Updated: May 11
A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:
CARDIAC-AC-AC-AC: COTTRILL GIVES GATORS EARN SHARE OF SEC TITLE
Like most coaches, if you gave Tim Walton a choice, he would prefer to win in blowout fashion, but that doesn’t seem to be in the DNA of this 2021 edition of the Florida Gators. Ten of their 40 wins have been in come-from-behind fashion and six times they’ve gone truly dramatic and won in walk-off fashion.
Proof that lightning does strike twice in the same place was Sunday afternoon when, for the second time in three games against Texas A&M, the Gators got a walk-off home run to beat the Aggies. Friday evening it was Charla Echols’ 3-run homer in the bottom of the seventh that gave the Gators a 5-3 win. Sunday, it was Julia Cottrill’s turn. Her 2-run homer off the bullpen roof in left field not only gave the Gators a rather miraculous 6-5 win over the Aggies but secured a share of the Southeastern Conference championship with Arkansas.
The Gators (40-8, 19-5 SEC) didn’t have a hit until the bottom of the fifth inning when Hannah Adams launched a 2-run homer to dead center to cut the Aggies’ lead to 4-2. Later in the inning Jaimie Hoover hit a 2-out, 2-run single to tie the game. The Aggies retook the lead in the sixth, setting up the game-ending dramatics. In the seventh, Echols hit a one-out opposite field double to left and Cottrill, after fouling off three straight pitches hit her fourth homer of the season, her first walk-off hit as a Gator.
Friday night, the Gators trailed the Aggies 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh when Cheyenne Lindsey and Adams walked. One out later, Echols hit her 13th home run of the season over the center field fence to win it for UF.
Katie Chronister (9-2, 1.86 ERA) got the Friday and Sunday wins in relief. Friday night she pitched four hitless innings in relief of Elizabeth Hightower to get the win. When she entered the game in the fourth inning Sunday, the Gators trailed 4-0. Lugo (14-2, 1.69 ERA) got the win Saturday with a complete game, 4-hit shutout as UF took a 4-0 win.
This was the eighth SEC championship in Walton’s 16 years as Florida’s head coach. The Gators will try to add an SEC Tournament title next week in Tuscaloosa where they are the No. 1 seed.
BARCO’S BEST OUTING GIVES UF SERIES WIN OVER KENTUCKY
The Gators (33-14, 15-9 SEC East) rebounded from their disappointing Thursday night loss to Kentucky (27-17, 11-13 SEC East) to take the final two games of the series, clinching with a 9-2 Saturday afternoon win behind the best performance of Hunter Barco’s career. Barco (8-2, 4.26 ERA) went 6-2/3 innings, allowing two singles and striking out 10.
Friday night, the Gators knocked off the Wildcats 8-5, rallying for four runs in the top of the ninth, tying the game on a 2-out RBI single by Corey Acton then winning on a 3-run homer by Kendrick Calilao. Earlier in the game Jud Fabian hit his 17th and 18th homers of the season, moving him into a tie for the SEC lead. Jack Leftwich picked up the save in relief of Christian Scott (4-2, 2.78 ERA).
Saturday, the Gators pecked away at the UK pitching, scoring single runs in four different innings to stake Barco to a comfortable 4-0 lead. Kentucky scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth, but the Gators put the game away with a 4-run ninth. Jacob Young led Florida’s 11-hit attack by driving in four runs on a 4-5 night at the plate. Leftwich (6-3, 3.51 ERA), who came on in the eighth to put out the Kentucky rally, earned his fourth save of the season.
The Gators travel to DeLand Tuesday night for a non-conference matchup with Stetson. They will be home next weekend to face Georgia (28-18, 11-13 SEC East).
NO. 1 GATORS ADVANCE TO NCAA TENNIS QUARTER-FINALS
The top-seeded and No. 1 ranked Gators won two matches in dominant fashion over the weekend to advance to the quarter-finals of the NCAA Championships where they will face 16th-seeded Illinois next Monday night in Lake Nona.
The Gators advanced to the quarter-finals with two dominant wins over the weekend, shutting out South Alabama 4-0 Saturday then coming back Sunday to take down South Florida 4-1.
FLORIDA WINS AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE LACROSSE TOURNAMENT
Six goals each by Brianna Harris and Shannon Kavanaugh led the 8th-ranked Gators (16-2) to a 19-4 win over Temple in the championship game of the American Athletic Conference at Donald Dizney Stadium.
Named to the All-AAC Tournament team were Kavanaugh, Kaitlyn Dabkowski, Grace Haus, Sara Reznick, Cara Trombetta and Emma Wightman. Brianna Harris was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. In addition to her six goals, she had four assists in the championship game.
The Gators were selected as the No. 6 seed for the NCAA Tournament which begins next weekend. The Gators will face Mercer next Friday afternoon (4 p.m.) at Donald Dizney Stadium followed by a matchup between Jacksonville and Vanderbilt at 6:30. The winners will face off Sunday at 12 noon. Florida, which has played in the NCAA Tournament 10 consecutive years, has won 13 consecutive games.
Other UF spring sports
Women’s tennis: The season ended Saturday for the 16th-ranked Gators (13-8) when they lost to Southern Cal, 4-1, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Ring Tennis Center. The Gators advanced to the second round by beating Siena 4-0.
Women’s golf: The Gators begin play in the NCAA Tournament at the Stanford Regional today.
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT …
Kyle Pitts is going to have to squeeze by the next four years on $32,910,493 as part of his salary and bonus package with the Atlanta Falcons. Pitts, who gets a signing bonus of $21,292,904, will count $5,983,726 against the Falcons cap space.
Kadarius Toney’s signing bonus will be $7,338,000 or thereabouts with a total contract value of $13,720,000.
Top overall pick Trevor Lawrence will get a signing bonus of $24,118,900 and a four-year deal worth $36,794,486.
That’s nice work if you can get it.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC Alabama: Linebacker Henry To’o To’o (6-2, 225, SO), who was Tennessee’s leading tackler last season, will be transferring to Alabama. To’o To’o was in on 76 tackles including 10 for loss and returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown.
Arkansas: Last week Arkansas released juco transfer Akol Mawein (6-10, 210, Navarro College) from his national letter of intent. Mawein was rated the No. 5 juco talent in the country.
Auburn: Head football coach Bryan Harsin, who spent the last few years at Boise State, believes expansion of the College Football Playoff will happen, which will open the door for Group of Five teams. “I’ve always felt like any team that has won all their games should have a chance to play for it all,” Harsin told Paul Finebaum.
Georgia: Now that the state of Georgia has enacted name, likeness, image legislation that will allow athletes to get paid for among other things, advertising, former University of Georgia coach Mark Richt commented, “When I was playing college football, my priorities were girls, football, then school. Now, it’s going to be money, girls, football, school.”
Kentucky: Wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight was arrested in Kenton County and charged with DUI, an open container with alcohol in a motor vehicle and driving 26 mph or more over the speed limit.
LSU: Five-star center Efton Reid (7-0, 245, Richmond, Virginia/Bradenton, FL IMG Academy) pulled off a minor surprise when he committed to LSU Sunday, saying no to home state teams Virginia and Virginia Tech, which were recruiting him heavily.
Mississippi State: Former Washington State wide receiver Jamire Calvin is transferring to Mississippi State. In two years playing for Mike Leach at Washington State, Calvin caught 75 passes for 797 yards and four touchdowns.
Missouri: By taking its weekend series with 15th-ranked Tennessee, 16th-ranked Missouri (37-14, 15-9 SEC) clinched the No. 4 seed in this week’s SEC Softball Tournament.
Ole Miss: Former Ole Miss and now Seattle Seahawks wide receiver didn’t qualify for the Olympic Trials but he ran a most respectable 10.36 100 meters at the USATF Golden Games. Metcalf checks in at 6-3 and 230 pounds, which makes the time even more impressive.
South Carolina: South Carolina (28-17, 12-12 SEC East) avoided getting swept by 4th-ranked Mississippi State (35-11, 16-8 SEC West) Sunday with a dramatic 4-3 win on an RBI walk-off double by David Mendham in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Tennessee: The Vols (37-11, 17-7 SEC East) swept Missouri (5-19, 12-32 SEC East) over the weekend to take over sole possession of first place in the SEC East.
Texas A&M: In defense of Jimbo Fisher’s comment about beating Nick Saban’s ass, Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network chimed in with this: “You don’t go to the podium in Houston, Texas with your head down and your tail tucked and say, ‘No, we can’t beat old coach Nick Saban. No, you say exactly what he said.”
Vanderbilt: The No. 2 Commodores (34-10, 16-7 SEC East) had their Sunday game with Alabama canceled due to weather. That drops Vanderbilt a half game behind SEC East leader Tennessee.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Just a few days after the news broke that former Florida and NFL QB Tim Tebow worked out for Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars as a tight end, former Gator running back and Jaguars great Fred Taylor weighed in about Tebow’s all too brief career as an NFL quarterback. “I don’t think Tim got a complete fair shot in the NFL because most coaches were saying, ‘We need the prototypical NFL quarterback’ and he’s not that. That was just before the zone reads and the offenses changed up. And I think if Tim had been able to hold on long enough to have those offenses come to fruition and develop them as they have been the last couple years, I think you would have saw a better quarterback.” I covered every college football game Tebow played and I watched him struggle in the NFL. As much as I loved him as a college football player, I remain unconvinced that he would have had a great or even better than average NFL career even with the way offenses have evolved over the past 10 years. I am convinced, however, that Tim would have been a rather brilliant tight end had he been willing to make the change years ago. In my heart, I hope this chance Urban is giving him with the Jaguars somehow pans out. I hate to use the word shocked with anything regarding Tim Tebow because in all the things that are important in life, he’s exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. I’m just not certain that playing tight end in the NFL is one of the important things in life. If he makes it, then Tim will prove to kids who dream big dreams that if you don’t give up anything is possible. If he doesn’t succeed it won’t change my opinion of him as a person, but it will convince me that he could have been a great tight end if he had been willing to switch positions years ago.