There was some speculation after Gainesville native Tom Petty passed away on Monday that the halftime show during the Florida-LSU game would honor the late musician. While that hypothesis hasn't been refuted, it now seems unlikely.
The UF Athletic Association announced Thursday that it will pay a different tribute to Petty. After the band plays "The Boys of Old Florida" at the conclusion of the third quarter, Petty's "I won't back down" will echo through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"Let's celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community,'' UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a release. "Since we are already singing 'We are the Boys,' let's go right from that into one of his great anthems and make that the way we are going to jointly celebrate Tom Petty and the Gators."
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. In the season’s first game, on the Dallas Cowboys’ field, playing on national television against the storied Michigan Wolverines, Florida’s offensive line was supposed to do the pushing rather than get pushed around. Coach Jim McElwain had raved about the unit heading into the season. He said it would be a team strength. Yet in game one, it was not .
“It was a gut punch,” offensive line coach Brad Davis said. “And it was what we needed.”
Since that game, during which Florida allowed six sacks, No. 21 UF’s offensive line has allowed three sacks combined in two games. The nine total sacks still rank 10th in the Southeastern Conference and 86th nationally, but the pass blocking has shown improvement since the stomping it took against Michigan. So has the run blocking.
The Gators managed 11 yards on the ground against the Wolverines, upped it to 168 against Tennessee and 186 against Kentucky.
Through the discouragement of the opening loss, the disappointment of missing out on a tune-up game due to Hurricane Irma, the suspension and levying of potential felony charges against freshman tackle Kadeem Telfort and back-to-back last-second wins, Florida’s offensive line has shown one thing it preached in the pre-season has come true: Thanks to the bonds formed within the unit, it’s been able to tune out distractions.
Now, the classic sports cliche of “just focusing on the game” and forgetting about hurricanes, suspensions, close wins and poor performances is repeated across sports whenever something bad happens to a team. Granted. But Florida’s offensive line has shown its legitimately capable of doing it. One player even says those challenges help.
“It made it a lot easier on us,” left tackle Martez Ivey said. “It’s like, we can fight through adversity and come together and we can still win, still push each other every day to come out and play hard.”
The improvements shouldn’t be a total surprise. Florida’s offensive line features a group of highly ranked, tall, heavy players, starting with Ivey.
He was the top-ranked offensive lineman in the class of 2015, carried five stars and was rated as the nation’s second-best player. He was joined by UF’s now-starting right guard Fred Johnson, who was a three-star recruit, but one who was 6-foot-7, 301 pounds in high school, held offers from Virginia Tech. Nebraska and Tennessee, and played his freshman year at Florida.
Right guard Brett Heggie was rated as the sixth-best center in the nation in the class of 2016 by the 247Sports Composite in addition to being an Under Armour All American. And go-to backup Tyler Jordan was also an Under Armour All American rated the seventh-best center in the country.
That leaves T.J. McCoy and Jawaan Taylor. McCoy is the outlier of the group, having come to Florida as a transfer from North Carolina State to be closer to his ailing father in Orlando. He was relegated to third-string center duty until late into last season when a string of injuries forced him into action. Since then, the 6-foot-1, 314-pound leader of the offensive line hasn’t lost his job. And Taylor, the team’s heaviest offensive lineman at 334 pounds, made the All-SEC Freshman Team last season.
Still, there was work to be done after Michigan tore through them like bullets through paper.
“To go out and underperform and underachieve was a huge disappointment,” Davis said. “My job as a coach is to not beat them up or tear them down. It’s to build.”
He’s done so by trying to improve communication and eliminate “self-inflicted wounds,” like penalties and missed assignments. He said his players have responded well.
“They handled it like men,” he said.
McCoy added having Luke Del Rio at quarterback helped with the communication.
“He does a great job of calling out the play and explaining it to everybody,” he said. “He does a great job of that and keeping everybody together."
And McElwain, with all the off-field distractions, said it’s expected of the offensive line to tune out. When nine of your teammates are suspended -- including one from your own unit -- you’ve missed a game, your quarterback position is in constant flux, what’s one bad opening game?
“I think there's one thing these guys have done a pretty good job of,” McElwain said, “is dealing with some things."
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jordan Smith is facing four more potential felony charges, according to Alachua County court records.
In a sworn complaint affidavit filed Wednesday by the Gainesville Police Department, Smith is accused of using a stolen credit card to pay $1,007.82 to his apartment complex, the Woodlands of Gainesville.
On Monday, the University of Florida Police Department accused Smith of 18 felony counts. Wednesday's complaint affidavit brings his total potential charges up to 22 by adding two charges of larceny-grand theft and two of fraud.
The State Attorney's Office will decide whether to ultimately press charges against Smith and the other eight players accused of fraud.
The nine Florida football players who have been suspended since August are facing potential felony charges for fraud, according to sworn complaint affidavits filed Monday by the University of Florida Police Department.
Antonio Callaway, Jordan Scarlett, Rick Wells, Ventrell Miller, Keivonnis Davis, Richerd Desir-Jones and James Houston are all facing two possible third-degree felony charges, per Alachua County court records.
Defensive end Jordan Smith and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, a freshman offensive lineman from Miami's Booker T. Washington High School, are facing multiple charges for multiple transactions and stolen information.
The State Attorney's Office will review the evidence and decide whether to formally charge the players.
Most of the players are accused of using stolen credit card information to transfer money to their student debit card accounts, which they then used to purchase laptop computers, iPads and headphones, among other items.
The nine players are facing 62 criminal counts.
Seven of the nine are accused of making one purchase. Smith and Telfort are accused of using multiple cards to make multiple purchases.
According to the complaints, Callaway spent 2,022.44 on a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which came with gloss black Beats headphones thanks to a coupon code, after using the stolen credit card to transfer $1,970 into his student debit account. Scarlett also bought a MacBook with rose gold headphones.
The same complaint says some of the players admitted to selling what they bought. On Aug. 1, Smith bought three different types of Beats headphones ranging in price from $69.99 to $149.99.
The complaint filed against Scarlett says he used his girlfriend's account to make his purchase after transferring $1,940 from the stolen card to it.
When interviewed by police, she said Scarlett told her there was money on her account from "an agent" in New York and that he needed her to come with him to the UF bookstore to pick out a computer. He told police he transferred the money to her account because “he needed the money but did not want to get in trouble."
Telfort is alleged to have used stolen information to buy items ranging from a combo meal at Sonic to an iPad (with $99 insurance) to gummy worms.
The group has a heavy South Florida connection. The two most prominent names -- Callaway, a starting receiver, and Scarlett, a starting running back -- are both from the area, with Callaway, like Telfort, having attended Booker T. Washington in Miami and Scarlett having attended St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale.
Davis attended Miami Central. Houston attended Plantation American Heritage, and Desir-Jones is also an Aquinas alum.
Scarlett, Callaway, Miller, Davis, Desir-Jones, Smith and Telfort have been suspended since Aug. 13. Scarlett and Wells joined them on Aug. 30.
The news of the affidavits being filed broke in the middle of coach Jim McElwain's press conference on Monday, and McElwain said he was unaware of it. When asked, he said no decisions have been made about the futures of those players.
“You’re asking me something I don’t even know about,” he said.
He added that, if charged, the news could change the players' situations.
"Darn right," he said.
Center T.J. McCoy, who spoke to reporters shortly after McElwain, said he still has faith in those players returning.
"I really believe that those guys are gonna come back," he said, "and I believe they're gonna help us to have a great season."
The Gators wont play Northern Colorado this Saturday in The Swamp. The school announced Thursday that the game is canceled and wont be rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma.
“As the Hurricane’s track has approached the state of Florida," UF Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said in a release, "it’s become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do. The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts."
On Wednesday, the school had moved the game up from its original 7:30 p.m. start to noon. But because of everything coming to Gainesville for a football game entails -- filling up on gas, driving on highways, buying snack food and water -- Stricklin said playing the game just wasn't the right thing to do. Plus there are 3,300 working personnel, 17 government agencies and outside vendors who bus employees from Jacksonville and Orlando to Gainesville, per a press release,. Stricklin said he didn't want to clog up those resources incase they're needed elsewhere.
"Playing a college football game Saturday," he said, "would only add to that stress."
Coach Jim McElwain agreed. While he was excited about the game in press conferences leading up to it, he also noted how the approach of Hurricane Irma put his life into perspective. When the game was canceled, he reiterated those thoughts.
“When you look at the impact this event could have, you have to sit back and realize what’s really important in life,” he said in a release. “In this case, we’re doing everything we can to help facilitate with what may occur."
He also emphasized that many of the team's players are from South Florida and sent well wishes to them and their families.
The university said ticket holders will be notified about refunds individually.
Athletics Director Scott Stricklin announced Wednesday afternoon that Florida is moving Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado, which was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Gainesville, up to noon.
“Currently the latest forecast shows that the tropical conditions will probably hit here Sunday morning,” Stricklin said. “There's a chance they could start hitting here Saturday night, so playing the game at 7:30 obviously wasn't a smart move.”
The adjusted start time means the game won’t be televised on SEC Network as originally planned. Instead, fans will be able to stream the game on SEC Network+. Stricklin said television wasn’t a concern that went into making the decision.
He emphasized the safety of everyone coming to the game, as well as fans who can’t because they live in the path of the hurricane. He also encouraged fans traveling to Gainesville to give up their hotel rooms if they can make it back home after the noon start. Coach Jim McElwain also said the team is giving up the hotel it usually stays in the night before home games for potential evacuees.
"How important is a game when you're talking about people's lives?” he said.
One remaining problem is Northern Colorado’s travel. The Bears will arrive in Gainesville on Thursday, but they’re flying commercially and can’t leave until Sunday morning.
Stricklin said he is trying to do “everything we can” to get them out before the weather worsens.
Florida's chances against Michigan in its season opener on Saturday took another hit Wednesday when the team announced junior Jordan Scarlett and redshirt freshman Rick Wells are suspended for the game.
"Head Coach Jim McElwain has announced that Jordan Scarlett and Rick Wells are suspended from all team activities," the team wrote on Twitter.
That brings Florida's total suspension list up to 10. Seven players were suspended for alleged misuse of school funds earlier this month, receiver James Robinson was suspended for a marijuana citation last week and now Scarlett and Wells are suspended for unknown reasons.
The latest round of suspensions is a significant blow to the Gators at running back, where Scarlett led the team with 889 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. On Tuesday, he reiterated his goal for this season is to rush for 1,000 yards. He was also atop the team's depth chart.
That leaves sophomore Lamical Perine and redshirt senior Mark Thompson, who combined for 720 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns last season, as UF's primary backs. Freshmen Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons round out the group.
McElwain is expected to speak with reporters around 5:20 Thursday afternoon.
Linebacker Ventrell Miller and wide receiver James Robinson were cited for marijuana possession on Monday, as first reported by First Coast News.
The story cites a UF Police Department report that details a resident assistant smelling marijuana from outside the apartment shared by Miller and Robinson just past midnight on Monday morning. The RA called police, who knocked and found the smell coming from Robinson's room. They then found two small bags of marijuana, and both Miller and Robinson admitted to owning one, per the report.
The Herald confirmed there was a narcotics violation at Keys Residential Complex on Monday around that time, but a request for the incident report is pending.
Before this incident, both freshmen had already been in trouble with off-field incidents either during or before their Florida careers began.
Miller was one of seven players suspended from practice and next Saturday's season opener for reportedly misusing school funds, and Robinson was cited for marijuana as a high school senior while on a visit to Ohio State. He also wasn't expected to be allowed to enroll at Florida until coach Jim McElwain stepped in and vouched for him to be given a second chance.
"I feel it’s my responsibility to give guys a chance," McElwain said on Aug. 7 when asked about vouching for Robinson. "I never will throw somebody out that has something too him and gets an opportunity to be successful.”
Robinson was at practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, while Miller is still suspended for the previous incident.
Through a spokesman, the school released a statement Thursday afternoon.
"Coach McElwain is aware and it has been dealt with," it read.
Offensive tackle Jean Delance has decided to transfer from Texas to Florida after a season with the Longhorns. He announced his decision on Twitter Monday afternoon.
With Texas, Delance played in two games as a freshman and went through spring camp before announcing his intention to transfer last week. He will have to sit out the 2017 season per NCAA transfer rules.
Delance was a four-star recruit rated No. 123 in the country by the 247Sports Composite as a high school senior in 2016. Although he won't be playing this season, he will provide Florida's offensive line with some depth at practice.
Jordan Smith is involved in a criminal investigation by the Gainesville Police Department, spokesman Officer Ben Tobias confirmed.
“We did open a criminal investigation involving Mr. Smith yesterday," he wrote in an email, "that has been forwarded to our detective division for followup."
He didn't provide any details as to the nature of the investigation, although he did add that no other players "have been identified as being involved at this point."
He also said he has "no clue" how long how long the followup will take.
Smith was one of seven Florida players — along with receiver Antonio Callaway, linebackers Ventrell Miller and James Houston, defensive end Keivonnis Davis, Defensive tackle Richerd Desir-Jones and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort — who were suspended earlier this week. Smith redshirted as a freshman last season.
“I haven’t gotten anything from the authorities,” coach Jim McElwain said Friday when asked about Smith. “Like I said, until it’s resolved that’s the way it is."
Antonio Callaway runs with the ball during practice on Aug. 10, 2017 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Florida will be without star receiver Antonio Callaway and six other players when it opens the season against Michigan on Sept. 2.
In addition to Callaway, the school announced linebacker James Houston, offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, defensive end Keivonnis Davis, defensive end Jordan Smith, defensive tackle Richerd Desir-Jones and linebacker Ventrell Miller will all be suspended for reasons that weren't made public.
Houston, Telfort and Miller are all true freshmen, with Telfort being a Miami Booker T. Washington High alum and Houston hailing from American Heritage-Plantation. Davis, a junior defensive end, attended Miami Central and Desir-Jones, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, attended St. Thomas Aquinas.
“We have a small group of players that have made some choices that are extremely disappointing," coach Jim McElwain wrote in a release. "Action has been taken. They have missed some practice and will miss the Michigan game. We will use this as a learning opportunity and we will have some players step up as we move forward.”
The suspensions leave the Gators thin at linebacker and defensive tackle ahead of the week one showdown with the Wolverines in Arlington, Texas. They're also another blow to Callaway, who's gotten in off-the-field trouble before. The junior from Miami faced internal discipline for a marijuana citation in May that resulted in him pleading no contest to possession of drug paraphernalia. He was also investigated for a sexual assault and admitted he was high on marijuana when the assault took place, though he was later found not responsible.
Callaway was Florida's top receiver the last two seasons, including 721 yards and three touchdowns in 2016.
Malik Zaire passes during practice on August 10, 2017, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Jim McElwain has emphasized competition throughout preseason camp, and on Friday he'll get his first chance to see it play out in The Swamp.
He's expecting to run somewhere from 90 to 110 plays with special emphasis on end-of-game, end-of-half and overtime situations. He also said he plans to work on substitution packages.
One thing he’s especially excited about is watching the quarterbacks play in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, even though the seats will be empty. McElwain said the introduction of graduate transfer Malik Zaire has intensified the competition more than he was expecting, and he’s expecting that to continue in the scrimmage.
“There should be some answers, I think,” McElwain said of the scrimmage providing clues as to who will be the team’s starting quarterback. “And yet I don't know that. If I had a crystal ball I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.”
He added one of the main purposes of the scrimmage is to evaluate some of the fringe players — freshmen, walk-ons, etc. He said he looks at the scrimmage like a tryout. He wants his players to find roles, whether at positions or on special teams.
“This is their opportunity to make the team,” he said. “I'm really looking forward to seeing where they and how they compete to go get a job.”
Running back Lamical Perine also said he’s excited to see what some of the fringe players do on the bigger stage.
“Some players, they shine under the lights,” he said. “We'll see who the players are."
After missing time earlier this week with some knee swelling, left tackle Martez Ivey is doing fine and is at nearly full strength, McElwain said Friday.
Tight end C’yontai Lewis, defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe, offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort, defensive back CJ McWilliams, safety Quincy Lenton, linebacker Kylan Johnson and defensive end Jordan Sherit, meanwhile, will all be out of for the scrimmage. McElwain didn’t elaborate on any of their injuries, but it sounded precautionary.
“Don’t read anything into it,” he said.
Will the real Wanny please stand up
Florida features two players with the same name: safety Jeawon Taylor and offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor. Coaches have taken to calling both of them Wanny, which has led to some confusion.
“When they call Wanny,” Jawaan said, “we both look because we don't know which one they're talking about. So they've gotta add either big Wanny or little Wanny just so we can know.”
He added that in addition to their size separation — Jawaan is listed at 6-foot-5 and 334 pounds while Jeawon is 6-feet, 206 pounds — they’re also differentiated by personality. He said he’s more the quiet type while Jeawon is loud and makes people laugh.
“Ever since he started getting called it, he thinks he's the real Wanny and all that,” Jawaan said. “So it's just fun.”
The confusion figures to get worse next season, as Florida currently holds a commitment from linebacker recruit David Reese. If he enrolls, he’ll join current UF linebacker David Reese.
The Wyoming wild man returns
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph dubbed defensive tackle Taven Bryan the “wyoming wild man” over two years ago, but his teammates say the nickname is still appropriate.
Running back Jordan Scarlett said Bryan, a redshirt junior from Casper, Wyoming, squats the second-most weight on the team, and defensive end Keivonnis Davis said he’s just as impressive elsewhere in the gym.
“Squat, bench, curl, whatever it is,” he said. “That man is a beast. I’m telling you that man is a beast, like a real life beast. I tried working out with him over the summer but I was sore the next day. He’s a monster.”
Perine added “he could lift the whole weight room if he wanted to."
Offensive lineman Brett Heggie said that translates well to the field, where Bryan’s strength makes him hard to block.
McElwain singled out Bryan as a player who needs to step up this season, especially with the Gators lacking depth at defensive tackle. He said it was Bryan’s “time.”
Perine doesn't think that'll be a problem.
“I feel like he's going to shock a lot of people this year,” he said. “He's very underrated.”
Florida’s assistant coaches will all be making more money in the coming seasons. Through a public records request, the school made their contract details available on Friday.
Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will jump from making $540,000 last season to making $832,725 the next two seasons. The considerable raise comes after Nussmeier received his second $300,000 payment from his former employer, Michigan, last season. The payment resulted from Nussmeier's contract being bought out when Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke was fired in December 2014. The two-year extension runs through the 2018 season.
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph will get a $100,000 bump, from $490,000 last season to $590,000 the next three seasons. He was the only assistant extended through the 2019 season.
Tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Greg Nord jumped from $390,000 to $410,000 and was extended through 2018.
Wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon jumped from $275,000 to $290,000 and was also extended through 2018.
And linebackers coach Tim Skipper moved from $440,000 to $446,000 and was also extended through 2018.
All assistant coaches also make $10,000 per year from the school’s apparel contract with Nike.
In late july, the school also announced the contract details for its other assistant coaches. Randy Shannon, the former head coach at the University of Miami who was named Florida’s defensive coordinator after coaching its linebackers the past two seasons, made a considerable jump in his new role from $490,000 to $890,000.
New running backs coach JaJuan Seider will make $335,000 this season and $345,000 next season, while new offensive line coach Brad Davis and new defensive backs coach Corey Bell will each make $290,000 in 2017 and $315,000 in 2018.
The 12th-ranked Gators trailed South Carolina 5-3 in the eighth inning Saturday afternoon’s series finale. Gamecocks reliever Colie Bowers had just walked Nelson Maldonado on four straight pitches to load the bases and bring Schwarz to the plate.
Schwarz had been slumping all year.
That wasn’t stopping him this time. Not again.
Facing a 1-0 pitch, Schwarz blasted a ball into the left-field bleachers for a grand slam to set up the Gators’ 7-5 win.
Schwarz rounded the bases with 3,604 fans cheering for him the whole way. As he touched home plate with four teammates waiting for him and the dugout emptying to give him a proper ovation, he raised his arms in the air in jubilation.
For at least one at-bat, Schwarz felt like himself again.
“It was good to see a smile on his face again,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
'I've been frustrated'
It has been a rough year for Schwarz.
He’ll be the first to tell you that.
Schwarz, one of Florida’s top power hitters, has been anything but the reliable hitter he expects himself to be.
His .239 season batting average heading into the game would be a career low. He had more strikeouts (37) than hits (34) as he stepped up to the plate.
“I’ve been frustrated,” Schwarz said. “My attitude hasn’t been great.”
Schwarz has high expectations for himself. Each time he steps up to the plate, he said, he needs to make a play.
The internal pressure he puts on himself seeped into his game all season.
There was the 0 for 16 stretch in the beginning of the season, a stretch where he struck out six times over five games. His batting average would eventually dip to .200 by the start of SEC play and he would move from the top of the order to sixth in the lineup.
“When I don’t come through,” he said. “I didn’t do something right.”
O’Sullivan, Florida’s 10th-year head coach, talked with Schwarz earlier in the week.
“I told him I had confidence in him,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s always hit. He’s gonna hit.
And with one swing, he showed that he can still hit.
“It’s amazing how one swing can change your mood,” O’Sullivan said. “He deserved it.”
'It was a good feeling'
Schwarz lost track of the ball.
As it sailed through McKethan Stadium, all he could do was watch as left fielder Carlos Cortes as he rounded toward second base.
Once he saw Cortes slam into the wall, Schwarz knew.
“It was a good feeling,” Schwarz said with a smile.
It was a feeling Florida and its hot-and-cold offense needed.
Heading into that at-bat, Florida was just 2-for-21 (.095) with runners in scoring position in the series against South Carolina.
The Gators had the bases loaded on three occasions. They came away with two runs. This just a week after putting up 30 runs in its two wins at Vanderbilt and another 10 in a midweek game at Florida State.
Add in the fact that Jackson Kowar gave up five runs in 6 1/3 innings to put the Gators down by two runs late, Florida needed some sense of life.
Schwarz did just that and reminded fans what he can bring to the offense.
Just like he did when he hit a school-record four home runs against Stetson as a freshman.
And just like he did when he hit a grand slam against Florida State in the NCAA Super Regionals last year to send the Gators to the College World Series for a second straight year.
“When he’s going well, he just always seems to be driving in runs,” Kowar said. “If he’s hitting well, he’s not just getting base hits. That’s big for the team.”
And with the win, the Gators (27-13, 10-8 SEC) are still in the hunt for the SEC Championship. They trail SEC East leader Kentucky by 1.5 games and overall leader Mississippi State by three games with four weekend series remaining.
If Florida wants to make a run in the conference -- and in the NCAA Tournament -- they’ll need Schwarz and the offense to step up.
Schwarz is hoping this is the first step he needs to get there.
“Hitting is about confidence,” Schwarz said. “That’s something I’ve been lacking. Hopefully this will boost me a little bit.”
Brady Singer pitches during Florida's 4-2 loss to South Carolina on April 21, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.
Ryan Larson ripped an eighth-inning pitch deep to the outfield on late Friday night and started rounding the bases.
The stage was set: Two outs, bases loaded, the 12th-ranked Gators trailing by three runs.
He just needed the ball to clear the fence.
But with the wind blowing in and Larson’s ball carrying to center field -- where home runs go to die -- South Carolina’s TJ Hopkins caught the ball on the warning track to end the threat.
One inning later, the Gamecocks closed out a 4-2 win at McKethan Stadium to even the series.
Florida (26-13, 9-8 SEC) trailed the game from start to finish after a shaky first inning from sophomore pitcher Brady Singer.
Singer, arguably Florida’s best weekend starter to this point of the season, opened the game by hitting Hopkins on the second pitch and then gave up a two-run home run down the right-field line to South Carolina’s Carlos Cortes. It was the first home run Singer had given up in his UF career, ending a streak that lasted 33 games and 108 1/3 innings.
“It’s frustrating sometimes,” Singer said of the first inning. “It’s baseball. You don’t have your best stuff every game. It’s just one of those nights where I didn’t have my best stuff and my command was a little shaky.”
Singer (4-3, 2.16 ERA) settled down after that first frame and at one point retired 11 of the 12 batters he faced before giving up another run in the sixth.
His final line: 5 1/3 innings, a season-high three earned runs allowed, six hits, five strikeouts and two walks.
“He battled,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s the mark of a good pitcher. He was not at his best tonight, [but] he still gave us a chance to win.”
South Carolina’s Wil Crowe did the same for the Gamecocks (24-14, 9-8 SEC).
The 6-2 righty was efficient in his seven innings on the mound, scattering just six hits while not allowing a walk. His lone blemish came in the second inning when he allowed three consecutive one-out singles, capped by Keenan Bell’s RBI hit through the left side that scored JJ Schwarz. Crowe retired the side over the next three innings and did not allow a Florida runner to get in scoring position before being pulled in the eighth.
“He just mixed pretty well,” catcher Mark Kolozsvary said. “He has a good arm.”
With the exception of a fourth run coming home in the seventh, Florida’s bullpen held its own, with the freshman duo of Kirby McMullen and Tyler Dyson working clean eighth and ninth innings to give the Gators a chance to rally.
And Florida almost executed in the eighth.
Trailing 4-1, the Gators loaded the bases on a Keenan Bell single, a Kolozsvary double and a Deacon Liput walk to put the winning run at the plate with no outs.
And then Dalton Guthrie popped out to shortstop.
And then Austin Langworthy struck out swinging.
And then Larson’s hard hit landed about 5 feet shy of clearing the fences.
“Maybe most nights, it’s a home run,” O’Sullivan said. “But the wind was not blowing out. We just have to do a better job in those situations and not try to do too much.”
UF tacked a second run in the ninth when South Carolina closer Tyler Johnson was called for a balk with runners on the corners, bringing Nelson Maldonado home, JJ Schwarz to second and the tying run in the batter’s box with no outs.
Johnson forced three straight outs to end the threat.
The series finale is set for Saturday at noon. Florida’s Jackson Kowar (6-0, 3.51 ERA) will face South Carolina’s Adam Hill (2-3, 2.14 ERA).
Alex Faedo pitches during Florida's 1-0 win against South Carolina on April 20, 2017, at McKethan Stadium. Faedo tossed a career-high-tying 8 2/3 innings in the win. (Photo by Jordan McPherson)
Alex Faedo walked into the dugout after the eighth inning with 111 pitches and a 1-0 lead against South Carolina.
Everything was clicking for the junior to that point. He had command of his fastball. His slider was making batters miss with ease.
He just needed three more outs.
“Do you want the ninth?” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan asked his ace.
“Yeah,” Faedo responded. “I think I can close it out.”
For the second time this year, Faedo came close, ultimately leaving to a standing ovation with one out left after giving up a walk on his career-high 125th pitch.
But the 12th-ranked Gators still came away with the 1-0 win over the Gamecocks to open up the three-game series Thursday night at McKethan Stadium.
Faedo improved to 6-1 on the year and dropped his ERA to 2.46 with his masterful performance on the mound. The 6-5 righty struck out nine while giving up just three hits and walking four. He only allowed two South Carolina hitters to make it to scoring position.
It’s the perfect formula for success in a pitching duel to open up a conference series.
“He was outstanding,” O’Sullivan said, “and he had to be.”
South Carolina’s ace, Clarke Schmidt, was nearly flawless as well in his 5 1/3 innings before leaving with arm soreness. Schmidt, who came into the game with a 1.31 ERA, gave up just one hit in the first four innings before the Gators (26-12, 9-7 SEC) turned in the only run of the game in the fifth.
With two outs in the frame, UF junior Christian Hicks roped a two-out double to left field to get into scoring position and bring designated hitter Keenan Bell to the plate. Facing a full-count, the freshman hit a chopper up the middle for an RBI single, scoring Hicks for the decisive run.
“I knew I needed to have a good at-bat right there, come through for my team,” Bell said. “I’m lucky it came through.”
Faedo, meanwhile, continued to mow through the South Carolina lineup. His lone blemishes in the final four innings were a walk in the seventh, a single in the eighth and the walk to Alex Destino with one out left to end his start.
“Sully does know best and he hasn’t messed up on that,” Faedo said. “... I wasn’t mad at Sully or anything like that. I was mad at myself for not getting Destino out at the end.”
Sophomore Michael Byrne recorded the final out to earn his team-high seventh save of the season.
The series continues Friday at 7 p.m. and concludes at noon on Saturday.
Former Florida basketball player Canyon Barry tosses an underhanded first pitch prior to the UF baseball team's series opener against South Carolina (Photo by Jordan McPherson)
Before Florida basketball alumnus Canyon Barry trotted out to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Thursday’s series opener against South Carolina, he had just one thought.
“No need to risk anything here,” Barry said before letting out a quick laugh. “No Not Top-10 performances for me.”
He won’t have to worry about that.
After toeing the rubber and doing a traditional windup, Barry paused before tossing the pitch with his signature underhanded style directly over the plate for a strike to officially set up a pivotal SEC series for the 12th-ranked Gators baseball team.
Point guard Chris Chiozza -- who made the miraculous overtime buzzer-beater against Wisconsin to send the Gators to the Elite Eight -- was supposed to throw the first pitch but was unable to make it.
This isn’t Barry’s first exposure to baseball, though. Before his basketball career took off, he played for his high school’s baseball team during his freshman year.
“Hated every second of it,” Barry said. “[I was] bored out of my mind, but it’s fun to come out, eat a couple hot dogs and watch the guys play.”
Barry just finished his first and final season with the Gators men’s basketball team, a year that ended with a trip to the Elite Eight. The graduate transfer averaged 11.4 points per game, second on the team, and made a team-high 113 free throws -- all underhanded like his dad, NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry. He was named the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year and earned the CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year while studying for his master’s in nuclear engineering.
After the season ended, Barry was one of 64 seniors invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a postseason camp that serves essentially as a mini combine for college seniors as they prepare for the chance to play in the NBA. Barry averaged 14 points and 7.3 rebounds during the three-game tournament.
“I was happy with it,” Barry said. “I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I think I showed off how athletic I can be. … Hopefully some NBA teams took notice.”
And now, it’s preparation for the NBA Draft. Barry said he has about five workouts lined up and is hoping to make a training camp. He also said starting his pro career in Europe is not out of the equation, either.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win. I think I showed that here [at UF],” Barry said. “Just growing up around the game for so long, knowing the ins and outs of it and being a team player. … I’m just happy to be playing basketball and fortunate enough to hopefully play well enough to make a living.”