ESPN 850 WRUF – Gainesville, Florida

Fans Meet Gator Softball Up Close; Merritt Excited for the Season

By on February 1st, 2015

Delanie Gourley gives a young fan her autograph after an open scrimmage

It was a beautiful day Saturday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium as the Florida Softball team hosted an open scrimmage for fans. After the game, fans were able to meet their favorite players and receive autographs.

For the close to 400 who attended the scrimmage, all of them got a good taste of what this team is all about. It was not a standard scrimmage where runs were counted with an inning limit.

Gator coach Tim Walton focused more on situational play, something that the players and fans seemed to really enjoy.

The scrimmage on Saturday and practices this upcoming week all lead up to the opening game of the season. The Gators will start their season in Tampa in the USF Classic, playing Hampton on February 6th.

After the scrimmage, ESPN 850 was able to catch up with junior outfielder Kirsti Merritt. Last year, Merritt was an integral part of the Gator’s national championship run. She sent Florida to the College World Series via a walk-off home run against Washington and hit a three-run home run in the championship-clinching game against Alabama.

Merritt is very pumped to get the season underway.

“I mean we are all really excited to finally to be able to play as one team. Like we just saw in this practice, we played against each other. And now coming up, we get to play as a team.”

When asked about last year’s success late in the season and how she is going to carry that over, Merritt says she will continue to work hard.

“I’m just going to keep doing the things that I do. Keep working hard in the batting cages, getting my extra reps in and going in on my own.”

Now that she is a junior, Merritt expressed how she needs to be a leader.

“As an upperclassman, I like to see myself as being a leader out there in the outfield or just a leader in general…trying to lead them and teach them how so they can teach the younger people how to work hard.”

For full audio of Kirsti Merritt, click below:

Merritt estatic for the upcoming season

Not going to focus on last year’s success

Being an upperclassman, she sees herself as a leader

Merritt talks about freshmen players Ocasio and DeWitt

Merritt excited to see fans come out

Posted in Gator Softball, Southeastern Conference | Leave a comment

Frazier II Sinks Clutch Free Throws As Florida Edges Arkansas

By on February 1st, 2015

Before Florida tipped off against Arkansas at the O’Connell Center on Saturday afternoon, junior Dorian Finney-Smith had an inkling that teammate Michael Frazier II would make the game-winning shot.

That’s exactly what happened.

“He told me before the game but I didn’t think anything of it until the last play,” Frazier said.

After heading to the foul line with 1.9 seconds remaining on a questionable call where Arkansas forward Alandise Harris rejected Frazier’s put-back layup attempt, Frazier drained two free throws to take the lead and seal a 57-56 win for the Gators.

With the win, the Gators improve to 12-9 on the season and 5-3 in conference play.

It was a sloppy game where both teams combined to commit 30 turnovers but Florida was able to halt the Razorbacks defensively. Arkansas only shot 40% (24-for-60) from the field and scored 25 points below their season average.

“In the game defensively we did two things; we took away the three-point line which was really important (and) we did not foul them because they are a team that gets fouled about 20 times per game,” Gator head coach Billy Donovan said. “When I say we didn’t play well, I thought we really competed in the game but we missed layups, we missed free-throws, we missed open three-point shots.”

Arkansas was paced by sophomore big man Bobby Portis, who led the Razorbacks with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting and 10 rebounds. Michael Qualls struggled all afternoon with only five points on 2-for-10 shooting.

The Gators had their own share of offensive struggles, shooting 34.6% (18-for-52). Frazier, Kasey Hill, and Eli Carter combined to shoot a dreadful 5-for-28 on the floor. Despite the struggles, Florida was still able to stay engaged in the game.

“I was really proud of our guys in terms of a competitive standpoint,” Donovan added. “As a coach, I was proud of that. There’s been times where I’ve been very disappointed with our competitive spirit that I felt like (the players believed) it was more about the individual than it was about our team… and hopefully some way we’re moving away from that mentality.”

Finney-Smith led the team with 16 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.

“He did a lot of good things. He got caught a couple of times on drives where he’s trying to spin back into the defense and he turned it over (but) I thought he did some really good things,” Donovan said. “Some great drives to the basket (and) he finished strong.”

Next up, the Gators will try to build on their momentum when they travel to play Vanderbilt (11-10, 1-7) on Tuesday.

To listen to the audio from the story, click below:

Frazier remembers when Dorian Finney-Smith told him the night before that he had a dream that Frazier would make the game-winning shot

Donovan on the victory

Donovan says the team has made some strides in terms of competitiveness

Donovan on Dorian Finney-Smith’s performance




Posted in College Basketball, Gators Men's Basketball | Leave a comment

Florida Men’s Basketball Looks To Build Momentum Against Arkansas

By on January 31st, 2015

Despite a much needed win on the road against Alabama on Tuesday, the Florida men’s basketball team still has some resume building to do in order to have a case for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee in March.

A win against Arkansas would certainly help.

The Gators (11-9, 4-3 SEC) will have a heavy task on their hands when they host the Razorbacks (16-4, 5-2) at the O’ Connell Center on Saturday.

Florida is 9-0 against Arkansas at home with Billy Donovan at the helm but their streak is in danger as the Razorbacks come into the Gainesville with the nation’s eighth best offense, putting up 81.7 points per game.

“They’re very good in transition, they’ve got really good speed,” Donovan said about Arkansas. “I think one of the things I’ve always loved about (Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson’s) teams is that they’re (typically) a good passing team and they move the ball really well.”

The Razorbacks will lean on the services of sophomore forward Bobby Portis, who’s averaging 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Michael Qualls is another weapon the Gators hope to contain as the 6’6” guard is averaging 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds this year.

Meanwhile, the Gators will look to counter with a big game from Dorian Finney-Smith, who had one of his best games of the 2013-2014 season against the Razorbacks, dropping 22 points and 15 rebounds in an overtime win.

Finney-Smith had his least productive offensive output of the season against Alabama but made big plays when it mattered. The junior forward scored his only points on a game-winning dunk during Florida’s last offensive possession and then clinched the win by rejecting Alabama’s Levi Randolph layup in the game’s waning moments.

“I give (Finney-Smith) credit for staying engaged in the game like he did the whole entire time because clearly for him personally, it was not a great performance in terms of what he’s been playing to as of late,” Donovan said.

Riding a three-game win streak with victories over Alabama, Missouri, and Tennessee, Arkansas looks to get another SEC win to stay behind Kentucky in the conference standings. The Razorbacks have looked good out-of-conference as well with wins over SMU and Dayton.

A win for the Gators against Arkansas would be a solid confidence boost for an inconsistent Florida team that has a date with number-one ranked Kentucky a week from Saturday.

Tipoff against Arkansas is set for 1 PM on Saturday. Catch coverage of the game on our sister station 103.7 the Gator at 12:25 PM.

To listen to the audio from the story above, click below:

Donovan talks about Arkansas’s strengths

Donovan on Finney-Smith fighting his offensive struggles against Alabama

Posted in College Basketball, Gators Men's Basketball | Leave a comment

LPGA Coates Golf Championship Third Round Recap

By on January 31st, 2015

Ben Murphy and Lucas Dolengowski break down the third round at the LPGA’s inaugural Coates Golf Championship from Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.


Coates Golf Championship Third Round Recap


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Florida Gymnastics Comes Back With a Win Against Georgia

By on January 31st, 2015

Florida gymnastics bounced back from last week’s loss to defeat Georgia 197.6 to 196.95 Friday in the O’Connell Center.  The Gators were leading after each rotation, won three events, and won the All-Around title.

Kytra Hunter was the overall leader for vault with a 9.975, Alex McMurtry tied with Georgia’s Kiera Brown for the lead in bars with a 9.925, Kennedy Baker and Kytra Hunter tied on floor with a 9.975 each, and Kytra Hunter won the All-Around title.

This performance from the Gators was a huge turnaround from last week, with almost reverse scores.

“We are a power team, and the past couple meets we haven’t really hit our numbers and hit our scores, but tonight we proved just how strong we can be,” freshman Alex McMurtry says of the Gator improvement.

The night didn’t go without its mistakes, with Claire Boyce taking an uncharacteristic fall on the beam and Rachel Spicer stepping out of bounds on her last pass during her floor routine.

“She [Claire] is always exceptional at beam. She just missed her hands and it was very scary,” head coach Rhonda Faehn said of Boyce’s fall.

“This was her [Rachel] first time back since last year, so I’m not concerned about her stepping out of bounds; what I was looking for was that she had the energy and the adrenaline,” Faehn added.

Florida had some almost perfect routines too when both Kennedy Baker and Kytra Hunter scored a 10 from one of their judges on their floor routines. The back to back 10′s, even though they didn’t lead to perfect 10′s, are a confidence builder when looking forward on the season.

“I told Kennedy I wanted to see her personality…and to be able to see her light up the arena and the fans feed off of that, she’s only going to get better because she witnessed it now,” Faehn says.

Next up, the Gators will travel to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks. Coverage of this meet will air on SEC Network, February 9th.

Listen here:

Rhonda Faehn full interview

Alex McMurtry talks about the power the Gators have

Posted in Gators Gymnastics | Leave a comment

Coates LPGA Golf Championship Second Round Recap

By on January 30th, 2015

Connor Ingalls and Lucas Dolengowski break down the second round at the LPGA’s inaugural Coates Golf Championship from Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.


Coates Golf Championship Second Round Recap

Posted in PGA Golf, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Final Big Football Recruiting Weekend Before National Signing Day

By on January 30th, 2015

The last big weekend of official and unofficial visits before National Signing Day in college football takes place this weekend.   National Signing Day is this Wednesday.

Florida has only 10 verbal commitments at this time but like most schools, there are several prospects that have interest in the Gators who will wait until the last day to announce their decisions.

Among those scheduled to visit Florida this weekend are offensive linemen Quarvez Boulware from Washington DC, Nick Buchanan from Atlanta and Fredrick Johnson from Palm Beach.   Offensive lineman Tyree St.Louis could also visit.

Others who could visit include defensive back Chris Williamson from Gainesville, Georgia and wide receiver Antonio Calloway from Miami and quarterback Lamar Jackson from Boynton Beach who is said to be a Louisville verbal commitment.

Florida is looking to add a quarterback in this class and Jackson at this point might be Florida’s best bet after FSU verbal commit Deondre Francois looks to be staying put after taking a look at Florida last weekend.

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Friday Sports Update (1/30)

By on January 30th, 2015

A lot of Gator sports, the LPGA Tournament in Ocala, Super Bowl and more in our Friday Sports Update…

** A lot of Gator activity this weekend.   Both basketball teams are in action, as is gymnastics, track, swimming and tennis, to name a few.   Softball will also host a fan friendly exhibition on Saturday.

** The Florida women’s basketball team falls to Missouri last night 68-52 to fall to 10-11 on the year; next is at Vanderbilt Sunday.

** The first LPGA event of the year is taking place at the Golden Ocala golf course and after two rounds, Ha Na Jang has a four shot lead at 12 under par.   Stacy Lewis is at eight under and four players are at seven under par.

** The Santa Fe College softball and baseball teams start their seasons this weekend.   Softball is away at a tournament while baseball starts on the road Friday but comes home to play on Saturday.

** Former Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips has landed the same job with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL.

** Speaking of the NFL, Super Bowl Sunday is almost here as Seattle tries to back to back titles in taking on the New England Patriots.

** Former Gator and current Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford was named a reserve for the East team for the upcoming NBA All Star Game.

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Santa Fe Baseball and Softball Ready to Take the Diamond

By on January 30th, 2015

Santa Fe College’s baseball and softball teams will suit up for their season openers this weekend. Baseball will take on Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Friday at 2 pm, while softball opens with a triple header at the JUCO Kickoff Classic in Clearwater on Saturday.

It will be a new look for the Santa Fe baseball team as only five players return from last season. The team consists of 16 freshmen and 10 sophomores, including six transfers from four-year schools.

“That help[s] sometimes ease that new team look,” says head coach Johnny Wiggs of his transfers, “so we’re really excited about getting started and seeing where this team goes.”

The Saints defense should certainly be a high point with four returning infielders, including Jarred Shouppe who has been nagged by injuries the past two seasons. In the few moments he’s had to shine, Shouppe has shown nothing but ability and is expected to be an SEC/ACC caliber player at seasons end.

Wiggs is also excited about his depth at pitcher. Redshirt sophomore Austin Goss, sophomore Tom Watson, and freshman Trent Johnson are just a few who could contribute on the mound.

“We’ve got six guys that can start for us in those three or four starting [pitching] spots,” says Wiggs. “Finding that guy who can really close games for us will probably be one of our biggest issues on the mound early on.”

The baseball team will open up at home on Saturday in a double header against South Georgia State College starting at noon.

The Saints Softball team also has a lot to look forward to this season. They return four players from last year’s Mid-Florida Conference championship team, including 2014 Conference Pitcher of the Year Maddy Peres.

A lot of new faces, 15 in all, will join Santa Fe in its quest to capture their 10th Mid Florida Conference title in 11 years. Head coach Chris Ahern talks very highly of her freshmen.

“We have a handful of kids who are very powerful,” says Ahern of her freshmen. “Caitlan Fuller, who’s the younger sister of Taylore Fuller at the University of Florida, she has quite a bit of pop in her bat. We have an outfielder from central Florida area named Kiesha Gordan who runs really fast but hits for power. And we have a pair of twins, they’re both fast, one of whom is a short gamer and the other is a power hitter.”

With such a young, talented roster, Ahern says her team has a lot of potential.

“We have some good power, we have some speed, we have some kids who hit for average, [and] good defensive possibilities,” says Ahern. “Putting it together and getting the chemistry is always key to making a good team.”

The Saints games on Saturday will begin at 11 am, 3:20 pm, and 5:40 pm.

For sound from Wiggs and Ahern, click below.

Ahern 1

Ahern 2

Wiggs 1

Wiggs 2

Wiggs 3

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Florida Gymnastics Takes on the Bulldogs

By on January 30th, 2015

The Florida gymnastics team will play host to Georgia Friday in the O’Connell Center.

The Gator gymnastics team drops to a number three ranking after suffering a defeat at Alabama last week. However despite that loss, Florida gymnast Kytra Hunter took home three event totals. Gator coach Rhonda Faehn says she is a great athlete all around.

“Kytra Hunter’s performance was exceptional. And again she’s just really in a great frame of mind gymnastically, physically, and just everywhere,” Faehn said.

The Gym Dogs are ranked 11th and come off their best outing of the season last week against Kentucky, where they took the title on every event. At the last meeting between Florida and Georgia during the 2014 season, the Gators took home the victory while also setting a school record on the floor exercise. This meet marks the 45th consecutive time these two teams will both be bringing a top 12 ranked team to the competition. Faehn says her team is excited to be back competing on its home turf.

“We want everyone in there, the energy level, and all of our supporters. And I think it’s going to be an awesome competition with two great teams,” she said.

With regards to when Bridget Sloan will return, who got hurt in Florida’s first meet of the season, Faehn says she is off crutches and determined to return as soon as possible.

Friday’s meet will begin at 6:45 pm and it will be aired on the SEC Network.

To listen to Rhonda Faehn’s audio clips, click below.

Rhonda Faehn talking about Kytra Hunter’s performance

Rhonda Faehn talking about competing at home

Posted in Gators Gymnastics, Southeastern Conference | Leave a comment