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.
Going down in its first game of the SEC Tournament, one-seed Florida Gators baseball will be facing elimination the rest of the way as the regular-season champions look to sweep the league's crowns for the first time since 2011. Florida earned a dominant 7-2 victory over four-seed South Carolina on Thursday to stave off elimination but will be back at it again on Friday as it takes on five-seed Mississippi State at 7 p.m. if the Gators can get past the Bulldogs, they will advance to the late game of the semifinals on Saturday. The SEC Tournament concludes on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. when the championship game will air live on ESPN2.
ACL injuries can be devastating, but it appears as if New England Patriots defensive tackle Dominique Easley has once again done a superb job recovering from his second such ailment in the last three years. According to The Boston Globe, New England head coach Bill Belichick is confident that Easley will make a full recovery from his ACL tear, participate in training camp with the Patriots and be on the field for the first game of the 2014 season. "He's been a productive player for Florida since his freshman year. He can be a very disruptive player and impact player, and I think our board reflected that [when we drafted him]," Belichick said.
The doubling up of injuries does not only occur on the football field as Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford earlier this season tore a pectoral similarly for the second time in three seasons. Horford wound up only playing 29 games during the 2013-14 campaign but doing quite well on the court before he was knocked out of action, averaging a career-high 18.6 points while shooting a career-best 56.7 percent from the field. Though Horford is nearing a recovery, team doctors told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that he will not play for the Dominican Republic in FIBA offseason events as originally planned. He will, however, be ready to go at the start of training camp ahead of the 2014-15 season.
Offensive guard Jon Halapio inked a four-year, $2.34 million contract with New England earlier this week, making him the second of Florida's four draft choices to sign his rookie deal. The Patriots will pay Halapio $123,100 as a guaranteed signing bonus split over four years; he will average $585,775 per season and max out at $720,775 in 2017, the last year of his contract. "[I'm going to] just come in there and do what is asked of me from the coaches and contribute. Whether it is to be a backup or whatever my role may be, my mindset is to come up there and just start form the bottom and work hard every day and contribute to team success," he said after being selected.
Roundly inspiring for how hard the teams competed this season, Gators tennis had more success than some imagined entering the campaign but both teams nevertheless fell short of championship glory. Even in individual competition, Florida's players have faltered early, though there is one doubles pairing still alive. The No. 27-ranked duo of senior Sofie Oyen and freshman Belinda Woolcock won its first-round match-up and advanced to the Round of 16 where it will take on a No. 35-ran ked Baylor duo. Oyen and Woolcock are 15-10 this season as a pairing and have the potential to play four more matches in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Softball will continue its postseason adventures over the weekend when it hosts Washington at Pressly Softball Stadium for the Gainesville Super Regional. The best-of-three game series will span Saturday and Sunday with the teams squaring off for the first time on the former day at 1 p.m. Game two will get underway on Sunday at noon with a rubber match occurring at 3 p.m. (if necessary). All three games will be televised with ESPNU carrying the opening contest and the latter two games available on ESPN. Florida is hoping to advance to the College World Series for the sixth time in seven years.