on fire after concluding February with a career game. Horford averaged 22 points, six rebounds, 3.5 assists and three steals in two weekend games, while Noah posted two more double-doubles and averages of 17.5 points, 10 boards, five assists and 2.5 blocks in his two games. Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal posted a career-high 29 points in a double-double performance (11 rebounds) on Friday but then went down hard on Sunday with a sprained left ankle that was so painful it reportedly caused him to blackout on the court. X-rays came back negative but Beal remains day-to-day for the Wizards. Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons capped off the weekend with an explosive performance Sunday, scoring a career-high 32 points on 12-of-13 shooting (6-of-7 from downtown) in just 30 minutes. He became the first player since Larry Bird to score 30+ points, shoot 92 percent or better and attempt at least five three-pointers. Parsons, a second-round pick and second-year player, continues to be an incredibly valuable player for the Rockets; he has scored 20+ points in four-straight games.

    2 » Entering the weekend unranked and losers of five-straight games to Georgia Southern, Florida Gulf Coast (three) and North Florida, Florida baseball first dropped its sixth-straight contest before rallying to win the final two games of its weekend series against the Miami Hurricanes. The Gators (5-7) handed the Canes (10-2) their first two losses on the season, toppling their foes with a four-run eighth inning on Saturday and a four-run third inning on Sunday. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (3/8, 4 RBI, R, 2 BB) led Florida offensively and helped both freshman right-handed reliever Jay Carmichael (1-1) and sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi (1-0) pick up their first victories of the season. UF plays five games in the next seven days including a home-and-home against Jacksonville and a three-game series at home against Indiana.

    Read five more BITS of Gators news…after the break!

    3 » Quarterback Tim Tebow is inching closer and closer to being released by the New York Jets and many NFL analysts, including former well-respected general manager Bill Polian, believe the only way he will be able to continue his career as a professional football player is to play a position other than quarterback. “I think he has to change his position; he has to put quarterback behind him,” Polian told ESPNNewYork.com. “He’s a good football player, but he’s not a quarterback you can hang your hat on.” Polian pegged Tebow as a running back or tight end (he has never played those positions) but also said what many others believe, that he could succeeded as a “change-up guy” behind center who can run the read-option for offenses that have non-mobile quarterbacks entrenched as starters. “He has to tell clubs, ‘I’m willing to do whatever you want me to do and I’m not going to compete for reps at quarterback.’ Without that, it’s very hard [to sign him],” he added. “I don’t think he’s a passer, period – the kind of passer you have to have to win in the NFL.”

    4 » No. 4 Gators women’s tennis dropped its second match of the season on Sunday when it fell 4-3 to the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies on the road in College Station, TX. Florida (7-2, 1-1 SEC) had won 37-straight Southeastern Conference matches during regular season play before falling on Sunday. Texas A&M captured the doubles point, which UF has been dropping more often than it would like recently, but the Gators pulled ahead 3-2 in singles action with victories by No. 114 freshman Brianna Morgan (6-2, 6-1), No. 76 freshman Danielle Collins (6-3, 6-4) and No. 1 senior Lauren Embree (6-4, 7-5). Florida dropped the final two singles matches in three sets and now looks ahead to its next road contest against Florida State on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

    5 » No. 2 Gators gymnastics (8-1) capped its home slate on Friday with a huge 198.425 score to defeat the No. 14 Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-3) on Senior Night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida’s score set a school record and is the new high in the nation in 2013. It is also the eighth-highest collegiate gymnastics score posted nationally all-time and the highest to come without a single gymnast registering a perfect 10 on her event. Sophomore All-American Kytra Hunter won the vault (9.975) and all-around (39.80). Other Gators who won event titles each also posted 9.975s in their respective disciplines: Mackenzie Caquatto (uneven bars), freshman Bridget Sloan (balance beam) and senior Marissa King (floor exercise). Other seniors honored alongside King included Ashanée Dickerson (all-around), Dali Lemezan (vault, beam) and Randy Stageberg (vault, beam, floor).

    6 » No. 4 Florida softball (22-1) continued its incredible start to the 2013 season with five more victories over the weekend. The Gators outscored their opponents by a combined 47-8 in the three-day span and pulled off a pair of incredible feats including a 20-2 victory over the Florida A&M Rattlers on Saturday and a team-pitched perfect game against the Presbyterian Blue Hose on Sunday. Florida routed FAMU by hitting back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs in the top of the first inning and connecting on two grand slams during the contest; the Gators hit eight total home runs, a school record. In its very next game, Florida used three pitchers to toss five perfect innings against Presbyterian. Junior RHP Hannah Rogers (10-1, 3.0 IP, 5 K) started and earned the victory, but the Gators each got perfect performances from sophomore RHP Lauren Haeger (1.0 IP) and sophomore RHP Alyssa Bache (1.0 IP, K) to register the first combined perfect game in the history of the program. Haeger also hit a team-high five RBI in the 20-2 victory on Saturday. UF’s last perfect game came in a solo performance from Stephanie Brombacher on Feb. 12, 2011. Head coach Tim Walton also picked up his 400th career win over the weekend.

    Extra BIT I » No. 2 Florida lacrosse (7-0) remained undefeated over the weekend as it took down the No. 4/5 Syracuse Orange 14-10 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. The Gators, looking for a measure of revenge after the Orange took them out in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, got just that on Sunday as they evened the all-time series between the teams 2-2.

    Extra BIT II » Former Gators running back Robert Gillespie, who has been coaching in college since 2005, was hired this week to take over as running backs coach for the Tennessee Volunteers. Gillespie, who tallied 1,854 yards rushing and 1,091 yards receiving during his time at Florida, spent the first four years of his career with Steve Spurrier at South Carolina followed by two years at Oklahoma State and the last two seasons at West Virginia.


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    A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster is now attending law school after serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets last season. He joined OGGOA in 2012 as a baseball columnist who will continue to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2013 season.

    Just a few weeks into the 2013 college baseball season, most fans probably decided to stop following Florida because, let’s face it, the team was playing poorly. While the Gators are still under .500, Florida captured their its SEC series of the year last weekend against a very talented Ole Miss club that was ranked No. 11 going into the series. These past few games have shown signs of improvement from a young and inexperienced team. Though those improvements may not foreshadow a deep postseason run, they do at least shows signs of a bright future.

    The Gators have improved in almost every area of the game, but this team is still making too many mental errors, even for a young squad. Against Florida State, the Seminoles loaded the bases with nobody out and Florida was able to respond with two quick outs while keeping the FSU off the scoreboard. Before they could get the third out though, UF walked a run in. While the result is acceptable (one run scored after having the bases loaded with no outs), coaches and scouts notice things like this. Mental toughness is a huge aspect of what they look at when evaluating pitchers for the draft. The good news is that many of these pitchers are young and have another year or two to mature and grow both physically and mentally.

    Read the rest of this edition of Teddy’s Catch…after the break!

    While the Gators will continue to make mistakes due to inexperience, the ever-changing lineup card is certainly not helping a young team settle into a season. I have seen Cody Dent at third base and shortstop, Casey Turgeon at second and shortstop and Josh Tobias at third at second base. It’s not just their position on the field; their spots in the batting order seem to be in constant flux as well. I realize most of this is due to Richie Martin’s injury but most SEC coaches like to settle on an “everyday” lineup by the second weekend of league play. One of the things that really made me feel comfortable during my playing days was that I usually knew what days I was going to play and where I would hit in the order. It gives players a sense of comfort and security. It’s been a tumultuous season so far but look for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan to settle into an everyday lineup that won’t change much the remainder of the season except for the designated hitter (he will always play the hot bat).

    One thing that’s not changing is Florida’s offensive style. Gone are the days of Matt LaPorta, Preston Tucker and Mike Zunino. While Taylor Gushue does have the chance to develop into a good power hitter, until that happens there is not a consistent home run threat on the roster. As a result, the Gators are bunting more often, attempting double steals and doing their best to move runners around in creative ways. This does not mean that Florida has bad hitters, rather it is a reflection of the team’s lack of power.

    Most years I played, we circled a guy in the opponent’s lineup that we decided we would not let beat us. Some examples are Vanderbilt’s Pedro Alvarez or Aaron Westlake, Georgia’s Gordon Beckham, South Carolina’s Justin Smoke, Miami’s Yonder Alonzo and Florida State’s Buster Posey. UF simply does not have a guy right now that other teams circle as a huge threat, though Gushue may eventually develop into that guy. Until then, the Gators will be using bunts, steals and hit-and-runs to create their offensive scoring opportunities.

    When you look at what has gone on recently, it is quite apparent that Florida’s pitching staff is the main reason for the team’s recent turnaround. While Jay Carmichael continues to amaze me as a freshman pitching on Friday nights, Jonathon Crawford is finally pitching like scouts have been expecting. Additionally, Danny Young has emerged as a viable Sunday option while Johnny Magliozzi continues to be a save machine. Crawford is on every scout’s radar and every team’s radar, but he had been pitching poorly until this past weekend when he threw a complete game shutout. He looked like a different pitcher from his previous outings.

    What’s curious is that Crawford is not even having a problem throwing strikes; he tossed 75 in 105 pitches against Vanderbilt two weekends ago but was hit hard by the Commodores. Crawford kept throwing strikes against the Rebels – 64 strikes out of 104 pitches – but he was able to finally accomplish two other things consistently. First, he worked his fastball to both sides of the plate. Until this point in the season, he had problems repeating his delivery and was unable to consistently spot his fastball to the locations he wanted. Against Ole Miss, his delivery looked much more under control and this enabled him to not only locate his fastball much better but also work down in the strike zone. When you combine location in-and-out with location down in the zone, a pitcher is going to be tough to hit, especially when a guy like Crawford has low 90s velocity and a hard slider. Crawford still has work to do on his slider though. It’s not very tight and gets very loopy at times. When it gets loopy, it tends to stay up higher in the zone and have less break, which leads to a much easier pitch to hit. Having seen him improve the last few weeks though, I have a lot of confidence he will make this last adjustment and take a huge leap forward in his development.

    As I alluded, Magliozzi has been a gem as the Gators’ closer. “Maggs” is a strike machine whose deceptive delivery helps him hide the ball from hitters, making it harder for them to pick up a pitch until it is already on its way to the plate. Add in the fact that his ball has a lot of sink and can run down and in on right handed hitters, and you can see why scouts like his future as a closer (more likely a setup or long relief guy though). Maggs threw 28 of his 41 pitches against the Rebels for strikes. Combine his delivery and movement with his ability to throw strikes and it is no wonder why Maggs has put together a great season and caught scouts’ eyes as a potential mid-round pick.

    Florida is still making plenty of other mistakes due to its youth – balks, walks, poor at-bats – but there are a lot of good things going on and improvements are certainly being made. In the brutal SEC (which just happens to be the best conference in the country this season), every weekend is going to be a huge challenge for the Gators. However, if this team can figure out how to learn on the fly, there may just be a glimmer of hope.


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    By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

    It has been a season of ups and downs for Florida Gators baseball (19-18, 8-7 SEC), but the home team was able to end the week on a major high note by completing a three-game sweep of the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks (27-10, 8-7 SEC) on Saturday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

    The series sweep was Florida’s first of the season. Saturday’s victory pushed the Gators above .500 for the first time since Feb. 20 while simultaneously extending their winning streak to five games including four-in-a-row over top-10 ranked opponents.

    Following a big come-from-behind 4-3 victory over No. 7 Florida State on Tuesday in Tallahassee, FL, Florida started its series against South Carolina on Thursday with its ace – junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford – on the mound.

    Crawford (2-5) carried his team with a solid 6.2-inning outing in which he allowed only two runs to help UF pick up the 3-2 victory.

    It was Crawford’s second longest outing of the season and an indication that he may finally be ready to return to his role as staff ace. Crawford was bumped from the No. 1 spot in the rotation after he struggled in non-conference play, but he has won his last two home SEC starts and looks to be the Gators’ top starter going forward.


    Poor fielding by the Gamecocks played a large part in the series. On Thursday, sophomore outfielder Justin Shafer and redshirt senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit got on board with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the second. Sophomore third baseman Josh Tobias bunted to move the runners up, but an errant throw from USC 3B George Iskenderian helped UF plate first run of the night.

    Two innings later with the game tied 2-2, UF had runners stationed on first and third. When freshman OF Harrison Bader attempted to steal second, the South Carolina catcher’s throw deflected off the second baseman’s glove and into right field, allowing Ramjit to score the game-winning run. Florida held onto the one-run lead for five innings with sophomore closer Johnny Magliozzi collecting his seventh save of the season.

    Freshman lefty Danny Young started and allowed eight hits in 4.1 innings in the series’ second game on Friday night before leaving with the Gators trailing 2-1.

    Friday’s contest was relatively clean with just one error committed by each team. Florida’s first run, however, was the product of a USC miscue. With freshman OF Richie Martin and sophomore second baseman Casey Turgeon on first and third in the bottom of the first, South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery made an errant pick-off attempt that allowed Martin to score and give UF a 1-0 lead.

    Martin was the only Gators player to cross the plate until the bottom of the eighth, when Florida put together a three-run rally to jump ahead 4-3. Friday night’s hero wound up being Bader, who smacked a two-run single that propelled UF ahead late in the contest. The Gators again turned to Magliozzi to close out the game; he responded with his eighth save despite giving up a lead-off walk, intentional walk and wild pitch.

    As Florida moves into the second half of conference play, it will need freshmen like Bader to continue to come through in clutch situations. His play, along with that of his teammates, is giving UF hope where little existed just a few short weeks ago.

    Freshman RHP Jay Carmichael struggled with his command in Saturday’s series finale, which was also in his first start back since March 29. He threw just 1.2 innings before leaving the game with the bases loaded in the second inning.

    Faced with their first chance this year to capture a weekend-series sweep, the Gators came through in the clutch despite the Gamecocks being determined to salvage the series finale and leave Gainesville on a positive note. For South Carolina, this meant using every arm available in the bullpen. The teams combined to use 12 pitchers; USC was forced to substitute four in the bottom of the sixth inning alone.

    And what a frame it was for Florida.

    With the game tied 4-4, Ramjit got things started with a leadoff with a double. Martin followed with a single, and Bader walked to load the bases. Tobias, in as a pinch hitter, singled to score Ramjit and spot UF a 5-4 lead. It was the first of 10 runs in what would become a breakout inning for the Gators.

    The rally continued and Ramjit finished the frame with two doubles, the first Florida player to accomplish that feat since 1989. The Gators scored eight-straight runs without committing an out in the inning and concluded the frame with a 14-4 lead.

    The onslaught of offense was simply too much for the Gamecocks to overcome. South Carolina scored a run in the eighth but that was it for the visitors. Florida won 14-5 and claimed the series sweep.

    The big sixth was a sign that last week’s eight-run fifth against Mississippi State was not a fluke. It also indicates that a young team is finally starting to turn the corner.

    “I’ve never seen anything like that,” Ramjit said about frame. “We’ve been working all year and have had our ups and downs. Just to see after this weekend, our hard work is paying off and everything is starting to turn for the better. Everyone is still motivated.”

    Despite now having faced five ranked SEC opponents, the Gators are 8-7 in league play and tied with both USC and Kentucky for second place in the SEC East. Florida will look to extend its winning streak to six games when the team travels to Fort Myers, FL on Tuesday to take on Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU swept UF in Gainesville earlier this season, picking up wins of 8-2, 8-3 and 7-4 (11 innings) from Feb. 22-24.

    Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press


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    By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

    No. 19 Florida Gators baseball (25-20, 12-9 SEC) has continued its upward momentum, going 6-2 (with two series victories) since it swept South Carolina in mid-April. Over the last two weeks, Florida has gone 3-1 both at home and on the road.

    Following a big three-game sweep over a Southeastern Conference powerhouse like No. 15 USC, many teams might suffer a letdown game against a non-conference foe on the road…but not the Gators. Florida had plenty of motivation to pick up a revenge victory in Fort Myers, FL against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles after having been swept by FGCU in Gainesville, FL back in February.

    Sophomore left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner tossed 5.1 innings, a career-high, allowing only one run in UF’s 5-3 victory on April 16 before sophomore closer Johnny Magliozzi got the job done with a five-out save. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (2/4, 2 RBI, R, BB) smacked a double to help fuel a three-run seventh inning. Redshirt senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (2/4, RBI) and sophomore outfielder Justin Shafer (2/5, R) also contributed to the hit parade.

    Junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford overcame a rough beginning to his Friday start on April 19 to earn his third win in an 8-6 victory over the Missouri Tigers. Crawford allowed four hits in a four-run first but settled down for the next 4.2 innings and left the game with a 6-4 lead. The Gators’ offense was not done, however, scoring two more runs on four hits to spot the relievers four runs. Magliozzi picked up another five-out save, securing a much-needed series-opening win on the road for Florida.


    The Gators clinched the series with their first extra-innings win of the season, edging the Tigers 4-3 in 15 innings that Saturday. After a disappointing start for freshman southpaw Danny Young (2.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, BB, K), UF’s bullpen kept the home team off the scoreboard for more than 11 innings. Though the bullpen cruised, Florida’s bats only manage to tie Missouri 3-3. Finally, in the top of the 15th, sophomore second baseman Casey Turgeon (3/8, 3 RBI) singled to score freshman outfielder Harrison Bader (2/7, 2 R) and hand UF its first lead of the game. Magliozzi picked up his 11th save despite allowing the go-ahead and winning runs to reach scoring position. Poyner, in a two-pitch outing, earned the win.

    The Tigers snapped the Gators’ eight-game winning streak to avoid being swept at home with an 8-2 victory in the series finale. Missouri tagged each of Florida’s four hurlers for two earned runs with freshman RHP Tucker Simpson tossing just 2.2 innings and receiving the loss. Gushue (3/4, HR, RBI, R) was the only standout on offense for UF that Sunday.

    When the Gators returned home, they extended a 12-game winning streak against the South Florida Bulls with an onslaught of offense on its way to a 12-1 victory on April 23. Sophomore center fielder Richie Martin (2/5, 4 RBI, 2 R) led the way and collected three of his RBI with a bases-loaded triple in the sixth inning. Poyner’s outing lasted just 3.1 innings though he allowed only one run; Young, despite pitching just 0.1 inning, registered the victory.

    Florida came away from its weekend showdown against the Tennessee Volunteers with just two wins but nevertheless its third-straight SEC series victory

    The underclassmen shined for the Gators on Friday as the youngsters combined for three home runs in a 7-2 win. Gushue (2/4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), Shafer (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) and Turgeon (2/3, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) all went yard in a rare display of power for Florida. Entering the game, the Gators had hit just 20 homers in their previous 42 games.

    Young (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, K) had a season-long start but had his outing cut short when a line drive off a UT batter hit him straight in the mouth. He “only” cut his lip and was forced to leave the game but received stitches afterward and is expected to be fine.

    For the second weekend in a row, Florida needed more than nine innings to clinch an SEC series. Crawford (4.2 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 5 K) and Gibson (2.1 IP, ER, BB, K) kept Tennessee off the board for seven innings on Saturday, but a leadoff walk issued by Gibson in the eighth turned into the Volunteers’ first run. In the ninth, Magliozzi (2.1 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 3 K) coughed up a one-out walk before allowing back-to-back singles that squandered a save opportunity and allowed Tennessee to tie things up at 2-2.

    In the 10th inning, Turgeon singled off of UT reliever Trevor Bettencourt and moved to third on a Gushue (2/4, RBI) double. Shafer (0/4 BB) was intentionally walked to load the bases for redshirt sophomore designated hitter Zack Powers (1/5, RBI), and Turgeon (2/4, 2 R, BB) came home on Powers’s fielder’s choice to short to complete a walk-off 3-2 win for UF.

    The Gators’ four-game homestand closed on a sour note as Florida was unable to capture a sweep of Volunteers. UT’s ace, Zack Godley, threw a complete game in his team’s 4-2 series-ending victory. UF managed two runs in the first inning off of a Shafer RBI triple followed by an RBI single by Ramjit but were shut down for the remaining eight frames. In his first-ever SEC start, Poyner (5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, K) matched a career-long with his outing. Despite picking up the loss, he likely made a strong enough case to remain in the weekend rotation going forward.

    Though the bats are not always consistent, the Gators are winning more often than not and continuing to climber further north of the .500 mark. It may not seem like pitching is a team strength when Crawford is the only thrower with a quality start, but head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is getting just enough out of starters like Young and Poyner before turning to his top three relievers. While Florida can take pride in winning both SEC series since the South Carolina sweep, the team knows the competition is about to get turned up a notch when UF travels to face No. 2 LSU (39-5, 16-4 SEC) for a Thursday-Saturday series this weekend.

    Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press


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    By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

    With the season is winding down, Florida Gators baseball (28-25, 13-14 SEC) is limping to the finish line rather than charging towards it the way head coach Kevin O’Sullivan had envisioned. UF dropped two of three games to the Auburn Tigers (31-20, 11-16 SEC) in its last home series of the regular season and once again fell below .500 in conference play. Florida has now come up short in six of its last seven Southeastern Conference contests, dropping back-to-back series to LSU and AU.

    The Gators struggled to hit consistently all weekend, falling behind early in all three games. In Friday’s series opener, the Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead, notching three runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings. A four-run seventh helped UF get back in the game but ultimately did not change the outcome as AU held on for a 7-4 victory.

    Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) did not have his best stuff in the series opener and Auburn took advantage. O’Sullivan yanked Crawford early, hoping his bullpen could tame the Tigers, but the move did not work.

    AU busted the game open, scoring three more runs to extend its lead to 6-0. Florida fought back, but the deficit proved to be too much. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (2/5, RBI) and freshmen outfielders Harrison Bader (1/4, RBI, R) and Richie Martin (1/4, RBI, BB) knocked runners home in UF’s four-run seventh, but the Tigers kept the Gators off the board in the other eight innings.


    Auburn took a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning of game two, but Florida put together a four-run, two-out rally to walk off with a 5-4 win that evened the series.

    Determined to avoid a repeat of Friday night, O’Sullivan sent sophomore right-hander Johnny Magliozzi to the mound for game two. Magliozzi, the Gators’ primary closer, was making only his second start of the season but is nevertheless one of UF’s most reliable hurlers. O’Sullivan said he was tired of seeing him sitting on the bench waiting for the eighth and ninth innings to get in the game. The skipper’s move paid off as Magliozzi (7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K) turned in a gem when the Gators desperately needed a quality start.

    Tigers starter Michael O’Neal was one out from upstaging Magliozzi, however, as he held the hosts to one run through eight innings. With a man on first and two outs, senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1/4, R) singled to reach base and bring the tying run to the plate. Sophomore third baseman Josh Tobias (1/4, 3 RBI, R) got hold of a first-pitch fastball and launched a three-run blast to tie the game at 4-4. Bader (1/3, 2 R, BB) then stepped up to the plate and took a free pass as he walked to first base. Sophomore designated hitter Zack Powers (1/1, RBI) was next up and he answered just as UF needed him to, blooping a pinch-hit double to right field that allowed Bader to take off and eventually cross the plate to complete a thrilling 5-4 come-from-behind victory for the home team.

    In the series finale, Florida trailed 4-1 but gave itself an opportunity by loading the bases in the bottom of the eighth with one out. However, Auburn reliever Terrance Dedrick worked out of the jam and held on for a two-inning save.

    O’Sullivan gave freshman RHP Eric Hanhold his first start since a 0.2-inning outing against Vanderbilt on March 24th. A much-improved Hanhold (5.0 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 2 K) did his job in a career-long outing. In the sixth, after freshman RHP Jay Carmichael (0.2 IP, H, 2 ER, K) only retired two of the four batters he faced, O’Sullivan substituted freshman southpaw Danny Young for a left-on-left matchup. Unfortunately for O’Sullivan, it proved to be the wrong call as Tigers center fielder Ryan Tella smacked a towering three-run homer and increased Auburn’s lead to 4-0.

    Martin (3/5, R) and sophomore second baseman Casey Turgeon (1/3, RBI) put together back-to-back hits to put Florida on the board; the Gators even managed to load the bases but were unable to plate another run, dropping the rubber match.

    For much of the second half of the season, Florida’s focus has to been get above the.500 mark to become eligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. UF is three games up in the win column and should manage at least one victory against last-place Georgia (18-31, 5-19 SEC) in the final series of the regular season. Even though they are likely to play in the postseason, the Gators are not doing themselves any favors by scuffling through the last few weeks.

    If there is one positive takeaway from a disappointing weekend, it is that O’Sullivan may have finally found his second and third starters for postseason. The problem with the weekend rotation, though, has not been getting good starts here and there, it has been getting consistency from any one pitcher. If Magliozzi and Hanhold can keep UF from letting the game get away early, there is hope for Florida in the postseason.

    Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press


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    By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

    Coming off losing three of their last four regular season games, eight-seed Florida Gators baseball (29-28) went one-and-out in the 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament, losing 6-3 to the nine-seed Texas A&M Aggies (31-25) in a single-elimination first round game on Tuesday.

    After going on a winning streak in April where they won 11-of-12 games, the Gators looked to have significantly improved their chances of participating in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Florida has not done itself any favors since, losing nine of its last 13 games and putting its NCAA Tournament hopes in the hands of the selection committee, which must weigh UF’s difficult schedule against its disappointing finish to the season.

    The Gators got the start they were looking for on Tuesday, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Florida first got on the board without a hit as sophomore right fielder Justin Shafer (0/4, R) reached on an error, advanced to second on a balk, moved up to third on a failed pick-off attempt and scored on a ground out by senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (0/4, RBI). The Gators got their second run of the inning off three singles with sophomore designated hitter Zack Powers (1/4, R) crossing the plate when senior shortstop Cody Dent (1/2, RBI) knocked him home.

    Sophomore right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi (6.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R [4 ER], BB, 6 K) started smooth by retiring the first 10 batters he faced but ran into trouble in the middle innings Aggies third baseman Hunter Melton tilted the score 3-2 in Texas A&M’s favor with a three-run homer in the fourth inning.


    UF tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth inning when sophomore 3B Josh Tobias (1/3, R), on the base paths after smacking a single to open the frame, was brought home from third on a two-out wild pitch. Sophomore second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/3, BB) checked his swing on a wild pitch, and with TAMU looking for the called strike three, Tobias took off to an uncovered home plate.

    Dent and Tobias made costly errors in the sixth inning, and the Aggies cashed in to retake the lead, 5-3. Despite the lead change, Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan stuck with Magliozzi into the seventh inning.

    Magliozzi struggled as his pitch count increased with the opposite being true for Texas A&M hurler Daniel Mengden, who retired 12 in a row to finish a complete game outing and left the mound with 11 strikeouts on the evening.

    With the SEC up to 14 teams beginning this season, the league adjusted the tournament format, establishing a single-elimination opening round for seeds No. 5-12.

    Florida’s exit from the tournament might double as its final outing of the 2013 campaign. The Gators were once thought to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament if they were to finish the season eligible (above the .500 mark) but earning a NCAA berth is no longer guaranteed considering how poor the team has been playing.

    Adding insult to injury, four of Florida’s most recent losses were to teams in last place of their divisions (Auburn, Georgia). The Gators’ case for an NCAA Tournament appearance rests primarily on its RPI (26) and strength of schedule (three). Florida will out if that will be enough on Monday, May 27 at noon when the bracket is unveiled.

    Photo Credit: The Boston Globe


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    Florida Gators baseball was knocked out of the Bloomington Regional round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in quick order over the weekend, losing late leads in both games and seeing its season end during regional play for the first time since 2008.

    The Gators (29-30) finished the 2013 season with a sub-.500 record for both the first time since 2007 and first time under the leadership of head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

    Trailing the No. 21 Austin Peay Governors 1-0 through five innings on Friday, Florida took a lead in the top of the sixth as sophomore right fielder Justin Shafer (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, R) came through with a big three-run homer.

    Unfortunately for the Gators, which got a solid start from junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (6.1 IP, 4 H, ER, 4 BB, 5 K), sophomore RHP Ryan Harris could not hold on to the lead in the eighth. Harris (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 K) coughed up a three-run dinger to designated hitter Michael Davis that gave the Governors a 4-3 lead and sent UF down to the Bloomington Regional loser’s bracket.

    Florida matched up against the Valparaiso Crusaders on Saturday in an elimination game and once again looked to have the upper hand.


    A six-hit rally in the top of the fourth, which included five-straight hits to lead off the inning, plated three important runs for the Gators. Florida added a fourth run one inning later and took a 4-1 lead with sophomore right-hander Johnny Magliozzi looking to be in command of his pitches and in control of the game.

    Then the wheels fell off for the Gators in the bottom of the seventh.

    Magliozzi (6.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R [3 ER], 3 BB, 6 K) gave up two singles and a walk to start the frame before O’Sullivan finally pulled him for junior lefty Daniel Gibson. The Crusaders scored their first run of the inning as UF third baseman Josh Tobias (4/4, 2 RBI, R) was unable to wrangle a fielder’s choice and crossed the plate twice more on five-pitch and four-pitch walks thrown by Gibson.

    With the game tied at 4-4, Harris replaced Gibson (0.0 IP, ER, 2 BB) and immediately forced a fielder’s choice that gave up another run before getting two more outs to finally conclude the frame. Harris (2.0 IP, K) did his job the rest of the way for Florida.

    The Gators had two on with no outs in the top of the eighth and ninth but were not able to plate a runner in either inning, losing 5-4.

    In the ninth, O’Sullivan called for a sacrifice bunt that advanced the runners into scoring position. However, sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (0/5) – marred in a massive slump – struck out swinging and ended his season without a hit in his final 24 at-bats. Freshman outfielder Harrison Bader (2/5, 2 R, SB) followed by grounding out to third base to conclude the game.

    Each of Florida’s tournament games were a microcosm of the team’s season as the Gators started slow, got hot and then dropped off in the end.

    UF started the 2013 campaign 14-18 before winning 11 of its next 12 games and looking like it had turned things around. Instead, Florida concluded the season with five-straight losses (three in the postseason) and just four wins in its final 11 games.


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    A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster is now attending law school after serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets last season. He joined OGGOA in 2012 as a baseball columnist who will continue to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2013 season.

    The 2013 season was a disappointing one for Florida baseball, but head coach Kevin O’Sullivan should be pleased about his team’s prospects going forward because there’s a promising future ahead considering the returning talent and the number one ranked recruiting class coming in. While the Gators will be returning plenty of players, the team will no longer have seniors Vickash Ramjit and Cody Dent in the fold, and chances are junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford will be gone, too. The future of righty Karsten Whitson, whether he returns for his redshirt junior season or decides to accept wherever he is going to be picked in the 2013 MLB Draft this week, remains to be seen. You can be sure O’Sullivan – and every Florida fan, for that matter – hopes Whitson returns for a fourth season and anchors a young rotation.

    So now that you have a grasp on what Florida stands to lose as the offseason begins, let’s take a closer look at the players mentioned above and their draft prospects.

    Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford
    The only player guaranteed to be drafted out of this group, Crawford was seen as a potential top-10 pick coming off his sophomore year when he was hitting 97 mph regularly with a knockout slider and strong results in SEC and NCAA competition. Heck, he even threw a no-hitter last year that put scouts on notice had they not been looking at him previously. Unfortunately for Crawford, he failed to live up to the hype in 2013. Not only has his fastball velocity dropped to the low 90s, his command has raised some eyebrows about his future as a full-time, top-of-the-rotation starter.

    Crawford started the year slowly, working more 90-92 mph pitches, but gradually built himself back up to the 90-95 range. His fastball has great sink and arm-side run, but he struggles to repeat his non-traditional delivery, which causes inconsistency with his pitch location. He throws too many balls over the heart of the plate and too many fastballs get yanked away from his arm-side (down and away to a right-handed hitter). His slider is above-average, not plus, with good tilt; he has the ability to throw it for strikes but relies on the pitch too often because he can’t locate the fastball.


    Crawford’s delivery, to me, is awkward. He wraps his wrist behind his back (hand under the ball), his stride is short (loses velocity), he lands before his arm has raised up to throw (poor command), and he has a rough finish – both for durability and for future fastball command. The delivery is the key to his consistency and future as a starting pitcher. Crawford will be drafted high, possibly in the late first-round, but it will be interesting to see which team drafts him. If he is lucky enough to be gifted a quality pitching coach that can tinker with some of these issues, he can fix these minor flaws without a problem and possibly turn into a front-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.

    Chances are he will be sent out as a starter, forced to work off his fastball and refine his almost non-existent changeup; eventually, he will end up a power arm working in a high-leverage role if he can’t work out his delivery issues or develop his changeup to become an above-average third pitch. Because of these questions, Crawford is no longer a first-round lock though he should still be picked in a very early round. ESPN’s Keith Law still has projected him to go to the Detroit Tigers with the No. 20 overall pick. Just remember: There’s no draft more unpredictable than the MLB Draft.

    Junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson
    The Gator Nation, for good reason, hopes that Whitson returns for his fourth year…and I believe he will. Let’s not forget that this is a kid who turned down over $2 million as an 18-year-old. When all is said and done, especially when he sees where he’s been selected, I believe he will make another mature decision to stay in school, improve his draft stock and show that he can stay healthy for a full season. Whitson pitches much like Crawford, and he could definitely get his name back in the first-round discussion if he pitches in 2014 the way everyone knows he is capable of performing.

    That being said, it would not surprise me one bit if a team drafted Whitson in the later rounds and tried to offer extra money in an effort to sway him out of Florida and into the minor leagues. Unless Whitson makes it clear he’s returning before the draft, which would be unlikely, it would actually surprise me if a team did not go to those lengths. This happened previously to former Gators lefty Kevin Chapman, who was picked in one of the final rounds of the draft coming off a year he did not pitch due to injury. He chose not to sign (which wound up being a great move).

    Junior left-handed pitcher Daniel Gibson
    Another hurler to watch for during the draft is Gibson. When I first saw “Gibby” pitch, I told my buddy that I just saw a first-round talent. For the most part, he’s got the repertoire to pitch professionally, but his mental makeup and consistency are huge red flags. If he does get selected, a legitimate possibility, it would be late in the draft. He will more than likely return to Florida unless a team happens to stun him with a high slot.

    Senior first baseman/outfielder Vickash Ramjit
    When I worked as a scout with the New York Mets in 2012, I pushed for Ramjit and advised the front office that he was worth drafting. He may not post up huge numbers, but he reminds me of Daniel Piggot. He’s competitive, has good at bats and possesses great bat control but just does not seem to be able to put up the gaudy numbers. Ramjit only smacked four homers in 213 at-bats this year and slugged just .366. Just for reference sake, I went undrafted and hit seven dingers in only 80 at-bats my senior season. Not monster numbers for either of us. Professional organizations look for power hitters at first base, which would be a major knock on him playing the position at the next level. That being said, he has a nice swing and plan at the plate. It would certainly be nice if he had the opportunity to continue playing.

    Senior shortstop Cody Dent
    Only the second position player worth mentioning for this draft, Dent is unlikely to be drafted unless a particular team – cough, cough – feels obligated to draft “Bucky Dent’s son.” To be frank, Dent’s only asset is an average glove. He’s a great kid with a perfectly nice personality and fantastic baseball mind, but he does not have enough tools to play at the next level.

    Other Gators who could be drafted: Sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi, junior RHP Keenan Kish and redshirt sophomore infielder Zack Powers

    2013 Recruiting Class
    Led by left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, IA), a number of high school players currently committed to join the Florida baseball team in 2013 could be selected during the three-day draft. Though Puk – a consensus top-100 prospect – is by far the most likely to leave after being chosen, be sure to pay attention to the names below to see when they are called from June 6-8.

    LHP AJ Puk (Cedar Rapids, IA)
    RHP Tyler Danish (Valrico, FL)
    RHP Brett Morales (Tampa, FL)
    Outfielder Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL)
    Shortstop John Sternagel (Rockledge, FL)
    Third baseman Pete Alonso (Tampa, FL)
    Infielder Christian Arroyo (Spring Hill, FL)
    RHP Logan Shore (Coon Rapids, MN)
    RHP Shaun Anderson (Coral Springs, FL)
    LHP Sean Brady (Cape Coral, FL)
    LHP Alex Hagner (Mount Dora, FL)
    LHP Scott Moss (Deltona, FL)
    Outfielder Ryan Larson (Orlando, FL)
    RHP Dane Dunning (Fleming Island, FL)
    LHP Kirby Snead (Alachua, FL)
    Outfielder Michael Reed (Finksburg, MD)
    RHP Dean Pelman (Weston, FL)
    LHP Tyler Deel (Jacksonville, FL)


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    Florida Gators baseball had five current players selected in the three-day, 40-round 2013 MLB Draft, though it is unknown as of press time how many of the players that were selected will wind up leaving the program.

    Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford, selected by the Detroit Tigers with the No. 20 pick in the first round on Thursday, tweeted Saturday that he be leaving Florida and collecting the $2 million assigned value to his draft spot. “Excited to be apart of @tigers organization,” he wrote. “Looking forward to getting to work. Truly an honor and a blessing to be a Tiger!”

    A Gators football player was also picked on Saturday as junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was nabbed by the Boston Red Sox with the No. 863rd overall pick in the 29th round of the draft. Boston retains Driskel’s rights until the 2014 MLB Draft next June and will only have its pick pay off should the player choose to give up football after the 2013 season. Driskel, who initially planned to play football and baseball at Florida, was a talented outfielder in high school who would have been drafted in 2011 had he not been dead-set on playing college football.

    Below are the current Gators, 2014 Florida commitments and other notable players selected during the draft from Thursday-Saturday.

    CURRENT PLAYERS

    Round 7 – No. 210
    Daniel Gibson, LHP
    Arizona Diamondbacks


    Height: 6’131″ – Weight: 220 lbs.
    B/T: L/L – Class: Junior

    The Gators’ top lefty reliever, Gibson will likely remain in the bullpen on the next level as he does have four solid pitches but is most effective when throwing his fastball and slider. Some teams view him as a potential starter, however. He appeared in 32 games for Florida in 2013, finishing the year 2-1 with a 4.42 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. As a sophomore, Gibson went 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. He was originally drafted with the No. 789 overall pick in the 26th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers but instead chose to go to college. It appears likely that Gibson will leave college, at least according to the Twitter account he established after being drafted. “So excited to be an Arizona Diamondback!” he wrote. “Ready to get out and play! #dreamcometrue”


    Round 17 – No. 506
    Johnny Magliozzi, RHP
    New York Mets


    Height: 5’10” – Weight: 180 lbs.
    B/T: R/R – Class: Sophomore

    After starting the season as the Gators’ closer, Magliozzi transitioned into a starter by the end of the year when Florida needed fresh, effective arms during postseason play. He appeared in 29 total games (four starts), finishing with a 4-2 record and 12 saves (one shy of the program’s single-season record) and team-low 2.67 ERA while registering 57 strikeouts in 67.1 innings of work. As a true freshman in 2012, Magliozzi went 2-1 with seven saves, a 1.93 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 34.0 innings. Draft-eligible as a sophomore because he will turn 21 within 45 days of the start of the draft, Magliozzi is unlikely to jump at this time. He was first drafted back in 2011 by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 1,080th pick in the 35th round of the draft.

    Round 22 – No. 676
    Cody Dent, SS
    Washington Nationals


    Height: 6’0″ – Weight: 190 lbs.
    B/T: L/R – Class: Senior

    Though he has a nice glove and is a capable defender (.971 fielding average), Dent never put things together at the plate for the Gators, batting .233, .207, .134 and .169, respectively, in each of his four years at Florida. He started 48 games (37 at shortstop) and played in 52 total contests in 2013, finishing with 13 RBI and a team-high 10 sacrifice hits. As a senior, he is guaranteed to take this opportunity with Washington and hope that he finds a spark in the minor leagues.

    Round 37 – No. 1,126
    Karsten Whitson, RHP
    Washington Nationals


    Height: 6’4″ – Weight: 215 lbs.
    B/T: R/R – Class: Junior

    The No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, Whitson chose to play for the Gators because he was unable to come to terms with the Padres on a contract and due to his claim of not being ready to play professional baseball. He shined for Florida as a rookie, going 8-1 in 19 starts, finishing with a 2.40 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. Injuries limited Whitson as a sophomore (10 starts, 4-0 record, 3.51 ERA) and wiped out his entire 2013 season as he underwent a shoulder procedure in February before throwing a single baseball as a junior. The Nationals took a flier on Whitson in case he feels like he is done playing college baseball but chances are he returns as a redshirt junior in 2014 in hopes of reestablishing his talent and raising his stock back to that of a first-round pick next season. Should Whitson return, he will be the ace of UF’s rotation, as he was supposed to be in 2013.

    Draft-eligible Gators who were not selected: Junior RHP Keenan Kish, redshirt junior INF Zack Powers, senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit

    2014 COMMITMENTS

    SS Christian Arroyo (Brooksville, FL)
    Round 1 – No. 25 | San Francisco Giants

    Florida’s best infield pledge, Arroyo started on Team USA’s 18-and-under team and has tremendous upside as a contact hitter and potentially terrific defender. His draft slot is assigned $1.87 million, and it is unlikely that he ultimately plays for the Gators.

    RHP Tyler Danish (Plant City, FL)
    Round 2 – No. 55 | Chicago White Sox

    Danish is an impressive pitcher with a “funky” three-quarter delivery who some scouts project as a bullpen arm on the professional level. He went 94-straight innings season without allowing an earned run during his senior season, registering 156 walkouts and just 16 walks in that span. With $1 million coming to him from Chicago, Danish will be on his way to the minor leagues and not keeping his commitment to Florida.

    LHP Sean Brady (Cape Coral, FL)
    Round 5 – No. 141 | Cleveland Indians

    If Cleveland hopes to convince Brady to sign, it will likely be forced to pay him the full $347,000 his draft slot demands. However, because he is set to turn 19 in a few days, Brady will be draft-eligible after his sophomore season should he decide to go to college and play for the Gators. That may play a role in his ultimate decision.

    RHP Brett Morales (Tampa, FL)
    Round 24 – No. 735 | Cincinnati Reds

    Still relatively raw as a pitcher, Morales is a second-round-caliber talent who was drafted late because his intentions of enrolling at Florida were well-known. “Can’t wait to be a Florida Gator blessed to have that opportunity and can’t wait to help them win a National Championship! God’s plan for me,” he tweeted.

    RHP Logan Shore (Coon Rapids, MN)
    Round 29 – No. 860 | Minnesota Twins

    Shore had the opportunity to go in the third round to Cleveland but turned down the chance (partially due to the team’s low salary offer) and called the Gators to reaffirm that he would join the team in 2014. Minnesota selected him as a “gesture” to a local talent, and Shore hopes the Twins feel the same way about him in three years.

    RHP Dane Dunning (Fleming Island, FL)
    Round 34 – No. 1,015 | Toronto Blue Jays

    Dunning will be attending Florida in 2014.

    LHP A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, IA)
    Round 35 – No. 1,056 | Detroit Tigers

    Puk expected to be drafted higher but has the opportunity be a two-way player for the Gators. If he only wanted to pitch, he would have been selected earlier and gone pro.

    LHP Scott Moss (Deltona, FL)
    Round 38 – No. 1,129 | Colorado Rockies

    Moss reaffirmed that he will play for Florida in 2014.

    SS John Sternagel (Rockledge, FL)
    Round 39 – No. 1,164 | Kansas City Royals

    All signs point to Sternagel playing for the Gators and possibly moving to third base. He does plan to negotiate with the Royals first, however.

    RHP Shaun Anderson (Coral Springs, FL)
    Round 40 – No. 1,216 | Washington Nationals

    The final pick of the entire draft, Anderson will be playing for Florida in 2014.

    OTHERS

    CF Taylor Ratliff (Perry, FL)
    Round 13 – No. 390 | Arizona Diamondbacks

    Though he is currently on UF’s roster, Ratliff has never suited up for the Gators as he lost a waiver ruling and sat out the 2013 season for an NCAA-mandated transfer year. Ratliff played for Jacksonville from 2011-12 but chose to transfer to UF to continue his collegiate career. After starting 52 games as a true freshman at JU, he started just 30 as a sophomore because a broken hand forced him to miss the second half of that season. Ratliff is expected to turn pro.

    OF Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL)
    Undrafted

    Washington was reportedly receiving interest from teams picking in the first and second round of the draft but told the interested parties not to select him because he is focused on playing college football (and baseball) for Florida.


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    By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

    The unanimously top 25-ranked Florida Gators are hoping to bounce back from a disastrous 2013 campaign that saw the team go 29-27 in the regular season and get bounced out of both league and national postseason play without winning a single game.

    UF also lost five players to the 2014 MLB Draft – including three top pitchers – and enters 2014 with a young but talented roster filled with up-and-coming prospects.

    In the offseason, seventh-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan signed a top-notch 2014 recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game. The 15-member class makes up 43 percent of Florida’s roster, which features two fourth-year players (redshirt juniors) but not a single senior.

    One year ago, the departures of nine MLB draft selections loomed large on opening night. This Friday, when UF begins the 2014 campaign with a three-game home series against Maryland, the most notable absence from the lineup card will be a current Gators outfielder in sophomore Harrison Bader. Bader was indefinitely suspended after police suspected alcohol played a role in a Feb. 2 scooter accident. Without him, Florida lacks its best hitter (.312) and one of only four designated outfielders.

    Here’s what O’Sullivan (252-132) has to work with as the Gators open the 2014 campaign looking to bounce back from last season’s disappointments and begin moving in the right direction toward another College World Series berth.


    KEY DEPARTURES

    Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Crawford: After a stellar sophomore season (6-2, 3.13 ERA) that included a postseason no-hitter, Crawford earned the No. 1 starter job for 2013 as a junior. His third year was a bit of a letdown from a wins-and-losses perspective (3-6, 3.84 ERA), but he led the team in strikeouts (69) and innings pitched (86.2). The Detroit Tigers grabbed Crawford with the No. 20 overall pick in the first round of the draft, and he decided to turn pro.

    Right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi: Holding down the role of closer last season, Magliozzi delivered with 12 saves – one shy of the UF record. As the rest of the staff struggled and battled injuries, Magliozzi found himself being used in a number of non-save situations and even made four starts, totaling 67.1 innings on the year. The sophomore hurler posted a team-best 2.67 ERA and left after being selected by the New York Mets in the 17th round of the draft.

    Infielder Cody Dent: While Dent was never going to make a difference offensively (.176 career batting average), his talent and versatility on defense allowed O’Sullivan to experiment with the lineup. Dent had a team-high 10 sacrifice hits in 2013 and fielded at a .971 rate. The senior was selected by the Washington Nations in the 22nd round.

    First baseman Vickash Ramjit: Starting 58 of 59 games in 2013, Ramjit was expected to play both first base and outfield but wound up seeing most of his time in the infield. He hit .277 in 213 at-bats and fielded his position exceptionally well (.989) and could often be counted on to deliver a big hit (or sacrifice fly) when needed offensively.

    KEY PLAYERS RETURNING

    Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson: Nobody expected Whitson to still be in Gainesville, FL for the 2014 season. After his much-discussed 2010 decision to sign with UF despite being selected as the No. 9 overall pick by the San Diego Padres, it was a foregone conclusion Whitson would leave after the 2013 season when he would be draft-eligible again. But the injury bug has gotten the best of Whitson, limiting him in 2012 and sidelining him for all of 2013 after he decided to have offseason shoulder surgery. The Washington Nationals drafted Whitson in the 37th round this past summer, but he opted to stay at Florida and try to improve his draft stock. The Gators are hoping the hard-throwing right-hander returns to his freshman form when he went 8-1 in 19 starts with 92 strikeouts in 97.1 innings as the No. 3 pitcher.

    Sophomore shortstop Richie Martin: Florida’s top returning player might just be the man who leads things off all season. As a freshman, Martin took over top-of-the-order duties and hit .300, spending most of his time in center field (26 of 41 starts). He shined defensively, fielding .975 on the season, despite being unable to play the field for a full month with a broken finger.

    Junior catcher Taylor Gushue: When he’s on, Gushue is a solid heart-of-the-order slugger. As a sophomore, he hit a mediocre .269 but did lead all Gators with 33 RBIs. His 13 doubles were also second on the team. This will be Gushue’s second season starting behind the plate, where he posted a .983 fielding percentage last season. It is time for him to put it all together and lead Florida the way he’s shown, at times, that he can.

    Junior right fielder/pitcher Justin Shafer: With the right protection, Shafer could be primed for a big 2014. He is coming off a sophomore effort in which he hit .300 and led the Gators in doubles (17), total bases (103) and slugging percentage (.448). Shafer will be the everyday right fielder and can also pitch. He tossed 27.2 innings in 2013 with an ERA of 5.20. His tendency to throw hard for strikes makes him a potential candidate for the closer job in 2014.

    Junior infielder/designated hitter Zack Powers: Powers is in his fourth year at UF, but 2013 was his first full season without a major injury (knee in 2011, shoulder in 2012). He hit .268 with 25 RBIs and will likely spend most of 2014 in the DH role.

    Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris: O’Sullivan’s most-used reliever in 2013, Harris appeared in games 37 times, the most since Connor Falkenbach’s school-record 51 showings in 2005. He is expected to be used in that role once again as he shined as a sophomore by registering a 3.07 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 58.2 innings.

    KEY NEWCOMERS

    The bright spot in O’Sullivan’s 2014 class is undoubtedly the pitching. Right-hander Brett Morales (Tampa, FL) was an early-round-caliber draft selection but scared off most clubs by proclaiming his intention to play for the Gators. He went 11-2 with a 0.58 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 85 innings during his senior year of high school. Similarly, RHP Logan Shore (Coon Rapids, MN) declined an opportunity to be drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the third round and got selected later than his talent would have yielded. The Gatorade Player of the Year out of Minnesota went 9-0 with a 0.27 ERA while hitting .429 last spring.

    Lefty A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, IA) chose to play at Florida for the opportunity to be a two-way player seeing time at first base or at least as a designated hitter. Two freshmen virtually guaranteed to see action in the opening series are outfielders Ryan Larson (Orlando, FL) and Buddy Reed (Finksburg, MD). The pair of rookies join Shafer and the suspended Bader as the only listed outfielders on the Gators’ official roster.

    THREE BIG QUESTIONs

    How much does Bader’s suspension set Florida back?
    Bader’s absence will be felt immediately. Building on his debut season as the team’s top hitter, he was reportedly having a great offseason and thought to be middle-of-the-order producer at the plate this year. Any production from the freshmen could help mask Bader’s absence, but it will be on the returning veterans to step up.

    Will lack of leadership be an issue on a very young team?
    The Gators must rely on their true juniors and mature second-year players, many of whom saw a lot of action in 2013, to step up and take leadership roles due to the aforementioned lack of seniors. The core four of Gushue, Turgeon, Tobias and Shafer have felt the highs of a trip to the College World Series and the lows of ending a sub-.500 season on a five-game losing streak. What they’ve learned from those experiences should help them guide the newcomers through the ups and downs of a 56-game regular season.

    If 2013 was a rebuilding year, can 2014 be considered another? Will Florida ultimately have enough to return to Omaha?
    With a No. 1 recruiting class and a solid veteran core, a trip to the College World Series not out of the realm of possibility though there are a few potential obstacles to overcome. There is no shortage of talent on this team, but before any Gator fans start looking at flights to Nebraska, they should remember that a strong weekend rotation is the proven way to win in the Southeastern Conference…and beyond Whitson, Florida’s rotation is far from decided. Even Whitson himself is somewhat of an unknown considering he has not been completely healthy since 2011. If the Gators can get that version of Whitson, it will be absolutely huge for the team in the effort to win the league ad advance deep in the postseason. Florida needs the starting pitching situation to sort itself out so the Gators can utilize their bullpen depth and veteran presence on the mound match rivals like South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

    Photo Credit: Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY Sports


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