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19 posts from May 2009

May 31, 2009

Gators coach making all the right calls

GAINESVILLE -- A tip of the hat goes to Florida Gators baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan, who has done a masterful job managing his team to a pair of victories in the Gainesville Regional of the NCAA baseball tournament.

OSullivanKevin UF defeated the University of Miami 8-2 on Saturday night to advance to the regional tournament's championship game. Florida plays either Miami or Jacksonville University at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. A win tonight will send UF to its first Super Regional since 2005.

O'Sullivan made all the right calls on Saturday against the 'Canes. Saving ace Stephen Locke for the Miami worked out brilliantly. Locke pitched 7 and 1/3 innings on Saturday, allowing just two runs (both of which were unearned). O'Sullivan brought in freshman pitcher Nick Maronde (normally a starter) to close out the seventh. Maronde recorded a pair of strikeouts to get UF out of a jam. Offensively, the Gators pressured Miami's defense into several mistakes with six bunts.

UF is the favorite to win tonight's game after winning its first contests of the regional tournament. The Gators have avoided the losers' bracket, which is murder on a team's pitching depth.


May 30, 2009

Let's sculpt a Tebow Turtle, why not?

GAINESVILLE -- This from the Baker County Press and reporter Kelley Lannigan. An artist in Taylor, Fla., has produced a sculture of a football-toting sea turtle decorated in Tim Tebow's Gators uniform. The artwork will be displayed at Jacksonville Memorial Stadium and auctioned for charity.

Finished-Turtle-1tease [PICTURED, He's a lefty with a strong arm, folks.]

Gators vs. 'Canes today at 6:30 p.m.

GAINESVILLE -- The biggest game of the Florida Gators' baseball season is here. It's Gators vs. 'Canes at 6:30 p.m. and The Miami Herald is apparently doing its best to stir up the pregame hype. Yesterday, we ran the headline, "Gainesville or Canesville?' -- a reference to the 'Canes historical dominance of NCAA regionals played at McKethan Stadium.

The 'Canes swept UF earlier this season. Will the Gators break through when it matters? Check back during the game for blog updates. UF fifth-year senior Stephen Locke will likely start for the Gators today.

Today's random added bonus: Goody's Top 5 baseball throwbacks.
5) Robin Yount
4) Roberto Clemente
3) Dale Murphy 
2) Bo Jackson
1) Hank Aaron 

What's your favorite baseball throwback?

Speaking of random, who else here loves watching the National Spelling Bee? These kids are amazing! Who would win in a spelling bee of UF football players? The favorite would be William Green. Although, I hear home-school kids are pretty good spellers.


Gators softball team wins again in Omaha

University of Florida pitcher Stacey Nelson dominated the University of Michigan on Friday night in the Gators' second game of the Women's College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Nelson tossed a complete game one-hitter and struck out nine in a 1-0 victory.

Florida's Megan Bush homered in the sixth inning to give the Gators the game's only run.

UF (62-3) has a bye on Saturday and returns to action at 3 p.m. on Sunday against either Arizona, Arizona State or Alabama. Arizona and Alabama play at 2 p.m. on Saturday in an elimination game. The winner plays Arizona State at 9 p.m. on Saturday. The winner of that game advances to play Florida on Sunday.

The No.1-ranked Gators defeated Arizona 3-0 in UF's first game of the WCWS. Nelson had 12 strikeouts against the Wildcats. Florida and the University of Washington are the only two teams remaining in the WCWS without a loss.


May 29, 2009

NCAA BASEBALL: Gators survive Bethune-Cookman with ninth-inning heroics

GAINESVILLE -- The Gators made things interesting -- very interesting, pull-your-teeth-out interesting -- but survived mighty Bethune-Cookman on Friday night in the opening game of the NCAA Gainesville regional.

The Gators defeated B-CU 8-7 on a walk-off, two-out single by substitute Teddy Foster. Foster tossed his helmet in the air moments after base-runner Matt den Dekker slide across the plate to give UF its dramatic win. Florida loaded the bases in the ninth before Foster heroics. Florida plays the University of Miami at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Continue reading "NCAA BASEBALL: Gators survive Bethune-Cookman with ninth-inning heroics" »

Why is everyone hating on the Florida Gators?

GAINESVILLE -- Back on the blog after a nice vacation. Watched a few movies. Saw a few beaches. Lost my wallet in the Intercoastal. Picked ticks off my legs in Alabama. Thought about building an ark after 10 straight days of ran. Good times.

Now I'm back in front of the computer. Good to be back. I'll be heading over to McKethan Stadium in a few to watch the UF baseball team take on Bethune-Cookman in the Gators' opening game of the NCAA regionals. Game starts at 6:30 p.m.; Check back for updates. Before I head out, I wanted to get caught up on some news and notes.

First order of business ... Why is everyone all of sudden hating on the Gators? First Mike Bianchi at the O-Sentinel wrote THIS. Then, Dave Hyde at the Sun-Sentinel wrote THIS. Talk about your Tribune Urban_meyer Company double teams. Bianchi is apparently still put off by Urban Meyer's robotic public persona. The thing about Urban is this: He has a hard time faking it. You know how some people are so phony that they can make you think they like you even when they hate you? Well, that's not Urban.

[PICTURED, The guy reporters love to hate. QUESTION, Will Urban Meyer ever start stroking the egos of insecure newspaper hacks? Let's hope not. Urban, I will lose all respect for you if you suddenly stop laughing at all my questions.] 

I'm sure some of you guys out there can relate to this. When I'm around someone I don't really like, I usually let them know it through body language, abbreviated responses and general lack of respect. Well, that's Urban.

As for Hyde's well-written column on the Gators' arrest record during the Meyer years, I've got a two-word response: Tim Tebow. The national media is so enamored with UF's cover boy that nothing else matters. Tebow is like Teflon. While Lefty is in Gainesville, nothing will ever stick.

Second order of business ... Has anyone been watching the NBA playoffs and wondering aloud this Donovan thought: Gee, I bet Billy Donovan is regretting his decision to return to UF right about now.

[PICTURED, A guy longing for his own Dwight Howard.] 

Donovan could have been the coach of the Orlando Magic two years ago but instead chose to stay in Gainesville and coach college basketball. Two years later and the Magic is on the brink of the NBA Finals and the Gators are having trouble treading water. Donovan lost star point guard Nick Calathes to pro basketball one year after losing power forward Mo Speights to the NBA. Now, UF's only point guard is 5-8 and the Gators are banking on a 6-foot freshman shooting guard to get them back to the NCAA Tournament. Don't hold your breath.

Third order of business ... Speaking of Calathes, many thanks are in order to the young Mike McCall for updating the blog when the news broke. Thanks, Mike. I've read through the comments and can't help but laugh. All of sudden UF fans hate Nick Calathes? The guy carried the team for two years and had to play alongside guys like Dan Werner, Chandler Parsons and Walter Hodge. Calathes paid his debt. Good luck in Greece, kid.

Fourth order of business ... So it looks like the Memphis basketball team might end up having to vacate its trip to the national finals in 2008. Note to Mike Slive ... beware.

Fifth order of business ... The current four-year contract for the annual Florida-Georgia football game is set to expire in 2010. If Georgia is content with its current subaltern status -- inferior to the Gators, Richtx boardroom pawn -- then the Bulldogs should continue conceding home-field advantage to its biggest rival and keep the game in Jacksonville.

[PICTURED, A man apparently content with coaching in the shadow of Urban Meyer.]

Look, I get it, folks. Save your hate mail for someone else. I'm all for keeping the game in Jacksonville. There's nothing like seeing half the stadium in UF orange and blue and the other half in UGA black and red. But from Georgia's perspective, this rivalry needs to be moved to a home-and-home series. (And that does not mean move the game to the Georgia Dome. Yuck! Nothing could be more stale and corporate.)

If Georgia enjoyed watching Florida dominate the Southeastern Conference for the last 20 years, then the Bulldogs should continue playing in Jacksonville. If Georgia wants to up its chances of winning the SEC East every now and then, then the rivalry needs to alternate between Athens and Gainesville.

And, please, save the monetary argument for someone else. Jacksonville's payout might be comparable to a home game for both teams but for Georgia, the money (and, more accurately, the potential money) is not the same as a home game when the rivalry is played in Jacksonville. How many SEC championships has Florida won in the last 20 years? How many national titles has Florida won in the last 20 years? Now compare that to UGA's success. UF's championships have equated to big bucks and the root of those championships was grounded in a permanent home-field advantage of the Gators' biggest rivalry game. Just one man's opinion.

Sixth order of business ... The No.1-ranked UF softball team won its first game of the Women's College World Series on Thursday, blanking No.9 Arizona 3-0. UF ace Stacey Nelson struck out 12 batters. The Gators play No.5 Michigan at 9 p.m. on Friday. ESPN will carry the game.


May 23, 2009

Calathes headed for Greece, is UF a program in turmoil?

Calathes Greece By MIKE McCALL

Touché, Nick Calathes.

Everyone was awaiting the UF guard’s decision between an NBA career and another year with the Gators, but he had another plan.

On Saturday, several news outlets reported that Calathes has signed with Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos, which has won two of the last three Euroleague titles.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the contract would be worth $1.1 million per year and include a home, car and tax credits, making the total package comparable to what a late lottery pick in the NBA Draft could expect to be paid.

It’s too early to tell how well this decision will work out in the long term for Calathes, but in the short term, I love it.

Continue reading "Calathes headed for Greece, is UF a program in turmoil?" »

May 21, 2009

No. 9 Florida bounces back, crushes No. 7 Mississippi in SEC Tourney


HOOVER, Ala.--Well, the Gators certainly made a statement today.

After coming out flat against Arkansas yesterday in an 8-5 loss, Florida smacked Ole Miss on Thursday, potentially locking up a national seed in the process. The Gators and Rebels are in a hunt for a national seed, and UF got a leg up in that department with its 12-2, eight-inning, mercy-rule-shortened victory.

Right fielder Jonathan Pigott (left) was the man of the hour, blasting two home runs out of Regions Park to finish 2-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs. That made him the first player to drop two bombs in an SEC Tourney game since 2001, and it was particularly shocking considering that Pigott had just two home runs on the season, and Regions Park is larger and tougher to hit home runs in.

Naturally, first baseman Preston Tucker also hit a home run, bouncing one off the foul pole in left field. His three RBIs give him 77 for the year, three shy of the all-time UF record (Ryan Shealy).

Freshman Anthony DeSclafani pitched a great game, going 5.2 innings, striking out three and allowing five hits and two runs. More importantly, Patrick Keating came in to relieve him with the bases loaded, got out of the jam and held the Rebels to two hits in 2.1 innings.

Keating started the year as the team's ace but struggled and was bumped to the bullpen. He hasn't seen a lot of action there lately, but his play today led coach Kevin O'Sullivan to say we should expect to see more of him. That could be a big boost if he can keep pitching well, especially this late in the year.

Now, Florida awaits the loser of the Georgia-Arkansas game at 4 p.m. Friday, and a win would move them a step closer to a national seed. Securing a national seed would give Florida the right to host a super regional in Gainesville. That would be a big deal, considering that UF was 27-8 at home this season compared to 10-9 on the road.

May 20, 2009

Gators get off on the wrong foot in Hoover



HOOVER, Ala.—This is the big stage, and UF didn’t look ready for it.

Quite literally, the Southeastern Conference Tournament is a bigger stage than the Gators are used to. That was clear in the first inning, when first baseman Preston Tucker hit a deep shot to right.

It would likely have cleared the fence at the friendly confines of McKethan Stadium, but instead, the larger dimensions of Regions Park swallowed it up for a flyout.

This is the postseason, and UF is going to have to go a little beyond the usual effort to get things done.

Rather than rolling seventh-seeded Arkansas, the Gators sputtered to an 8-5 loss. They caught most of the breaks but made enough sloppy mistakes to give back their good fortune.

Continue reading "Gators get off on the wrong foot in Hoover" »

May 15, 2009

Florida Gators preseason No.1; PLUS: Are the Miami recruiting floodgates about to open?

GAINESVILLE -- It should come as no surprise that ESPN columnist Mark Schlabach ranked the Florida Gators his preseason No.1 on Friday. Here's what Schlabach wrote about the Gators:

With 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tebow and all 11 starters coming back on defense, the Gators are clearly the team to beat this season. Linebacker Brandon Spikes and perhaps the most talented secondary in the country lead what should be a ferocious defense. Tebow will take more snaps from under center, and coach Urban Meyer is determined to make him a more polished passer. Tight end Aaron Hernandez emerged as a big playmaker during the spring, and Carl Moore and Deonte Thompson's consistent play alleviated some of the anxiety about losing speedy receiver Percy Harvin to the NFL draft. Florida plays eight of its 12 games in the Sunshine State, but road games at LSU on Oct. 10 and at South Carolina on Nov. 14 are potential stumbling blocks.


Continue reading "Florida Gators preseason No.1; PLUS: Are the Miami recruiting floodgates about to open?" »

May 11, 2009

Florida Gators recruiting target commits elsewhere

GAINESVILLE -- Offensive lineman Jawaun James of Suwannee North Gwinnett (Ga.) High recently committed to the University of Alabama. The 6-6, 293-pound senior, projected as an offensive tackle in college, visited the University of Florida this spring and was one of the Gators' top recruiting targets of the 2010 recruiting class.

For a link to the always-updated Gator Clause Recruiting Big Board, CLICK ME! We'll update the Big Board throughout the summer, so check back often. Replacing James on the Big Board's "top-priority" Jawuanjames list is Tampa Catholic offensive lineman Chaz Green (6-6, 290 pounds.)

Here's a picture of James taken by the good folks at Rivals.com. I guess I'm out of touch with the latest teenaged fashions. Can someone explain to me what the heck is on James' neck?

ANYWAY, the story about UF coach Urban Meyer's ill-informed comments regarding the Auburn Tigers' limousine charade won't seem to go away.

Continue reading "Florida Gators recruiting target commits elsewhere " »

May 10, 2009

Florida Gators football team reports on Monday; Plus a UF basketball offseason to-do list

GAINESVILLE -- Plenty of Gators-related tidbits to touch on -- some newsworthy, others less than blogworthy.

--The football team returns to campus on Monday for summer classes and summer workouts. Meyer and his assistants aren't allowed to hold organized practices with the team until late July, so strength coach Mickey Marotti is the man in the charge.

According to Meyer, Marotti's goal this summer is make the team so tired that they don't have the strength to pick up a preseason magazine and read about how good they're supposed to be next season. UF will likely be a consensus No.1 among the Athlons and Blue Ribbons of the world.

Of course, if Meyer was really worried about his team's competitive psyche then the coach would say thanks but no thanks every time ESPN came calling. Does anyone foresee UF turning down the Sports Illustrated preseason edition cover shot just so the Gators will remain humble, hungry and unaware that they're supposed to be really, really good next season? Mmmyeah ... I don't think so.

Let's cut through the rhetoric on this one. There are two reasons why Florida's already talented football team will get even better this summer. Reason One: Brandon Spikes. Reason Two: Tim Tebow. These guys didn't return to school to lose their edge on account of offseason complacency.

Continue reading "Florida Gators football team reports on Monday; Plus a UF basketball offseason to-do list" »

May 06, 2009

Is Nick Calathes hurting the Florida Gators basketball team? Plus a rant about the NCAA


GAINESVILLE -- About a month ago, I asked Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan a serious question, "Is Nick Calathes hijacking Florida's recruiting process?"

The answer came today. Yes.

High school point guard Eric Bledsoe of Birmingham, Ala., committed to coach John Calipari and Kentucky on Wednesday after a long courtship by several schools, including Florida. Bledsoe was leaning towards signing with Florida until the final few weeks of his recruiting process. Instead, Calipari swooped in and stole one of Donovan's recruits at the 11th hour.

How did this happen? I know what you're thinking, but you can use the Bledsoe-couldn't-qualify-for-UF excuse on someone else. When Florida admitted John Brown and Torrey Davis, the university proved it was willing to contort its rules into a pretzel for potential athletic stars who could make UAA a little cash. (OK, a lot of cash.)

No, grades had nothing to do with this. Calathes did.

Continue reading "Is Nick Calathes hurting the Florida Gators basketball team? Plus a rant about the NCAA" »

Tim Tebow, Phil Mickelson on the golf course this morning

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow played 18 holes at a Jacksonville golf course this morning with another famous lefty, golfer Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson is in Jacksonville for the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. He practiced at an off-site course on Wednesday morning and asked Tebow to join him. Last summer, Tebow participated in several charity golf events, including one for ESPN, and told me afterwards that a few of his drives went over 350 yards.

--Earlier Wednesday morning, the Florida governor's office announced that Tebow has been named a co-chair to the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness -- a savvy political move by Charlie Crist, if you ask me.

Former Tampa Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks and Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller are also on the fitness council. The governor's office introduced the council two years ago to promote health and fitness.


May 05, 2009

Cinco de Mayo means serious business for Florida Gators football coaching staff

GAINESVILLE -- Well, we're back in Hogtown after a nice weekend in Pensacola (my younger brother's wedding). One thing I noticed about the Sunshine State's western-most outpost: There aren't many Gators fans out that way.

Out west, all the talk this weekend was about Auburn's assistant football coaches riding around Mobile in a stretch limousine. Why is this news? My opinion: After forcing coach Tommy Tuberville to resign, Auburn football might as well be riding around in a hearse. Silly rednecks.

OK, enough jokes. Today is Cinco de Mayo and that means it's time for serious business in the state of Florida. The Gators' coaching staff is fanned out across the state this week evaluating talent during the Florida High School Athletic Association's first week of football spring practice. The first stop for UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was ...

Continue reading "Cinco de Mayo means serious business for Florida Gators football coaching staff" »

May 04, 2009

Gators sweep Georgia, claim SEC East lead

Bullock UGA By Mike McCall

It looks like Florida baseball is for real. Like, start-checking-regional-predictions and let-the-thought-of-a-trip-to-Omaha-creep-into-your-mind for real.

The No. 24 Gators have won eight in a row and 15 of their last 18. They swept South Carolina last weekend, and this weekend, they blanked No. 11 Georgia on the road. Here's a quick recap of their tilt with the Bulldogs:

Continue reading "Gators sweep Georgia, claim SEC East lead" »

May 02, 2009

LaPorta headed for the Big Leagues

La! Porta! By Mike McCall

Former Florida Sultan of Swat Matt LaPorta was called up to the majors by the Cleveland Indians on Friday: LINK (it's a good read, check it out).

LaPorta, UF's all-time home runs leader (a record Preston Tucker might challenge if he sticks around), got the good news after his AAA Columbus club faced Durham, and he had to work around a canceled flight this morning to meet the big club in Detroit.

LaPorta got a chance to play first base again on Friday after playing in the outfield for a while, but the move came as such a surprise that he had to borrow a teammates' first baseman's mitt becuase he left his in Columbus.

No word yet on where the former No. 7 pick will play for the Indians, but he didn't see any action on Saturday against Detroit, as Ryan Garko played first and Shin-Soo Choo was in left.

Should college athletes be paid?

Tebow jersey By Mike McCall

Sorry it took me so long to get posts up, but I found out I had blogging duties this weekend the same way you did, so you'll have to forgive me. While Joe is off at the Goodman family gathering, I'd like to tackle one of the biggest debates in college sports, that of whether or not college athletes should be paid.

I've always been fascinated by this discussion because there are so many sides to it, but let's start with the most obvious one.

The Cash Cow

Perhaps no one could serve as a better case for paying college athletes than Tim Tebow.

Continue reading "Should college athletes be paid?" »

May 01, 2009

Harvin hospitalized, misses Day 1 of minicamp

Harvin mug By Mike McCall

UPDATE: The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that Percy Harvin has been hospitalized in Atlanta for "extreme dehydration." According to the story, Harvin was en route to Minnesota for minicamp when he started vomiting in the Atlanta airport and was admitted to a hospital.

The illness caused Harvin to miss the first day of Minnesota's mandatory minicamp, and even if it's a totally legit situation, it's not the best way for him to start his career off. I don't want to talk down about Harvin until I know the whole story, but this is reminiscent of the whole migraine headache crisis in 2007 that has been called into question lately.

If Harvin is somehow at fault here, this is about the worst possible way to start his career that I can think of. There was the whole drug test mess, but the Vikes still took him in the first round, so I'd expect him to be a choir boy for a while. I can't imagine he'd do anything stupid to land himself in the hospital right now, so I'll hold my judgment until the facts come out.

You have to hope he's able to recover quickly and make a solid impression at minicamp. He has the potential to be a huge asset for Minnesota, and after the media firestorm he was caught in pre-Draft, he could use a quiet few months.

Also, on the headline of that story, what do you think of the phrase "controversial Percy Harvin?" It's clear he's being regarded with some suspicion still, as is probably clear in what I just wrote.



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