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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 Florida continued their stellar season on Saturday by taking home the 2012 SEC Championship in Duluth, GA. UF squeaked by defending champion Alabama, outscoring their rivals 197.150-196.775 for the victory.
The Gators won the vault (49.525) and uneven bars (49.375) outright, shared the top combined score in the balance beam (49.050) and finished second on the floor exercise (49.200). Florida's gymnasts also picked up three individual titles with sophomore Alaina Johnson winning the bars (9.925) and freshman Kytra Hunter taking home the vault (9.975) and all-around (39.625) titles.
Hunter was named SEC Freshman of the Year during the event's awards ceremony, which also honored head coach Rhonda Faehn as the SEC Co-Coach of the Year. The Gators will look to take their No. 1 ranking all the way to the final wire by first participating in NCAA Regional action in April.
The other top-ranked Florida team improved to 22-2 and 5-1 in SEC action over the weekend by edging past South Carolina (17-7, 1-5 SEC) in a three-game series on the road in Columbia, SC.
The Gamecocks took down the Gators 9-3 in Thursday's series opener, breaking loose of a 2-2 tie by tagging junior right-handed pitcher Austin Maddox for three earned runs in the seventh. Junior RHP Hudson Randall (5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, BB, 11 K) got the start and gave up a two-run homer, but the implosion by Maddox wound up being the difference in the game.
Florida turned things around on Friday by smacking four homers and taking advantage of a stellar outing by junior left-hander Brian Johnson (4-0, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) to defeat South Carolina 8-2. Junior catcher Mike Zunino (1/4, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB) hit a three-run bomb in the opening frame; he was followed immediately by a solo shot from Johnson (2/5, HR, 2 RBI, R). Coming in as a replacement during the game, junior left fielder Vickash Ramjit (3/4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) hit a pair of bombs in the sixth and ninth to post the most impressive offensive outing of anyone wearing orange and blue.
The rubber match on Saturday wound up being a fight to the finish despite the fact that the Gators appeared to have the upper hand most of the game. Florida got out to an early 3-0 lead due to a pair of solo homers in the third inning by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (2-5, HR, RBI, R) and Zunino (1/3, HR, 2 RBI, R). However, sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (5.0 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 2 K) was the unfortunate recipient of an error in the outfield that was part of the reason he allowed three runs (one earned) to tie the game up.
Gators junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (2/5, 2 RBI, R) came through in the clutch with a two-run triple in the top of the ninth that won the game for Florida even though Maddox once again struggled by throwing two wild pitches in the eighth and allowing a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth. Fontana received a shaving cream pie in the face following the game for his efforts.
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.
- Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons had quite a night for his team, flirting with a triple-double in what wound up being an overtime loss against Dallas. Parsons not only finished an impressive alley-oop from teammate Luis Scola, he also hit a game-tying three with 3.3 seconds left in regulation to force the overtime period. Parsons registered his second double-double in as many games (the only two of his career) by scoring 12 points and adding 11 rebounds. He also posted six assists and played 46 minutes, the second-most on the team.
- Two more former Gators free agents signed NFL contracts this week with each heading to a new team. Wide receiver Andre Caldwell agreed to join Denver's roster in order to take advantage of the opportunity to catch passes from Peyton manning, and defensive end Derrick Harvey was given another chance to catch on with a team as he decided to sign with Cincinnati and compete for a roster spot. Florida still has a number of free agents left on the market including DE Jarvis Moss, CB Lito Sheppard and linebacker Channing Crowder, who is expected to return to the field after spending a season out of the game.
- No. 4 UF softball (29-1, 10-1 SEC) swept Arkansas with three impressive victories on Friday (6-0), Saturday (3-2) and Sunday (5-0). Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (16-1, S3) picked up two wins and a save in the three contests by pitching 15.0 innings, allowing just six hits, walking six batters and registering 15 strikeouts. Senior CF Michelle Moultrie was dynamite at the plate in the three-game series, going 8/11 with two homers, four RBIs, six runs and a walk.
- No. 5 Gators lacrosse (10-2, 1-0 ALC) took down No. 12 Ohio State in their conference opener on Saturday. Florida won 10-8, outscoring OSU by one goal in each half. UF's freshmen midfielders led the way for their team as Nora Barry and Shannon Gilroy combined for six goals on 10 shots.
- No. 2 Florida women's tennis (13-1, 6-0 SEC) continued on their journey to defend their national title, taking down No. 19 Ole Miss 6-1 on Sunday. No. 11 Gators men's tennis (10-7, 3-3 SEC) also took down the Rebels, earning a 5-2 victory on the road in Oxford, MS.