Florida ran out of miracles in the top of the 17th inning of the Women’s College World Series Monday night. After coming back from two near impossible situations, first to send the game into extra innings, then to extend again, UF ran out of luck.
A two-out three-run homer by Shay Knighten of Oklahoma in the top of the 17th was the difference in the game as the Sooners took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 7-4 win.
The Gators and Sooners square off tonight (8 p.m., ESPN) with Oklahoma needing a win to win a second straight NCAA title and the Gators needing a win to send it to a deciding game three.
Florida’s Kelly Barnhill and Delanie Gourley had given up a combined six homers all season, but Barnhill gave up a solo homer in the sixth that gave Oklahoma a 2-1 lead and the three-run homer in the 17th. Gourley gave up a two-run homer in the top of the 12th that gave Oklahoma a 4-2 lead.
The Gators were down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh and down to their last strike when Sophia Reynoso blooped a hit in front of the Oklahoma outfielders who had their backs to the fences. That scored Aleshia Ocasio from first with the tying run. In the bottom of the 12th, a walk to Jordan Roberts and a Reynoso single to right field put two on with nobody out. Two outs and two strikes later, Amanda Lorenz doubled to left center to tie the game at 4-4.
Florida had one last chance to win the game in the bottom of the 17th when Lily Mann and Reynoso singled. After a fielder’s choice by Chelsea Herndon forced Reynoso at second, Justine McLean beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Amanda Lorenz lined out to left field to score Mann from third, but Kayli Kvistad struck out to end the game.
UNLIKELY HERO GETS GATORS TO SUPER REGIONAL
Maybe the last guy you figured to be the hero came up big to save #3 national seed Florida (45-17) from the embarrassment of losing the Gainesville Regional to upstart Bethune-Cookman Monday.
It was freshman Austin Langworthy who got it done both on the mound and at the plate for the Gators, who knocked off BCC, 6-1, Monday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. Langworthy gave the Gators four innings of two-hit relief to pick up the win and he broke a 0-0 game open in the sixth when he launched a 3-run homer over the right field fence.
Not bad for a guy who came into the regionals with 11-2/3 innings on the mound all season and a .235 batting average with only 2-15 to show at the plate since Friday prior to his third big fly of the season. Langworthy further helped his cause with an 8th-inning double that led to Florida’s fifth run of the game.
Langworthy gave way to closer Michael Byrne with two out in the seventh and Byrne delivered 2-1/3 scoreless innings to finish off the Wildcats.
Langworthy’s homer broke the Gators out of a prolonged hitting slump that began with Florida’s regional opener with Marist on Friday night. While it came against a BCC pitching staff that was going on fumes, those ever so slow offerings by the BCC staff on Sunday and again on Monday resulted in one pop fly after another as the Gators consistently over-swung.
The win advanced the Gators to NCAA Super Regional play this weekend against Wake Forest. It’s a best two-of-three format so the pitching staff won’t get stretched like it was Monday when the Gators were forced to start freshman Kirby McMullen.
PLEA DEAL OFFERED CALLAWAY
The State Attorney has offered a plea agreement to UF wide receiver Antonio Callaway, one that will drop a marijuana possession charge if he will plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia. Callaway is being treated as a first time offender so there will be a pretrial conference that could offer deferred prosecution. No matter what happens with the State Attorney, Callaway still faces discipline from the University of Florida, likely a suspension of one or more games.
RE-RANKING THE SEC BY POSITION: QUARTERBACKS
1. Alabama: As a freshman Jalen Hurts threw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for 954 and 13 more. He’s a great runner and the master of the two-inch pass. Can he throw it downfield. There are folks in Tuscaloosa who wouldn’t be shocked if early enrollee freshman Tua Tagovailova takes over as the starter at some point during the season. They say he runs every bit as well as Hurts but throws it even better.
2. Arkansas: As a first year starter, Austin Allen threw for 3,430 yards and 25 touchdowns. He throws that medium range slant (15-17 yards) as well as anyone you’ll see and he has nice touch on the deep ball. He threw a lot of picks last year but that could have something to do with the lack of protection (35 sacks allowed last year) but the O-line is thought to be vastly improved. The backup is third year sophomore Ty Storey, who’s got the big arm and figures to be a two-year starter after Allen graduates.
3. Auburn: If Jarrett Stidham plays to his reputation, he will end up the best QB in the conference. Of course, he hasn’t played a game for Auburn yet so we only have what he did at Baylor as a true freshman to go by. No matter, he’s an improvement over the last two seasons so Auburn’s offense finally has a triggerman to go with all those stud running backs. Former starter Sean White is the backup.
4. Mississippi State: The post-Dak numbers at quarterback were spectacular and a bit unexpected. Did anyone think Nick Fitzgerald would throw for 2,423 yards and 21 touchdown and run for 1,375 and 12 touchdowns. He might be a better runner than Hurts. Can he throw it better? If he makes even a small amount of improvement he could be spectacular. The question is what happens if he goes down. The backup is early enrollee freshman Keytaon Thompson, who’s athletic enough but is more runner than thrower.
5. Missouri: If it were only about throwing the ball, Drew Lock would be the SEC’s best QB and it wouldn’t be close. There isn’t a throw he can’t make. After a learning curve freshman year when he made every mistake possible, Lock came back to throw for 3,399 yards and 23 touchdowns despite playing behind a line that had ZERO collective starts when the season began. If he makes the same kind of improvement from 2016 to 2017 as he made last year, he’ll play his way into a first round draft choice. OC Josh Heupel loves backup QB Micah Wilson, a dual threat redshirt freshman who throws darts and has more mobility than Lock.
6. South Carolina: South Carolina’s season turned around when Will Muschamp pulled the redshirt off Jake Bentley. He was poised beyond expectations as he threw for 1,420 yards and 9 TDs while taking the Gamecocks to a most surprising bowl game. Supposedly, he improved by leaps and bounds in the spring and is poised for a big season throwing to some of the best receivers in the SEC. Currently, the backup is Michael Scarmecchia but that could change in August when dual threat freshman Jay Urich starts getting reps.
7. Georgia: Jacob Eason was supposed to be All-World as a true freshman. He wasn’t and he created enough doubts in the spring that nobody would be shocked if early enrollee freshman Jake Fromm took over as the starter at some point during 2017. Eason wasn’t bad as a freshman – 2,430 yards, 16 touchdowns and 8 picks – but more was expected. Perhaps too much? He did tend to save his worst games for the best teams. He raised enough questions to kick some of the shine off his superstar. But he could polish things up with a big year in 2017.
8. LSU: Coach O is betting that new offensive coordinator Matt Canada can turn Danny Etling into the star he was predicted to be coming out of Terre Haute (IN) South Vigo. Etling showed enough last season (2,123 yards, 11 TDs) after Steve Ensminger took over the offense for Cam Cameron to make you believe Canada, a noted QB whisperer, can be very good. If not, there are some serious studs behind him. Sophomore Justin McMillan was impressive in the spring as was early enrollee freshman Lowell Narcisse. The big arm arrives in August in Myles Brennan.
9. Ole Miss: Ole Miss yanked the redshirt off Shea Patterson in game nine after Chad Kelly went down with an ACL. The three games as a starter will bode well for the Rebels this year. Patterson threw for 880 yards and 6 TDs, ran for 169 more in his three games. He’s got the big arm and very quick feet. The Rebels think he’s got serious stardom written all over him. The backup is juco transfer Jordan Ta’amu, who put up Star Wars numbers at New Mexico Military last year.
10. Kentucky: When Stephen Johnson II (2,037 passing yards, 13 TDs; 327 yards rushing, 3 TDs) took over as the starter when Drew Barker went down for the season with an injured back, the Kentucky offense took off. So it’s a no-brainer that Johnson will start in the fall, right? Well, not if you go by what we saw in the spring when Johnson looked ordinary, Barker looked good and redshirt freshman Gunnar Hoak looked like the next big thing on campus. The team responds to Johnson and they’ve won behind Johnson but he’s not the most talented. Don’t be surprised if any one of the three is the QB when the season begins.
11. Florida: Okay, so the Gators don’t have an established starter heading into 2017. What they do have is more collective QB talent than they’ve had in either of the last two seasons and Jim McElwain got to Atlanta both times. Imagine what might happen when talent meets opportunity. Feleipe Franks is expected to start but he’s got to fend off a challenge from Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire. Then there is redshirt freshman Kyle Trask, sometime starter from last year Luke Del Rio (if he can come back from injury) and true freshman Jake Allen. In the past, McElwain has won with whoever plays QB. He’s got enough talent. Now he just has to find which one is ready to play.
12. Texas A&M: Even though Jake Hubenak has never wowed anyone, he still has some starting experience, 1,283 career passing yards and 9 touchdown passes. Redshirt freshman Nick Starkel had a really nice spring and true freshman Kellen Mond can run as well as he can throw. One of them will be the QB in the fall, but right now it’s anyone’s guess which one.
13. Tennessee: Quinten Dormady has thrown for 357 yards and a TD in two years as a backup to ultra-talented Joshua Dobbs, who will be playing in the NFL in the fall. Redshirt freshman Jesse Guarantano is said to have all the ability in the world but he’s never taken a college snap. These guys have talent but the entire offense is in a rebuild mode and that’s not what you need with a brand new QB.
14. Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur improved (2,409 yards, 9 TDs) from his freshman to sophomore years but the Vandy offense was still rather pedestrian and the passing game was quite predictable. He’s got to make even more improvement this fall if the Commodores expect to make it two straight bowl games. Freshman Deuce Wallace is the backup.
SOME SEC BASKETBALL NEWS
A pair of 2018 recruits who had Florida offers have committed elsewhere. Point guard Cormac Ryan (6-5, 170, New York, NY/Milton, MA Milton Academy) has committed to Stanford and small forward Aaron Wiggins (6-6, 180, Greensboro, NC Wesleyan Christian) has committed to Maryland.
The revolving door for new basketball coach Will Wade will continue now that he’s signed point guard Tremont Waters (6-0, 170, New Haven, CT Notre Dame). Waters makes it 14 on scholarship so someone new has to go.
On the same day Ole Miss released point guard Parker Stewart (6-5, 185, Columbus, OH Union City) from his letter of intent, Andy Kennedy signed point guard Illya Tyrtyshnyk (6-3, 190, Kiev, Ukraine/Prague, Czech Republic Get Better Academy).
File this under the category “What have you done for me lately?” Thad Matta is out as Ohio State’s basketball coach. Officially, it’s called a retirement, but no matter how Ohio State wants to dress it up it’s a firing. Although the Buckeyes haven’t made the NCAA Tournament the last two years, they won five Big Ten regular season championships and four tournament titles in his 13 years, compiling a 337-123 record and making the NCAA Tournament nine times. The Buckeyes were ineligible for the tournament his first season and there were two NIT appearances. I expect Matta to take a year off to get healthy (back and some nerve issues in his foot) then he will coach again. I know Thad and he’s a far better man than he is a basketball coach. He’s a fine basketball coach, too.
So, who does Ohio State go after? Just down the road in Cincinnati are two good ones in Chris Mack (Xavier) and Mick Cronin (Cincinnati), but even though there will be a lot of chatter and sentiment, I doubt Gene Smith (Ohio State AD) will go after either one. One of the reasons Smith wanted Matta gone was he thought Thad had lost his recruiting edge. Neither Mack nor Cronin are ace recruiters. I think that would eliminate Tony Bennett at UVa, also. Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com isn’t the only one suggesting that Smith will make a run at Billy Donovan. If I had to make a wild guess who Smith might go after, I’d say Steve Alford (559-280 head coaching record) of UCLA. He’s a Midwesterner (Indiana All-American), great recruiter and considering he’ll have to deal with LaVar Ball (father of Lonzo, Li Angelo and LaMelo) the next two or more years, he might see this as a golden opportunity to depart.
While on the subject of LaVar Ball, in a new video made by something called Complex, LaVar explains why there was no contract with Nike (or adidas or UnderArmour or any other shoe company): “This is what’s happening with them, they weren’t ready for this change. Every meeting was with a guy who wanted to endorse. That’s the wrong guy for our meetings. We want co-branding. I need them VPs and CEOs – just like I am. I’m meeting with the wrong people so I’m sending them back and saying, ‘I don’t want no endorsement deal.’ That’s where everyone was getting, ‘Oh, LaVar wants a billion dollar endorsement deal.’ I never said I wanted an endorsement deal. You guys endorse. I’m co-branding. Those Triple Bs will be on the shoe.” Do you know anyone who has forked out $495 for a pair of Triple Bs?
Al Pacino will play the part of Joe Paterno in a made for HBO movie. Let’s see, Pacino is Italian and so was Paterno. Pacino got to play the part of a football coach in the 1999 movie “Any Given Sunday; ” Paterno actually coached football and was a pretty good actor to pretend he had no idea he was covering up for a child predator in Jerry Sandusky.
In a story by Scooby Axson at SI.com, former North Carolina basketball star Rashad McCants, one of the outspoken whistleblowers in the school’s academic scandal, says Roy Williams was well aware the players were taking fake classes. Williams has claimed innocence and ignorance all in the same sentence. Amazingly (or not), the NCAA has so far bought his story.
File this under you’re never too old to learn something new. The University of Alabama has a Division I ice hockey team that will play 34 of its 36 games against Division I opponents.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Another team has passed on a chance to sign Colin Kaepernick. Is this a boycott by NFL teams or is it a case that Kaepernick simply hasn’t found the right fit?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The Avett Brothers will be playing the Fox Theater in Atlanta Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. If you’ve never caught them live, they put on a great show with bluegrass like you’ve never heard it before. Today’s music is their May 12 concert in Port Chester, New York.