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Riley Cooper bombs ... in a good way

GAINESVILLE -- Took in the baseball team's hump-day special on Wednesday night. It was the team's last warm-up game before Friday, when the Gators welcome the Miami Hurricanes to town for a three-game set.

The highlight of UF's 17-6 victory against Eastern Michigan was a towering grand slam to left field by sophomore Riley Cooper in the fifth inning that, had it not smacked a car in a parking lot far, far away, might have one-hopped the CoopO'Dome. It was a bomb, folks. After the game, Cooper [PICTURED] shrugged off the homer with a just-another-hit attitude, but the baseball in his back pocket told you everything you needed to know about what the rightfielder thought of the blast.

"I'm keeping that one," Cooper said.

Cooper might be your favorite receiver next season on the football team, but this guy has the look of a future professional baseball player. He appears to be coming into his own on the diamond after dedicating himself this offseason to preparing for the baseball season. He said on Wednesday night that he began working on his swing while also preparing for the national championship game. He worked around football practice for about a month, taking batting practice in the mornings and running routes in the afternoon.

Munroe Florida is 5-0 and ranked No.12 by Collegiate Baseball. Two other Gators homered on Wednesday night, including catcher Buddy Munroe of Miami Christopher Columbus [PICTURED]. Munroe's three-run blast came in the sixth inning and gave UF a 16-5 lead. Munroe went 2-for-2 on Wednesday with a career-high three RBI. He also scored two runs and is batting a team-best .556 after five games. UF leftfielder Avery Barnes led off the game with a solo home run to right-center field.

Are the Gators excited about the Canes coming to town? Of course they are but they wouldn't offer any emotion on Wednesday night. "Just another game," said centerfielder Matt den Dekker of Fort Lauderdale. Den Dekker went 3-for-5 on Wednesday.

SEC HOOPS UPDATE
South Carolina defeated Kentucky 77-59 on Wednesday night in Columbia, S.C., grabbing sole possession of first place in the SEC East with three games remaining on the Gamecocks' regular-season schedule.

South Carolina (20-6, 9-4 in the SEC) has an RPI rating of 44 and is 1-4 against the RPI's top 50 teams. (Sheesh, talk about an indictment. The SEC is bad, bad, bad this season). The Gamecocks are in a good position to win the SEC East and earn a bye in the first round of the SEC Tournament. The three games remaining on South Carolina's schedule: at Vandy, Tennessee at home and at Georgia.

Kentucky's loss moved the Wildcats (19-9, 8-5) into a three-way tie for second place in the SEC East with Florida ( 21-7, 8-5) and Tennessee (17-10, 8-5). Tennessee defeated Mississippi State 81-76 in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday night. Florida hosts Tennessee on Sunday. 

-jo-

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