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May 21, 2012
Gators Sports Weekend Recap
The Florida Gators were all over the college and professional sports landscape over the weekend, making their marks in a number of different sports. Below is a round-up of how all of your favorite teams and players did in the wide world of sports.
For the third-straight season and 22nd time in program history, Florida has advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. No. 2 Florida (25-1) accomplished that feat Saturday by sweeping No. 11 Miami 4-0 and improving to 18-0 in the 2012 tournament with sweeps against their three previous opponents.
The reigning 2011 NCAA Champions, UF is set to take on No. 3 Duke on Monday at 1 p.m. for the opportunity to play in their third-straight championship game. The Gators are currently on a 20-match winning streak, but the Blue Devils are riding an 18-match winning streak of their own.
The winner will take on either No. 1 UCLA or No. 5 USC for the national title on Tuesday. Stanford, which has become a heated rival with Florida over the last few years, was eliminated from the tournament over the weekend.
No. 1 Gators lacrosse became the youngest program in the history of the sport to advance to the Final Four after routing Penn State 15-2 on Saturday in Elite Eight action. Florida (19-2) is competing in their second NCAA Tournament and will have to earn a measure of revenge in order to move forward in the event.
UF has only lost twice this season including once to No. 4 Syracuse, their Final Four opponent on Friday. The Gators are 1-1 all-time against the Orange, defeating them once during the 2011 season.
"I'm really proud of our program, the players, the coaches, the support staff," head coach Amanda O'Leary said following Saturday's match. "This was a monumental win for us. We've been preparing for this since we lost to Duke in this same round last year. These young ladies have put in so much hard work. They have the heart, they have the passion and I thought it really showed today.
"This was 60 minutes of great lacrosse for Florida. I thought our players across the board defensively, in the goal cage, through the midfield, in the attacking end, absolutely I thought this was one of our best efforts."
What once appeared to be a long shot became a reality on Saturday as No. 3 Florida baseball (40-16, 18-12 SEC) had a legitimate shot to win a share of the 2012 Southeastern Conference regular season title. The Gators needed plenty of help over the weekend to get in that position but received all of it and even won the first two games of their series against Auburn on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
UF outscored AU 16-1 through the first two contests and was looking for the series sweep, which would have netted them a share of the title, on Saturday. Sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) had an efficient outing and left with Florida leading 4-2. However, junior lefty Steven Rodriguez surprisingly struggled in his relief outing, giving up three earned runs on three this while striking out two in his one inning of work.
Needing one run to tie, the Gators rallied in the top of the ninth and had runners at the corners with one out. Junior designated hitter Brian Johnson followed by flying out to right, and senior right fielder Preston Tucker - on his way home to turn Johnson's out into a sacrifice - was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
Florida will get one more shot at Auburn as the teams will face off in the first round of the 2012 SEC Tournament on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
The least productive Gators team on the field over the weekend also had the most controversy surrounding it off the field. No. 5 Florida (48-13) saw their season come to an end in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament after losing their opening game on Friday and being forced to win four-straight games to come out of the regional as the victors.
Instead the Gators were able to win just two games on Saturday before falling to USF 1-0 in Sunday's regional finale. Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (28-8) pitched a complete game and allowed just one earned run but was outdueled by South Florida ace Sara Nevins, who struck out 12 (including two important batters with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth) for the victory.
Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, playing her last game for the Gators, went 2/4 and was the only Florida player to register more than one hit on the afternoon. She leaves UF as the team's all-time leader in batting average (.385), stolen bases (83) and stolen base attempts (99).
Unfortunately for the players on the field, the real story of the weekend was the indefinite suspension of three of the team's starters - freshman third baseman Sami Fagan, sophomore RF Kasey Fagan and sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle. The reason for the trio's suspensions (and eventual dismissals) has not been revealed, though it is apparent there was an internal issue with the team followed by an altercation.
Head coach Tim Walton spoke about his decision following Florida's loss on Saturday but did not get into any specifics. He blamed the team's failures in the regional on clutch hitting - not the loss of three starters including Sami Fagan, who led the team in batting average, and Coyle, a power bat and defensive stopper at an important position.
UF, which made its first Women's College World Series appearance in 2008, had returned to the event each of the last three years until falling out of the regional this season.
The Gators' weekend extended well past those four teams. Below are some accomplishments that the Florida athletic program and its former players achieved over the three-day span.
- Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis nearly lost his leg after injuring it in action on Friday. Doctors were forced to cut into Ellis's leg in order to relieve pressure that, left untreated for 4-5 more hours, likely would have resulted in his leg being amputated. Instead Ellis was placed on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to return to the team soon after to continue his 11th MLB season.
- Former Gators quarterback Chris Leak, now the starter for the AFL's Orlando Predators, went 25-for-42 for 357 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions in his first start with the team. Orlando fell 68-61 and is now 1-8 on the season including 0-1 under Leak.
- No. 12 Florida men's tennis (16-10) was also eliminated from the 2012 NCAA Tournament over the weekend after losing 4-1 to No. 5 Ohio State.
- Udonis Haslem scored 14 points, including six in the fourth quarter, to help the Miami Heat even their series with the Indiana Pacers 2-2. Game five is Tuesday night. Mike Miller scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and dished out two assists coming off the bench for the Heat.
- Matt Bonner scored five points and pulled down two rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the LA Clippers to sweep the series 4-0 and advance to the Western Conference Finals.