Gators Ranked No. 1 in Preseason Poll
Baseball: No. 8 Florida Meets No. 4 FSU In Jacksonville Tuesday
Sunshine State rivals No. 4 Florida State (19-4/6-3 ACC) and No. 8 Florida (18-5/4-2 SEC) will break from the conference grind for the third of four regular-season meetings on Tuesday night at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The game will air live on Sun Sports starting at 7 p.m. The squads have split the first two encounters and will also meet in Tallahassee on April 13. Junior right-hander Geoff Parker (1-0, 7.59) will start for the Seminoles against a UF pitcher to be announced.
In the teams’ last meeting, the Gators limited Florida State to one hit over the final seven innings and overcame a pair of three-run deficits en route to an 8-5 victory on March 16 at McKethan Stadium. Sophomore left-hander Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) threw two scoreless and hitless innings to earn the win and junior southpaw Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) kept the Seminoles off the scoreboard over the final three frames to pick up his third save. Sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-3) continued his torrid stretch by driving in four runs, giving him 13 RBI over a span of four games. Freshman Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) (3-for-4) matched his career high of three hits for the third time and scored a career-high three runs. Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (3-for-5) registered his 10th multiple-hit game and scored twice, while junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville , Fla.) (2-for-4) belted a two-run homer in the first inning and added an RBI single in the fourth inning. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 3-0 versus the Seminoles in Gainesville.
A seven-run first inning powered Florida State to a 10-5 win over Florida on March 2 in Tampa. The Seminoles exploded out of the gates with seven runs on six hits and two hit batters in the first inning, chasing sophomore starter Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) before he recorded an out. Freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) belted his first career homer in third inning to put the Gators on the board and UF rallied in the ninth with four runs on six hits to reduce the deficit to five runs. FSU’s Daniel Bennett had sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) pop up with the bases full to end the game. One positive was that Florida’s bullpen totaled 10 strikeouts.
The last time the teams tangled in Jacksonville, the Seminoles nipped Florida, 3-2, in a game that was shortened to five innings because of weather issues on March 31, 2009, at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Jack Posey (2-for-3) snapped a 2-2 tie with a leadoff homer in the top of the fifth off Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) and the Seminoles kept the Gators off the board in the bottom of the frame before the game was halted at 9:03 p.m. due to heavy rains.
Over the weekend, the Gators saw an end to their season-high six-game winning streak by dropping the first two games at No. 17 Ole Miss, 3-2 and 15-3. UF avoided the sweep with a 13-1 triumph in the finale. Freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) batted .429 (6-for-14) in the series, with multiple hits each game. Freshman left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-1, 3.42) picked his first SEC win in game three by working 5.1 innings in which he gave up four hits and zero earned runs and the Gator bullpen tossed 3.2 scoreless innings. After losing back-to-back games for the first time all season, UF erupted for 15 hits and used three RBI apiece from Maddox and Daniel Pigott (.289) to post the victory. Sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) (.317) went 3-for-5, raising his average in conference play to .500 (8-for-16). Tucker (.364, 20 RBI) poked a pair of doubles on Sunday, while eight of UF’s nine starters reached base.
Ole Miss secured the series triumph with a 15-3 victory on Saturday. The Rebels pounded out 19 hits and had four multiple-run innings. UF had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run single by Maddox but the hosts answered with four runs on five hits against freshman Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (2-1, 5.47). The Gators were a run short in the opener at O-U Stadium/Swayze Field. Trailing 3-1 in the ninth, Florida pulled within a run on an RBI single by Pigott. However, Maddox went down on strikes with the bases full to end the game. Panteliodis (5-1, 2.03) matched his career highs in innings pitched (7.1) and strikeouts (8) but suffered the tough-luck loss.
Jacksonville native Maddox leads Florida in batting average (.378), RBI (33), multiple-hit games (12), multiple-RBI games (10), doubles (8), homers (7) and slugging percentage (.673). He has started all 23 games in four different spots: designated hitter (13), first base (5), third base (4) and catcher (1).
Maddox enters the week on a seven-game hitting streak in which he is 12-for-31 (.387) with 12 RBI, seven runs, three homers and three doubles. He batted .429 (6-for-14) in the series at Ole Miss, with multiple hits each game, and was 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs in Sunday’s victory. The rookie opened the scoring with a solo shot to begin the second inning and added a two-run single in the third. Maddox gave Florida a 2-0 lead in the second matchup with a two-run single in the first inning and was 2-for-5 one day after going 2-for-5, with a single and a two-out RBI double off UM junior All-American Drew Pomeranz.
Freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) has started all 23 games at shortstop and has yet to make an error in 99 chances. Not only is he hitting .333 overall, the Winter Garden, Fla., native is tied for the team lead with 18 walks and paces the club with a .479 on-base percentage.
The Gators continue to lead the SEC with a .983 fielding percentage, having committed a league-low 15 errors in 23 games. UF has played flawless defense in 13 of 23 contests this spring and sports an 11-2 (.846) mark in those contests.
*Florida is 3-4 away from Gainesville this season and 15-1 at home. The Gators are 0-1 at neutral sites, having dropped a 10-5 decision to FSU on March 2 in Tampa.
*Florida State has taken two of the three meetings in Jacksonville. After UF posted a 16-7 win on April 3, 2007, the Seminoles have emerged victorious in the last two outings (10-2 on April 1, 2008, and 3-2 (5) on March 31, 2009).
*den Dekker is 10-for-12 on stolen base attempts this season and is 52-for-57 in his career. He is currently tied with Mark Kiger (2000-02) for 10th on the school’s all-time list.
*Before last Friday’s loss in the series opener to Ole Miss, the Gators had been 12-0 when a starter worked five or more innings. Panteliodis suffered his first defeat despite a 7.1-inning stint in which he allowed six hits and three runs, with a career-high 8 K.
*Saturday’s setback ended a run of 11-straight wins in which Florida lost after scoring first. The Gators seized a 2-0 lead in the first frame before Ole Miss countered with four runs in the home part of the stanza and cruised from there.
*Chapman is 1-0 with a 1.12 earned run average and has collected four saves in 16.0 innings covering 10 appearances. The left-hander saw action in 11 games totaling 11.1 innings last season.
*Seven of UF’s 18 wins are of the come-from-behind variety. The Gators overcame an 8-0 deficit in the second inning to post a 13-8 win against FGCU last Wednesday. UF also trailed 8-0 at No. 6 Georgia in third inning on May 1, 2009, before notching a 10-9 victory in 11 innings.
*The Gator bullpen is 7-0 with eight saves and a 4.24 earned run average. Florida is 16-0 when leading after six innings and 17-0 when ahead after the seventh.
*Florida’s eight saves this year are from four different relievers: senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) (two), Chapman (four), sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) and Maronde.
*Opposing left-handers are 1-for-16 (.063) against Chapman and righties are 9-for-41 (.220). Leadoff hitters have reached base three times in 13 opportunities against him (.231).
*With runners on base, foes are 2-for-19 (.105) against Barfield and 2-for-16 (.125) versus freshman Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.).
*UF’s pitching staff has held opponents under six runs 18 times and the Orange and Blue is 16-2 (.889) in those games.
*The Gators are holding foes to a .232 (59-for-254) average with two outs.
*Washington is a sizzling 7-for-11 (.636) when leading off an inning, while Adams is 10-for-19 (.526). As a team, the Gators hit .443 (86-for-194) when beginning a frame.
*Twelve of den Dekker’s 18 RBI this yer have come with two outs.
*UF holds a 169-100 advantage on the scoreboard, featuring a 32-9 disparity in the sixth inning and a 23-6 edge in the fourth stanza.
*Florida is 12-1 this season when scoring first and is 13-2 when out-hitting their opponent.
*Freshman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) appeared twice during the series at Ole Miss and came through with a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning of game three before sophomore Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) clubbed a pinch-hit homer for his first career round-tripper.
By Robbie Andreu
Staff writer Gatorsports.com
MOBILE, Ala. — Since agreeing to terms with the Texas Rangers last summer, Riley Cooper has been on a path to a professional baseball career. But just when the Rangers were set to start paying him, Cooper called a quick audible and changed his route, electing instead to run a fly pattern straight into the NFL.
"Football is the route I want to take," the former Florida wide receiver said. "I'm excited about what this week is going to bring us. It's going to be good."
On Jan. 17, Cooper was supposed to show up in Texas for a physical with the Rangers, who then would pay Cooper half the signing bonus the two sides agreed on last summer after Texas drafted him in the 25th round of the Major League Draft.
Cooper never showed up. Now, Cooper is at the Senior Bowl, running patterns and catching passes in front of hundreds of NFL coaches and scouts. His pro football career is being launched this week.
"It's wild, man," he said. "It has been a real whirlwind."
After Cooper signed with the Rangers, the team took three weeks to ponder Cooper's proposal that he be allowed to stay at Florida and play football his senior season. Texas eventually agreed. Now, the Rangers have lost a prospect to professional football.
Cooper said he started feeling the pull of the NFL late in what turned out to be a breakout season in football. Cooper emerged as UF's top wide receiver in 2009, catching 51 passes for 961 yards and nine touchdowns. He closed it out with one of the best performances of his career — nine receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl.
"Kind of toward the last couple of games of the seasons, I knew that's what I wanted to do," he said. "My makeup and mentality, stuff like that. I'm just kind of a football player, not a baseball player. That's what I'm going to concentrate on."
Cooper said he has not talked to the Rangers. He left that up to his father, Larry, to handle.
"I was supposed to show up for a physical (with the Rangers) Jan. 17 and get half my signing bonus," Cooper said. "But I said, 'I'm going to go football, that's what I want to do. I appreciate everything you did for me, but I'm out.' They kind of just talked to my dad. He said he took care of it.
"Probably before the bowl game, (the Rangers) knew (I might stick with football). They kept calling him, calling him right after the bowl game."
So baseball is out and football is in for Cooper, who said he received some favorable opinions about his pro potential from the NFL before he made his decision to drop baseball.
"They said (round) two, three or four," he said.
Cooper said he did not receive any advice from his roommate, All-America quarterback Tim Tebow, who has been throwing passes to Cooper this week in practice.
"He just said, 'I'm praying for you Riley. You'll make the right decision,' " Cooper said.
So far, Cooper has been one of the most impressive receivers on the South team. He has consistently beaten man-to-man coverage and caught numerous passes.
He said it's been a little strange having so many coaches and scouts watching his every move.
"It's different," he said. "I didn't expect the Senior Bowl to be like this. I knew a lot of NFL guys would be here. I didn't know I'd be weighing in (Sunday) in front of 600 scouts. I've never been naked in front of 600 people before. It's an experience."
Cooper said he's also going to participate in the NFL Combine in March. To get ready for the Combine and the draft, Cooper will be working out in Gainesville under UF strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti.
"Coach Mick, he's awesome," Cooper said. "Percy (Harvin) did the same thing. I'm on a similar route as he was in the last draft. It's going to be good."
Cooper said the one thing he doesn't like about the NFL so far is that he's listed as a 4.5-second guy in the 40-yard dash. He says he's faster that that and will prove it by running at the Combine.
"I want to run," he said. "I ain't no 4.5 guy."
He's not a baseball guy anymore, either, and he seems comfortable with that.
"I'm going to miss (baseball)," Cooper said. "I've been playing football and baseball my whole life. Now that it's going to be only one sport, I'm going to miss it. But I think it's going to benefit me health-wise and having an offseason I haven't had since I was 13 years old. It will be good."