The road to Omaha begins for Kevin O’Sullivan and the Florida baseball team tonight when Logan Shore takes the mound against Florida A&M (23-23) in the Gainesville Regional of the NCAA Tournament. As the #4 national seed, the Gators are strong favorites to win the regional that also includes Florida Atlantic and USF (Gators own wins over both of them in the regular season), to set up an expected showdown with Florida State next weekend in a Gainesville Super Regional. FSU is a heavy favorite to win its Tallahassee Regional to set up an all-Florida showdown for a berth in the College World Series in Omaha.
The Gators (44-16) are probably a year ahead of schedule. Everybody thought they would be good when the season began, but not many thought they would be this good. With a lineup dominated by freshmen and sophomores, the Gators have grown up in a hurry and come into the NCAA Tournament on the heels of a very impressive Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.
Shore, a sophomore lefty, brings a 7-6 record and a 2.79 ERA into tonight’s game. The Gators will probably go with sophomore lefty A.J. Puk on Saturday. Puk (8-3) is coming off a 3-hit shutout of Arkansas in last week’s SEC Tournament.
If the Gators win their 7 p.m. game with FAMU, they will face the winner of FAU (41-17) and USF (33-24-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday. Should they lose, they face the FAU-USF loser at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Gatornotes: Like Tim Walton’s softball Gators, O’Sullivan’s baseball team jus doesn’t beat itself. The Gators have committed only 35 errors all season and they’ve only walked 158 batters in 534 innings … Josh Tobias brings a .371 batting average into the tournament … Freshman J.J. Schwartz, MVP of the SEC Tournament, is the younger brother of Taylor Schwartz, a first baseman on the softball team. Taylor turned in a nifty 3-6-3 double play in Florida softball’s 7-2 win over Tennessee in the Women’s College World Series. J.J. leads the Gators in home runs (14) and RBI (60) … Florida reliever Taylor Lewis (6-1, 1.23 ERA) leads a Florida bullpen that might be the best in the nation.
The first win is the most important when it comes to the Women’s College World Series. By stopping Tennessee, 7-2, Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the WCWS in Oklahoma City, the Florida Gators advanced to tonight’s winner’s bracket game with LSU (7 p.m.), a 6-1 winner over Auburn. Tennessee and Auburn, meanwhile, face each other in an elimination game Saturday and the prospects of having to win two games both Saturday and Sunday to advance to the championship round.
For the Gators, it’s one win down, four more to go. It takes five wins to bring home the big trophy at the WCWS, three to win your bracket and then two in the best-of-three championship round. If the Gators get past LSU tonight, they’re off until Sunday when they will only have to win one game out of a possible two to advance.
Thursday’s win was a showcase for Lauren Haeger, who was named National Player of the Year Wednesday night. Haeger pitched a 1-hitter to avenge her only loss of the season and helped her own cause with a first inning home run. The pitching win was the 70th career win for Haeger and the home run was #69 of her career. Haeger is already the only player in NCAA softball history with 60 wins and 60 homers. With one more homer she can become softball’s only 70/70 player in history.
Wednesday night, Walton and the Gators received a visit from Billy Donovan, the new coach of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder. Donovan gave a motivational speech to the Gators and then spent time with the team, encouraging and posing for photos. As great a basketball coach as Donovan was for 19 years at the University of Florida, he was the ultimate team player for the entire athletic department. He constantly encouraged the coaches and was always willing to pitch in with motivational speeches or just showing up at a game or a practice to help prepare teams for big games.
Replacing the wins will be the easy part for Mike White and any future Florida basketball coaches. Replacing Donovan’s presence and willingness to do his part to help the success of the entire athletic department won’t be easy.
Billy Donovan was, is and will always be a far better human being than he ever will be a basketball coach.
Obviously, Chip Kelly hasn’t burned up the phone lines talking to Todd McShay. Kelly, knows a thing or two about spread offenses and the kind of quarterback it takes to run them, thinks Tim Tebow can play quarterback in the NFL. McShay, as we know, takes particular delight in the fact that Tebow hasn’t played in the NFL in two years and hasn’t played a significant down in the league since 2011. The inactivity didn’t deter Kelly from signing Tebow to a free agent contract in the offseason nor has the inactivity made Kelly think Tebow ought to play tight end or running back.
“He’s a quarterback,” Kelly told NFL.com Thursday. “That’s how we’re looking at Timmy. We’re not looking at him at any other position.”
At a minicamp workout Thursday, Kelly said Tebow’s throwing has improved, which will be critical to his chances of making the team when preseason camp opens in July. The Eagles traded for former Heisman winner Sam Bradford in the offseason and Mark Sanchez, who started for the Jets in 2012 in that wasted year in which Tebow was on the New York roster, is the incumbent. Neither Bradford or Sanchez is much of a runner and that could help Tebow get a foot in the door since the NFL has changed its extra point rules. With the 2-point conversion now a viable option, having Tebow on the roster could prove a valuable addition if nothing else.
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, college basketball’s best and most connected writer, has been saying for weeks that it is only a matter of when, not if, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg becomes the second high profile college basketball coach in the last month to bolt for the NBA. When is now. The Chicago Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau Thursday and like Oklahoma City, which fired a winning head coach in Scott Brooks to hire Billy Donovan, the Bulls have only one target and that is Hoiberg.
There is still that chance Hoiberg elects to stay in Ames, Iowa, where he is known as “The Mayor” because he is a local kid who made good. Hoiberg’s coaching style is perfect for the NBA and his heart has always been in the league.
Of course, when Hoiberg departs there will be a plum of an opening at Iowa State, where a top ten team awaits the successor. More than likely, Iowa State will go to Valparaiso to make an offer to Bryce Drew. The names Archie Miller and Chris Mack will also be mentioned, but those two weren’t interested in Florida so there are two chances they’ll find Ames, Iowa interesting: no way and no how.
Meanwhile, don’t feel sorry for Tom Thibodeau. He didn’t like Bulls management and Bulls management didn’t like him even though he was 255-139 in his five seasons and that was without oft-injured Derrick Rose a good portion of the time. Minnesota, Orlando and New Orleans are all looking for a new coach. Thibodeau would probably be a great fit for New Orleans. If he doesn’t work in either of the next two years he will collect $9 million from the Bulls.
Two years ago, Jimbo Fisher lost seven assistant coaches, some for promotions and others for pay-related issues. The guys who replaced the seven helped coach Florida State to an undefeated national championship in 2013 and an undefeated regular season in 2014. Thursday, Fisher rewarded his assistant coaches with very nice raises (anywhere from $63,000 to $93,000) and contract extensions that will keep them in Tallahassee until after the 2017. FSU’s lowest paid coach will make $338,000 (the only one making less than $400,000) and there are three who will earn $583,000. All the contracts have buyouts except if they land a head coaching position, an NFL job or go to some non-sports related position.
Why is what Florida State is paying important? Because the price of assistant coaches is going up and because college programs that wish to keep their coaching staffs intact are going to have to follow FSU’s lead and sign them to multi-year deals. The days when the schools at the top could pay lower salaries because “it’s a privilege to be coaching here” and “if he leaves, someone else just as good or better will be standing in line to take his place” have come and gone.
It’s either pony up and give the assistants a measure of long term security or else they’ll go someone else where the stakes are higher and the security is real.
Do you think Tim Tebow has a realistic shot at making the Eagles’ roster or will his throwing issues resurface and end his football dream?
When I first heard Point Blank in the mid-1970s, I thought they were going to carve out a long and prosperous career with their Texas version of blues and Southern rock and roll. This was a terrific band to catch live in a bar because they didn’t have the time restraints they had playing as an opener for better known bands on the concert circuit. The band had a nice run for five or six years but started having personnel issues that contributed to their demise somewhere around 1983. This is “Point Blank” which was their first album release in 1976.