Tennessee, LSU just ahead on weekend menu

Published April 29, 2005

GAINESVILLE - It's a big weekend for the softball and baseball teams heading into the final weeks of the regular season.

Coach Pat McMahon's baseball team is 30-10, ranked No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball poll and will host No. 18 Tennessee (30-13, 10-7 SEC) in a 3-game series beginning at 6:30 tonight.

Since dropping two games at Ole Miss in the opening weekend of conference play (March 18-20), the Gators have won series from South Carolina (2-1), Kentucky (3-0), Georgia (2-1), Alabama (2-1) and Auburn (3-0). Senior centerfielder Jeff Corsaletti was selected to the Watch List for USA Baseball's Golden Spikes award on Tuesday.

The softball team, which suffered its first series sweep of the season against Auburn this week, will host No. 21 LSU in a doubleheader Saturday and one on Sunday. The Gators (36-13, 15-6 SEC) are ranked 16th in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association/USA Today poll.

"We're just going to go back to basics in practice," coach Karen Johns said. "Pitching and defense let us down this weekend, so we want to make sure we get that settled up."

Johns said she's more concerned with problem-solving than wins and losses, saying the latter will ultimately take care of itself. For now, she wants her team to keep things in perspective.

"The main thing is not to panic," she said. "We had an opportunity to win every game; we didn't play our best and they did play well and that put a lot of pressure on us."

Riverview native and former East Bay standout Mandy Schuerman will be honored with "Mandy Schuerman Day." The first 250 fans will receive a free No. 4 Schuerman jersey T-shirt.

SO FAR, SO GOOD: New head football coach Urban Meyer continues his tour across the state on the booster tour and said he isn't surprised by the huge fan following.

"This is what I thought it would be like," the former Utah coach said. "This is why I left a really good place to be at a better place."

Meyer will appear before the Hernando, Pasco and Citrus County Gator Clubs on May 23 at the Palace Grand, 275 Della Court on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill. Social and autograph hour is 5:30-6:30 p.m., with a buffet at 6:30. Advance tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for children under 12 and $500 for corporate tables (10 seats). The deadline is May 13. Tickets at the door, if available, are $35 and $25. For more information, call Robert or Betty Draper at (352) 796-8531.

SWAMP THINGS: The contest to name the student section of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has ended. The section will be called "The Swamp Things."

The UF Student Government and UAA sponsored the contest to name the section, with the endorsement of Meyer. Third-year finance major and Naples native Tyler Boehling submitted the winning entry.

HEISMAN WATCH ... EARLY: The college-football hype for next season has begun and the hiring of Meyer already has started to pay dividends. SI.com has the Gators ranked No. 5 in its spring poll and on Thursday SI.com's Luke Winn ranked quarterback Chris Leak No. 6 among his Top 10 Heisman picks.

"This is a speculative pick , under the assumption that Leak will thrive in Urban Meyer's spread-option offense - the system that turned Alex Smith, a relatively unknown QB before '04 into the No. 1 pick in the '05 NFL Draft," Winn writes. "Now we'll see what it can do for the nation's biggest blue-chip QB in years, who passed for more than 3,000 yards last season but had too many interceptions (12) and failed to complete 60 percent of his throws. Leak isn't a guaranteed contender, but all the right ingredients are present."

ATHLETES AND GRADUATES: Several bay area athletes are among 50 student-athletes who will participate in spring commencement ceremonies Saturday and Sunday. The graduates include: Dunnellon pitcher Tommy Boss (food resource economics); Valrico pole vaulter Chelo Canino (management); Tampa golfer Whitney Code (English); Sarasota distance runner Carling Cookerly (accounting); Oldsmar distance runner Jodi Heyens (marketing); Lake Mary soccer member Ashley Kellgren (criminology); Bradenton golfer Tarah McNaughton (telecommunications); Inverness track and cross-country runner Cory Presnick (accounting); Lutz gymnast Kimberly Schatz (zoology); Riverview pitcher Mandy Schuerman (criminology); men's cross country runner Stephen Zieminski (accounting). Other notables: Basketball players David Lee (sociology) and Vanessa Hayden (family, youth and community sciences); football players Vernell Brown (family youth and community sciences); Travis Harris (recreation); Max Starks (sociology) and Fred Weary (exercise and sport sciences).

Antonya English covers Florida athletics. She can be reached at 813 226-3389 or english@sptimes.com