Okay, go back to the Tennessee weekend a month ago. Remember when the lowly Vols took the first two games of the three-game series with the Gators? Florida dropped to 20-11 overall and 5-6 in the SEC at that point. Doom and gloom was about to set in.
Well, here we are a month later and those doom and gloom Gators are no longer. Florida won the third game of that Tennessee series and has gone 14-2 since then including 10-2 in the SEC. The Gators are now 35-13 overall and 16-8 in the SEC, which is good for first place in the SEC East and tied with Mississippi State in the race for the regular season championship. UF is the hot team nobody in the SEC wants to play right now.
The poster children of the turnaround are JJ Schwarz and closer Michael Byrne. In his last 13 games, Schwarz is hitting an even .400 (18-45) and has driven in 19 runs. In the Gators’ sweep of Ole Miss (29-20, 11-13 SEC) over the weekend, JJ was 5-11 with 4 RBI. In Saturday night’s 7-4 come-from-behind win, JJ doubled home two runs in the fifth that cut the Ole Miss lead to 4-3, singled and scored the tying run in the seventh and then hit an RBI single for what turned out to be the game-winner in the bottom of the eighth. JJ Schwarz has a contagious effect on the rest of the team. He got hot and now Christian Hicks and Nelson Maldonado have heated up.
Byrne picked up saves on Saturday and Sunday to tie the school record with 13. He’s lowered his ERA to 1.90 and has saved 10 SEC games. Go back to the Tennessee weekend. Byrne blew saves and took the loss on Friday and Saturday. He got the save on Sunday against the Vols and has picked up seven SEC saves since then.
The Gators were ranked #7 nationally last week. After their sweep of Ole Miss and Kentucky (ranked 5th last week) lost two of three to SEC East bottom feeder Georgia, the Gators are certain to move up at least a couple of spots in the polls when they come out today.
Next up for the Gators is 23rd-ranked USF Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium. The Gators go on the road to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama next weekend in their next SEC action.
UF SOFTBALL FINISHES REGULAR SEASON 50-5
The Southeastern Conference championship was clinched last weekend when the #1-ranked Gators finished the SEC portion of their schedule in Knoxville. This weekend was tune up time as the Gators swept North Texas by a 25-1 margin and then blanked FAMU, 7-0, to complete the regular season with a 50-5 record.
It was a weekend to remember for Florida’s three seniors – pitcher Delanie Gourley and outfielders Chelsea Herndon and Justine McLean. Gourley picked up three wins and only six hits in 13-1/3 innings while striking out 26 to improve to 18-3 overall while lowering her ERA to 0.80. Herndon went 6-11 with four RBI and capped off the weekend with a home run. McLean went 3-10 and drove in a run on Sunday.
The Gators get a first round bye in the SEC Tournament in Knoxville. They won’t see action until Thursday at 2:30 p.m. when they take on the winner of Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
UF LACROSSE GETS A #3 SEED FOR NCAA TOURNAMENT
After capturing the Big East Conference Tournament championship with a 15-3 win over Georgetown, the Gators (17-2) earned the #3 national seed for the NCAA Tournament. The Gators earned a first round bye and will face the winner of a Friday matchup (at Donald Dizney Stadium) between Southern Cal and Jacksonville on Sunday.
In the eight years since fielding their first team, the Gators have won seven consecutive conference championships including the last three in the Big East.
5 THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO HMMM THE FIRST WEEKEND IN MAY
1. What will happen with Ole Miss?: Many years ago when told that the NCAA was investigating Kentucky basketball, the late, great Jerry Tarkanian quipped, “So Cleveland State will get two more years of probation.” North Carolina basketball is about to skate when the NCAA has more than 18 years of goods on academic fraud involving Tar Heel players. The NCAA has this habit of slapping the wrists of its bluebloods while pouring it on the proletariat of the organization. Did Ole Miss cheat? Yes. Did Hugh Freeze know about it? Probably, but he’s slick and most likely covered his tracks well. Will that matter? Now, if his name were Roy Williams and his school were North Carolina, Hugh would probably be whispering to boosters that this is just another witch hunt that won’t turn up anything (Wink! Wink!). But he’s not Roy Williams. This is not North Carolina. It’s Hugh Freeze and it’s Ole Miss and he committed the unpardonable sin of winning a lot of ball games way too early in his career at a school that isn’t supposed to win big. If the NCAA stays true to form, Ole Miss will have to burn Hugh at the stake to avoid the threat of the death penalty. But what if Hugh threatens to spill the beans about what everybody else is doing on the recruiting trail? Will the NCAA stop short of lighting up those canisters of gasoline intended to charbroil Hugh?
2. Trying to figure out what’s going on at ESPN: For the past 25 years, Linda Cohn has anchored more Sports Centers than anyone else at ESPN. She doesn’t say the political slant of her network is the chief reason ESPN needs a tourniquet to stop the bleeding but she told the Washington Post that is “definitely a percentage of it,” adding, “… if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind.” Another part of the problem seems to be ESPN’s priorities. The network just fired some of its best talent in a move that all but eliminated the NHL, cut back substantially on Major League Baseball coverage and seriously reduced its NFL, college football and college basketball personnel. Meanwhile, the network is pouring more money than ever into the NBA and amping up its coverage. TV ratings on ESPN are down 5% and the NBA is down 14% overall across its 30 market cities. Something else to note: When ESPN’s contract with the NBA was about to end ($500 million a year), it upped the ante to $1.4 billion per season for the next eight years even though there wasn’t a serious bidding war for the rights. Politics, bad priorities and spending money hand over fist when it doesn’t have to – the heads that are rolling shouldn’t be the reporters but the idiots at the top who make those rotten decisions.
3. Jay Cutler didn’t get an NFL gig: Jay Cutler didn’t land an NFL gig so he’s hung up his spikes for the broadcast booth. I’ve never been a Jay Cutler fan and I’m not about to convert now, but with so many teams desperate for improved quarterback play, I’m surprised no one made a serious pitch for him. I’m convinced that if someone had shown serious interest, he would have signed a contract. Or, maybe – and this is a long shot – Cutler decided that by quitting now he would improve the odds that he’ll live to be old and gray. The broadcast booth doesn’t pay nearly as well as a quarterback gig but odds are you’ll be healthier. Of course, this is Jay Cutler we’re talking about and I would be willing to bet that if someone offers him a contract and a starting job in the NFL between now and the start of training camps in July that he’ll un-retire.
4. And speaking of quarterbacks who don’t have an NFL gig … : I notice Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. USA Today columnist Lorenzo Reyes is deeply troubled by that. Reyes wrote, “What does it say about the NFL, and about us, when at least a half-dozen men who have been accused of physical or sexual assault have been welcomed into the NFL over the past week, while Colin Kaepernick still has not?” Sociologist and activist Harry Edwards believes Kaepernick will end up with a contact to play for some NFL team, but if not, Edwards told USA Today, “I think that the league should offer him another position – deputy commissioner – if for no other reason to have his input and perspective on the management of emerging situations.” I think someone will hire Kaepernick even though he might be poison at the gate. In NFL owner-think, “The gate will be poisoned with the quarterback I have now and with him we have no chance of winning. If Kaepernick can come in here and win, those same people who won’t come to the games because I hired him will come back because we’re winning.”
5. ESPN has Georgia #13 in its post spring practice national poll: Only Alabama (#3) and Auburn (#10) rank higher. I actually think #10 is too high for Auburn, too, but Auburn is the SEC West’s problem. Georgia is in the SEC East where the Bulldogs lost four games in conference play last year. Of course, that was after ESPN and just about everyone else in the civilized world swooned over Kirby Smart and declared him the next great thing since crushed ice transformed concessions at college football games played in the deep south in September. Kirby might still become a great football coach. Notice I said might. Right now, he’s just another former Nick Saban assistant who got a much better first HBC job than he deserved because he worked for St. Nick. But back to Georgia, 2017. The Bulldogs still have the exact same problems they had last year: (1) An O-line that will struggle to block good defensive fronts; (2) A quarterback who may very well never live up to the high school hype (throwing accurately would help); and (3) a genuine lack of speed and ball catching ability on the outside. Everybody wants to say Georgia’s defense will dominate this year, but these are the same guys who gave up 376 passing yards to Mizzou, 330 to Ole Miss and 288 to South Carolina and the same guys who Louisiana-Lafayette ran for 276 yards on and who are still trying to figure out which Georgia Tech back has the football. Their good defensive games were against Nicholls State (D1AA) and Vandy, Florida and Auburn, all of which had rotten offenses. So, yes, you might color me skeptical. I think Georgia has a legitimate chance to lose five games this year and that’s with Nick Chubb in the backfield, which is mindblowing.
Maybe the most intriguing college football prospect for the class of 2018 is Daniel Faalele, who has landed at IMG Academy. He’s an Australian and that shouldn’t be a surprise since we’ve been several punters and kickers from Australia in the college game lately. Except Faalele isn’t a kicker. Nobody’s sure what he is since he’s never played American football before, but he’s 6-9, 356 pounds and photos don’t show a lot of baby fat. If he is nearly as athletic as reports out of Bradenton say he is, then he’ll have a ton of Division I offers. Why not? If you’re going to make a mistake on a recruit, make it on someone who’s bigger than anyone you’ve ever seen.
Just when it looked as if John Calipari might hang a recruiting donut in the month of May, he landed Kevin Knox (6-9, 210, Tampa, FL Catholic), which certainly comes as a shock to both North Carolina and Duke. Knox is the seventh freshman recruit for the Wildcats, who won’t have a single scholarship upperclassman on their roster next season.
Andy Kennedy won’t sign a contract renewal, leaving him three years remaining on his deal to coach Ole Miss basketball. Translation: Ole Miss hasn’t offered a contract extension to the winningest coach in its basketball history. Here is one word for the Ole Miss athletic administration: DUMB. You’re not going to get a better coach to come to Oxford. Kennedy is 234-139 in 11 years at Ole Miss and that’s in spite of playing nine of those years at the Tad Pad, which was akin to playing in a garage.
In spite of bogeys on the final three holes, John Daly won the Insperity Invitational on the Champions (senior citizens) Tour Sunday. It was Daly’s first professional win since the 2004 Buick Open on the PGA Tour.
Mothers Day came early for a couple of moms whose famous sons are about to sign contracts that will set them up for life if they’ll be smart with their money. Leonard Fournette, who was chosen fourth in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars when the NFL drafted about 10 days ago, bought his mom a $110,650 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63S SUV. Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, chosen by the Houston Texans in the first round, bought his mom a Jaguar F-Pace 35T.
In October of 2012, Cardale Jones tweeted, “Why should we have to go to class if we come here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come here to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” Just to show that college really is an aging vat and some of those kids who say stupid things when they are 19 years old grow up a bit, Jones actually graduated from Ohio State over the weekend.
Coach O told fans at a Northwestern State (Coach O’s alma mammy) Legends Gala Friday night that if Florida Atlantic hadn’t offered Lane Kiffin the head ball coaching job that he would have been the offensive coordinator at LSU.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Do you think (a) some NFL team will break down and sign Colin Kaepernick and (b) some NFL team will be desperate enough to offer Jay Cutler a contract that will keep him out of the Fox Sports booth in the fall?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Before The Beach Boys and before The Beatles led the British Invasion we had something called Doo Wop and it was fun music with incredible harmony. I had an older sister who wouldn’t let me watch cartoons on the Uncle Walt Show when I got home from school so I had to watch American Bandstand, which was a Monday through Friday afternoon show in the 1950s. I may have been the only kid in the fourth grade at Lake Mary School who knew all the words to “Rama Lama Ding Dong.” Today’s music is a video of a PBS doo wop show from a few years ago that brought back all the old singing groups. If you watch, you’ll sing along if you remember the songs.