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March 12, 2012

Gators Sports Weekend Recap

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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.


No. 1 Gators men's track & field made history on Saturday by becoming the third team ever to win three-straight national titles at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Florida posted 52 points for the second-straight year to defeat the remaining top-five including Arkansas (47), Arizona (41), Arizona State (31) and LSU (27).

Leading the way for the Gators was a pair of individual national championship performances. Junior sprinter Jeff Demps won the 60-meter dash for the third-straight season with a time of 6.56 seconds, 0.04 seconds slower than the 6.52-second time that he achieved in the preliminaries on Friday. Demps's 6.52-second run was not only a personal best but also a school record and collegiate-leading time. He has posted four of the top five collegiate times in 2012 and became the first three-time champion in the event since Pittsburgh's Lee McCray won the 55-meter dash from 1986-88.

Junior jumper Omar Craddock captured the triple jump title with a personal-best distance of 16.75m/54-11.50, making it four years in a row that an athlete representing Florida won the event (Christian Taylor, Will Claye). The Gators were on their way to winning the heptathlon as well as senior Gray Horn was in first place with two events remaining before going down with an injury that forced him to withdraw from the competition.


No. 1 Florida continued its hot start to the season, sweeping a three-game series for the third time this year to extend their winning streak to 13 games and their record to 15-1. UF toppled Florida Gulf Coast (6-8) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday though all three games were hard-fought.

The Gators defeated the Eagles 4-2 in the series opener as junior catcher Mike Zunino plated all four Florida runs with a pair of two-run homers in the bottom of the sixth and eighth. In fact, all six runs in the game came on two-run bombs as FGCU hit one in the top of the fourth, too. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) got his regular start, but junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K) was on the hill to pick up the victory.

Saturday's game was a higher scoring affair with Florida jumping ahead 4-0 in the bottom of the first and cruising to an 8-3 victory. Junior LHP Brian Johnson (2-0, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6 K) got the start and picked up the victory as Zunino and junior shortstop Nolan Fontana each drove in a pair of runs, Fontana's coming on a homer.

The Gators had to fight for a victory on Sunday with sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson still gaining his strength back and classmate Jonathon Crawford on the mound in his stead. A two-run bomb by freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) put Florida ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, but FGCU allied for a run in the top of the sixth to tie the game and force Crawford (5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 3 K) to the bench. Freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (2-3, HR, RBI, 2 R) hit his fourth homer of the season just four outs later, putting the Gators ahead for good as junior RHP Austin Maddox tossed the final frame for his fifth save of the season and second of the weekend.


No. 3 Florida softball lost their second game of the season in the series-opener at No. 9 Tennessee on Friday but rallied to win the series with the Gators (23-2, 4-1 SEC) capturing victories over the Lady Vols (15-5, 1-2 SEC) on Saturday and Sunday.

Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers scatted five hits over 6.2 innings on Friday, only giving up an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh due to a UF defensive error. Despite her sterling play on the hill, Rogers was outdueled by UT's Ellen Renfroe, who struck out 15 batters in a complete game effort while only allowing three hits and one walk.

Florida bounced back in a big way on Saturday, turning a 2-1 first-inning deficit into a 5-2 victory thanks to timely hitting. Rogers (12-1) struck out just one while allowing seven hits and two earned runs (both in the bottom of the first) in 5.0 innings but earned the win as freshman RHP Lauren Haeger clinched the game with a pair of hitless innings for her first save of the season. Sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R) and Haeger (3-4, RBI) plated four of the team's runs in the contest.

Sunday's finale was another squeaker with a solo homer by senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB) being the difference in a 1-0 victory by the Gators. Freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (3.1 IP, 4 H, BB, 3 K) got the start but Haeger (7-1, 3.2 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 3 K) earned the win.


The Gators' successful weekend extended well past those three teams. Below are some accomplishments that the Florida athletic program achieved over the three-day span.

- No. 4 Florida lacrosse (6-2) absolutely blew past Temple (5-2), outscoring their opponent 15-1 in the first period and holding on for a 20-3 victory on Saturday. Junior attackers Gabi Weiland (six goals) and Ashley Bruns (five goals, one assist) led the way for the Gators, which also got four goals each from midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Shannon Gilroy.

- No. 2 UF women's tennis (9-1, 3-0 SEC) won the team's 100th-straight home match on Friday with a 6-1 victory over No. 22 Vanderbilt (10-5, 2-1 SEC). Florida's winning streak is the longest of its kind for an active NCAA Division I women's sports program and has been ongoing since 2004. No. 9 Gators men's tennis (9-4, 2-1 SEC) also beat the Commodores (5-7, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 on the road in Nashville, TN.

- Despite comments I made on Friday that Peyton Manning heading to the Denver was unlikely or even doubtful, it appears as if the Broncos have become one of the leaders for his services, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Obviously this leaves Tim Tebow's future in grave doubt as it is expected that the team will try to rid themselves of him one way or another if they get Manning to sign.

- Cincinnati plans to make a free agent pitch to safety Reggie Nelson on Monday, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Nelson's career got back on track this season with the Bengals, but it is expected that he will go through the free agency process and look at all of his options.

- Speaking of NFL free agents, Jacksonville defensive end Jeremy Mincey has become a target for Buffalo according to numerous reports. Mincey had a career year in 2011 setting career highs in tackles, sacks and forced fumbles. He is expected to command quite a pretty penny this off-season.

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