PARTING THOUGHTS: MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
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In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators baseball took home the 2014 SEC regular-season title over the weekend, finishing 21-9 in-conference to capture the crown and the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament. Florida clinched at least a share of the championship with a 6-5 win at Tennessee on Thursday and locked it up with a 4-2 victory on Friday. The SEC title is the 13th for UF baseball, third under current head coach Kevin O'Sullivan, who is now tied with Dave Fuller (1948-75) for the most SEC titles among Gators skippers. Florida will play in the bottom bracket of the tournament, facing the victor of No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 9 Kentucky on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The double-elimination event will be held in Hoover, Alabama, with every game televised across a variety of different stations.
Already competing in the NCAA Tournament is Florida softball, which took a major step closer to making its sixth Women's College World Series appearance in seven years by sweeping the Gainesville Regional over the weekend. The Gators outscored their opponents 29-0 in three games and saw a couple players truly stand out. Freshman left-handed pitcher Delanie Gourley (5.0 IP, BB, 7 K) tossed a no-hitter against Florida A&M, while junior right-hander Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 5 H, 5 K) threw a shutout and hit a home run in all three games. Florida will host Washington in Super Regional action next weekend. The Gators are 10-0 all-time in five Super Regionals hosted in Gainesville, Florida.
The current NBA Defensive Player of the Year gave some great advice to Florida center Patric Young over the last year with Joakim Noah stressing that Young can maximize his potential at the next level by honing in on the things he does well and making sure he gets does those things great while steadily improving in other areas. "I remember he said, 'Pat, I got paid - however much his contract was - for just defense and rebounding," Young recalled in a conversation with CSN Chicago. "[Noah] said just find your niche, stick to it and don't ever let anyone take that away from you. … If [defense and rebounding] is my role in the NBA, so be it. I'm going to be thankful, as long as the money's still green."
Off to the Big East? That's the case for the Gators…well, at least the lacrosse team…which must find a new conference this offseason as its current group of teams - the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC) will be disbanded after the 2014 campaign. With so many Big Ten teams currently in the league and others set to start programs, those teams will transition out together with the rest of the schools in the ALC currently without homes. Next season, according to multiple reports, Florida and Vanderbilt will find homes in the Big East, which will feature just eight teams including Connecticut, Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown, Temple and Cincinnati. UF was ousted from the NCAA Tournament over the weekend by Northwestern, which won 12-11 in a double-overtime match in Gainesville. Florida has now been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinal round for the third time in four years, and it was the second time in three seasons that a team needed double overtime to take down the Gators.
Ronald Powell on Friday inked a four-year, $2.39 million deal with the New Orleans Saints, becoming the first of four Florida draftees to sign his rookie contract. The No. 169 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Powell will earn $462,215 as a rookie in 2014, including a $420,000 base salary and one-quarter of his guaranteed $168,860 signing bonus. He is already drawing positive reviews from the coaching staff. "Obviously with all of Powell's ability, we have a tremendous upside there with him. We're working with him a great bit. We're looking forward to really good things from him," said New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who noted that Powell will start out playing Sam linebacker for the Saints.
Somewhat hidden in a recent column from the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi is a statement from Florida State Attorney Bill Cervone, who told the paper that Aaron Hernandez is a person investigators are "interested in talking to" regarding the 2007 Gainesville shooting that was brought into the forefront after Hernandez was arrested for the alleged murder of Odin Lloyd last summer. Hernandez, who recently had a charge of double murder from a July 2012 drive-by shooting added to his rap sheet, was identified by a witness as a shooter in the Gainesville incident before the witness rescinded his identification of a man who was originally described as a "Hawaiian" or "Hispanic" male. Whether the Gainesville police or state investigators will have enough to ever charge Hernandez remains to be seen, but it is obvious that his recent history of violent behavior certainly brings a new outlook on that incident.