Category Archives: Gators Baseball

No. 1 Gators Baseball Looks to Sweep No. 5 Tigers

While most of Gatornation was celebrating the No. 2 seed Florida Gator basketball team’s exciting victory over the No. 7 seeded UCLA Bruins 73-65 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Tampa, 700 miles away in Baton Rouge, the No.1 ranked Florida Gator baseball team (17-2) were stepping onto the field to take on the No. 5 ranked LSU Tigers (16-3).

Nine innings later, the Gators were victorious with a score of 1-0 over the Tigers in front of the 10,202 in attendance. It was the first time LSU was held scoreless at Alex Box Stadium, which opened February 20, 2009, and the fourth shutout by the Gators this season.

Hudson Randall, the right handed sophomore, pitched 6.2 innings, giving up eight singles, before junior Greg Larson (RHP) took over, followed by junior Nick Maronde. The lefty collected his first save of the year, striking out four batters in 1.2 innings.

This marked Florida’s second 1-0 win of the year after defeating the Miami Hurricanes on March 5th, a game Randall also started.

The Gators’ lone run came from junior Daniel Pigott’s 11th double (19 RBI) of the season, a shot into right center which scored sophomore Nolan Fontana, who had drawn a lead-off walk from Tigers’ freshman starting pitcher Kevin Gausman.

The Tigers threatened early in the bottom of the first inning but Pigott made a diving catch on deep drive to left center. LSU had runners on second and third after consecutive singles, however, Randall struck out junior Mikie Mahtook, and junior Austin Nola ended the inning on a third base ground-out.

During the top half of the second inning sophomore Mike Zunino reached first on a fielding error and stole his fifth base in five attempts on the year.

Randall retired seven Tigers in a row before giving up an infield single to sophomore Raph Rhymes with two outs in the third. Junior Preston Tucker caught a fly ball hit by junior Tyler Hanover to close the inning.

In the fourth, Zunino’s single through right with two outs extended his hitting streak to seven games. In the bottom of the inning, LSU sophomore Mason Katz had a two-out single up the middle and moved into scoring position with his third stolen base. The next batter, junior Grant Dozar, grounded out.

Sophomore Cody Dent drew a one-out walk from Gausman in the fifth but was caught trying to steal second. Fontana and Pigott went back-to-back with two-out singles into center and Tucker’s infield hit loaded the bases. Sophomore Austin Maddox grounded out to Nola at shortstop to end the visitor’s half. In the bottom of the inning, freshman Ty Ross started things off with a single into center, but Randall set down the next  two Tigers hitters with consecutive fly outs. A passed ball by Zunino advanced Ross to second, but a second base groundout by Rhymes kept the score 1-0 in favor of the Gators.

Hanover led off the bottom of the sixth with a base hit up the middle, but was followed by Mahtook’s fly ball at the warning track for the first out. Nola hit a line-drive to third, which Dent quickly fired to Maddox at first to tag out Hanover for the double play.

Gausman started the seventh by walking senior Josh Adams who was sacrificed over to second on a bunt by Dent. Fontana’s fly out followed by Pigott’s ground out held the score. Randall set the first two down in the bottom of the seventh before ending his outing after surrendering back-to-back singles. Larson took the mound, and hit junior Trey Watkins with a pitch to load the bases. Larson forced Rhymes to ground out at first.

Gausman continued to pitch well late in the game when he forced the Gators to go three-up three-down in their half of the eighth. After Hanover’s ground out to open the bottom, Mahtook’s single would bring Maronde in to take over for Larson.  Maronde forced a Nola fly out to right, then issued a walk to Sophomore Mason Katz. Maronde would strike out the next four batters. Sophomore Kevin Berry entered the game for the Tigers at the top of the ninth, who retired the Gators in order.

Gausman settled down after the first inning and had a spectacular outing, surrendering one run on five hits, four strikeouts, and four walks in eight innings.

Pigott’s two hits gave him his tenth mutli-hit game of the season, leading all Gators.

The Gators look to sweep the series against LSU Sunday, April 20th at 1pm EST, a feat they have yet to accomplish in Baton Rouge.


A Look at College Baseball’s Lack of Support

Gator fans are the best fans in the country. Not in the West Virginia University Mountaineer fire-setting kind of way, but in the Alex Brown (‘98-‘01) still chomps after a sack kind of way. Florida has always been a football school, win or lose. But for everybody else there is one rule:  You must win. Billy Donovan understood this and Florida is now a basketball school as well, maybe not as popular as football, but old habits die hard.

Baseball has been around in Gainesville since in 1912. For time saving purposes, let’s fast forward to the Jeremy Foley years. His first two hires, Andy Lopez and Pat McMahon were inconsistent with extreme highs – reaching the College World Series, followed by extreme lows – a losing SEC record and missing the NCAA Tournament all together. For a university where you must win, it’s understandable that the fan support fluctuated along with the teams’ records. When Mr. Foley hired Clemson pitching coach Kevin O’Sullivan in 2008, the pendulum began swinging upwards again. In his first three years as head coach, the Gator baseball team had a record of 126-63. They won the SEC East in 2009, and won the SEC Conference and reached the College World Series in 2010. This season, the Gators have been ranked No. 1 in the country since pre-season and to date boast a record of 20-2. Coach Sully is indeed winning.

McKethan Stadium holds 5,500 spectators, and only twice so far this season has had attendance over 5,000 (5, 157 season opener vs. USF 2/18 & 5,930 vs. FSU 3/15). As a fan of Gator baseball, it’s a little disheartening.

There was a recent article published on Yahoo Sports asking why college baseball isn’t very popular, listing five reasons from a fan’s perspective.

1. Television Coverage
During college football and college basketball seasons, you can find games on almost every night. Conferences sign contracts with ESPN and other networks in order to televise these games. You are likely to be able to see every football and basketball game that your school plays.
The same is not true of baseball.

Outside of the College World Series, it is almost impossible to find a college baseball game on a regular network. Exposure has improved with conference networks. I am a Penn State graduate, but never saw a Penn State game on television before the advent of the Big Ten Network. I still don’t watch a lot of games, but I will see them from time to time.

This is an extremely valid point. I live in Illinois, and have the ‘pleasure’ of Big 10 Network as part of my cable package. I know they televise some games, but I do not care nearly enough about the Big 10 Conference, or their network to pay attention to how many games are covered. ESPN the “World Wide Leader in Sports” doesn’t televise college baseball games until after March Madness, but does televise other college sports such as lacrosse and men’s hockey on ESPNU. Maybe if one of the brass’ sons over at Disney starts to play college baseball it will finally be televised more. Until then, you can go to games, or like me subscribe to Gatorvision (which comes in handy in other sports as well).

2. Geography
College baseball has virtually no life in much of the country. The Northeastern and Midwestern United States are largely shut out of the major events. Big schools like Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan haven’t appeared in the College World Series for close to 30 years.

Most schools come from the ACC, PAC-10, or SEC. That is no knock on those teams, but it does reflect how limited the sport is geographically

Another point I agree with. There’s a reason why MLB winter/spring training takes place in Florida or Arizona. It’s too cold in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, etc. If you are a high school baseball player from Kenosha heading to college, you can’t play at the University of Wisconsin – they don’t have a baseball team. You probably have your sights set on a school from the south, southwest or California anyway – if you’re good enough, that is. States below the Mason-Dixon and California produce  good ball players; you have to be really special to get from the state of South Dakota to the University of South Carolina. To reiterate the author on Yahoo it’s not a knock on those teams or states; it just reflects why the sport is limited geographically.

3.No Stars                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Unlike basketball and football, the best baseball players usually go to the minor leagues right out of high school. There have been exceptions, but this is generally the case. Until recently, many of the best basketball players skipped college to go to the NBA. However, the NBA has no minor leagues and limited roster spots. As a result, the bulk of the top recruits still went to college.

The same is not true of baseball players.

Teams have multiple teams in their farm system, and players are better served by playing there. When looking at the list of CWS MVPs, you are not likely to see many names you recognize.

Here is where the author and I differ in opinion. According to baseball-almanac.com, there are more current and past baseball stars that attended college then both the author, and many other people realize. I found five alone from Arizona State University: Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, Dustin Pedroia, Andre’ Ethier, and Ian Kinsler (who also went to Univ of Missouri – bonus for my argument). Then there are two of my favorites, Evan Longoria (University of California – Long Beach) and David Price (Vanderbilt). I’m sure most baseball fans have heard of all of them. Most would also contend that they are, by all accounts, stars.

I asked David Price via twitter if he would give me his opinion on the original yahoo post, but he never responded. I’m convinced it has everything to do with that fact he had just thrown 103 pitches when his expected pitch count was 90. It can be very tiring throwing that many pitches at a speed of 96-99, but I’m sure I’ll hear from him about it one day.

While I wait for his email, here’s a little information: David Price was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but did not sign. He decided to attend Vanderbilt on an academic scholarship. This is an extremely common practice. When a player is drafted out of high school but does not sign with the MLB team (for whatever reason), they go to college and re-enter the draft three years later. This is exactly what David Price did and was drafted first overall in 2007 to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Evan Longoria on the other hand, wasn’t even offered a scholarship by a Div 1 school. USC had considered making an offer, but pulled back citing his size. He attended Rio Hondo Community College where he played his freshman year and won first-team All State honors. He was offered a scholarship by Long Beach State University and transferred before his sophomore year. Because LBSU already had a short stop,Troy Tulowitzki (of the Colorado Rockies), Evan moved to third base. He was the 2006 Big West Co-Player of the Year, and drafted as the third player overall by the Rays that year.

Not every Florida Gator will be drafted by a MLB team, but six from last year’s squad were –Kevin Chapman (Kansas City Royals), Matt den Dekker (New York Mets), Tommy Toledo (Minnesota Twins), Hampton Tignor and Justin Poovey (LA Angels of Anaheim), and Matt Campbell (Cincinatti Reds). I think it’s exciting to watch a preview of who could be the next Cy Young or MVP Winner.

4. Metal Bats
To me, metal bats have the feel of little league. Much as been made of the safety of metal bats, but they were a problem long before that. The pinging sound has become almost a joke to the sporting world.

When I was little, I used metal bats. Granted, I never played baseball beyond little league, but I associated wooden bats with a mature game. If college baseball wants to help itself, it should make the switch. People would take it more seriously.

A lot of people agree with switching the aluminum bats to wood for many  for the reasons stated above. But I like the ping. To me, the aluminum bats are the last age of innocence for the boys of spring, before they become the boys of summer.

5. No History of Popularity College baseball is hindered because it never had an avid following. Most of us get in to a sport because our parents watched them with us. However, our parents never watched college baseball with us. Therefore, there is no tradition. You can’t force a fan to be passionate about something. It is just a part of someone.

Everyone has to start somewhere. I started being an MLB fan in 1998 when my hometown was rewarded with the Devil Rays. I started being a Gator baseball fan in 1994 when a boy I had a crush on in high school was a baseball player who was going to be attending UF. Because of that, I was able to watch David Eckstein play long before his two World Series Championships (02 Angels, 06 Cardinals – MVP).

Everyone becomes a fan of a sport or a team at some time, for some reason. You don’t have to be born one. If that was the case, the Rays wouldn’t have a fan older than 13.

College baseball is a great game. I will never knock the ability of those that play the game. But it is just not the same as the other major college sports.

While visiting the Duke campus once, I was surprised to be able to just find a seat in the bleachers while they played their most bitter rival in North Carolina. Even then, few students there seemed to care. Sadly, it’s like that in a lot of places. For college baseball to thrive, it has to start with its most passionate fans. They need to spread the word and get new fans on board.

Once that happens, college baseball can find some popularity

Agreed. So as a passionate fan I will say this: the best college baseball team in the country deserves the best fans in the country to go to one of the best college parks in the country and cheer on these stars. Our stars. So you can all say you had your “Eckstein” moment too.


Almost Noone Saw Almost No Hitter

Sophomore LHP Brian Johnson

My only problem with being a Gators fan, is that I now live in Illinois.

It makes watching every sporting event difficult, so most of the time I have to rely on websites, game feeds, or twitter for information.

I don’t have to blog about these games; it’s kind of hard to when you haven’t watched it live. Most times I won’t, but I will always (to the best of my ability) make an exception for baseball. Because, well, I less than three Gator baseball, who beat Boston College 4-0.

The baseball team is #1 in the country, 5-0, and have outscored opponents (by my count) 33-5. And yet, only 2,553 were in attendance at McKethan Stadium for the opening game of the Boston College series (One of those in attendance was our brand new OC Charlie Weiss, whom from what I read, was both amused, and confused by the crowd swaying and singing “We are the Old Boys”). Now, I understand that they changed the time as not to interfere with the basketball team who was playing UGA, but I still would have thought more people would’ve been there.

It was their 19th win in a row at home, breaking the record of 18 shared by two spans, March 16-May 13 1963, and February 10-March 31, 1998.

Another record was broken when starting pitcher, Soph. LH Brian Johnson retired 27 consecutive batters (17 today – 10 going back to his start last Friday vs USF). Johnson allowed 1 hit and struck out 5 through 6 innings, and was pulled in the 7th after a walk. He threw first pitch strikes to 18 of 20 batters faced.

Soph. Steve Rodriguez took the mound behind Johnson, giving up 1 hit in three innings.

Offensively, the scoring opened in the 2nd when a misplayed hit by Johnson into left field put him on second. Soph. Mike Zunino’s RBI double scored Johnson.

In the 4th, Jr. Preston Tucker led off with a base hit, and moved to second on a fly out by Soph. Austin Maddox. Johnson singled into left center to drive in Tucker.

In the bottom of the 6th, Sr. Josh Adams hit a one-out triple into right center, and Tucker picked up his 7th RBI on a double sending Adams home. Tucker’s 7 RBIs leads the team.

The 4th and final run came in the 8th. Fontana had drawn a leadoff walk, then moved to second on a sac bunt by Adams. Maddox’s 2-out RBI single sent Fontana in for the final run.

The Gators will face the Eagles for game 2 of the three game series Friday at 5pm EST.

Hopefully, with no other sporting event conflicting in Gainesville, Gatornation comes out to watch the boys play.


Number 1 Florida Gators cruise past FAU Owls

The #1 ranked Florida Gator baseball team improved to 4-0 Tuesday after beating the FAU Owls 13-2 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

The Gators had season highs in both runs (13) and hits (19), led by Juniors Preston Tucker, and Daniel Pigotts who both had four hits.

The Gators jumped to an early 3-0 lead in the first. SEC player of the week, Sophmore Nolan Fontana led off with an infield single and took second on a throwing error. Senior Bryson Smith sacrifice bunt put Fontana on 3rd, and Tucker sent him home to open the scoring on a RBI double. Sophomore Austin Maddox grounded Tucker to 3rd, who would score the second run of the inning off a Brian Johnson double. Sophomore Mike Zunino hit the final run of the inning with a RBI single into centerfield. FAU jammed Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani , who was starting in place of Junior Alex Panteliodis (Sick) and pitching on a predetermined pitch count, on a double and infield hit that left runners on the corners with one out. DeSclafani worked his way out of the inning with a strikeout, and fly out.

The Gators added three more runs in the 3rd on a bases loaded sac fly by Sr. Josh Adams, and a two run/ two out double by Pigott.

DeSclafani retired six straight Owls before giving up a one out double in the 4th inning to Sr. Colby Gratton.

Florida added two runs in the 5th on a pinch hit RBI single by Soph. Cody Dent, and a sac fly by Fontana. Sr. Matt Campbell FAU scoreless and the inning ended on a 5-4-3 double play.

The Gators had held opponents scoreless in 22-2/3 innings until Fr. RHP Jonathon Crawford gave up a lead off HR in the 6th.

Florida answered in the 7th with four runs on five hits (Pigott had his second double of the game)  to extend the lead to 12-1.

With Jr. Nick Maronde on the mound, FAU Sr. Eddie Cassidy delivered a homer to left field for the Owls’ second and last run of the game.

The Gators got their final run in the 9th when red shirt Jr. Paul Wilson scored on a wild pitch.

Thus far, Florida has outscored their opponents 29-5, and have 39 strikeouts with two walks in 36 innings. They return home to McKethan Stadium to start a three game series against Boston College (2-1) on Thursday.