Our #GreatestGatorEver tournament is off and running. Voting for the opening round of the 1 Regional has been completed; the 16 Regional is underway and will wrap up this afternoon. Shortly after its conclusion, the 8 Regional will get underway.
So, let’s get to know that 8 Regional a little better.
(Players are listed in order they appear on the bracket.)
(1) Lauren Haeger (softball, P/DH- 2012-15). One of two players in organized baseball/softball history to hit 70 career home runs and record 70 pitching wins. 2013 and 2015 consensus first team All-American. 2014 and 2015 national champion. 2015 WCWS Most Outstanding Player. 2015 Honda Sports Award winner. Florida’s all time leader in home runs (71) and RBI (260. Third all time in Florida history with 494 total bases, seventh all time in with 73 pitching wins, and eighth all time with 532 strikeouts.
(16) Shayna Pirreca (lacrosse, A- 2015-18). Seventh all time at Florida with 214 career points, tied for sixth all time at Florida with 154 career goals. 2018 team captain.
(8) Jack Jackson (football, WR- 1992-94). Fifth all time at Florida with 2,266 receiving yards, third all time at Florida with 29 receiving touchdowns. Tied for the school record for touchdown catches in a single game (4, vs. New Mexico State in 1994). 1994 consensus All-American and SEC Player of the Year.
(9) Jason Williams (basketball, G- 1997). First round NBA Draft pick (#7 overall). 13 year NBA career. 2005-06 NBA champion with Heat.
(4) Mark Ellis (baseball, SS- 1996-99). Florida’s all time leader in runs scored with 240. Second all time at Florida with 319 hits, third all time in total bases with 500, ninth all time with 164 RBI. 12 year MLB career with Athletics, Rockies, Dodgers and Cardinals.
(13) LaMical Perine (football, RB- 2016-19). Eighth all time at Florida with 2,485 career rushing yards. 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl MVP.
(5) Nicole Arendt (tennis- 1988-91). 4X singles All-American and 4X doubles All-American, 1988-91. 1997 Wimbledon doubles runner-up. 2X French Open doubles semifinalist (1995, 2002), 2X Australian Open doubles semifinalist (1996, 2001) and US Open doubles semifinalist (1997).
(12) Bob Murphy (golf- 1964-66). 1966 individual national champion. 1966 All-American. 5X PGA Tour champion.
(6) Kenny Boynton (basketball, G- 2010-13). 3X All-SEC, 2011-13. Florida’s all time made three point leader with 333. Second Florida player to ever make 100+ three pointers in a single season. Second all time at Florida with 2,033 career points.
(11) Scot Brantley (football, LB- 1976-79). Second leading tackler in Florida history with 467. First team All-SEC and All-American honorable mention in 1977 and 1978. Eight year NFL career with Buccaneers.
(3) Andre Caldwell (football, WR- 2003-07). Florida’s all time career receptions leader with 185. Third all time at Florida with 2,349 receiving yards. 2006 national champion. Eight year NFL career with Bengals and Broncos.
(14) AJ Puk (baseball, P- 2014-16). Fourth all time at Florida with a .203 opposing batting average. Eighth all time at Florida with 251 strikeouts.
(7) Jarvis Moss (football, DE- 2004-06). 2006 All-American. 2006 national champion. Clutch factor: Moss saved Florida’s 2006 season by blocking South Carolina’s potential game winning field goal. Five year NFL career with Broncos and Raiders.
(10) Martin Zubero (swimming- 1988-91). 4X NCAA champion: 200m individual medley, the 400m medley relay, and 2X in the 200m backstroke. 1992 (Barcelona) Olympic gold medalist in the 200m backstroke.
(2) Taurean Green (basketball, G- 2005-07). 2006 and 2007 All-SEC. 2007 All-American honorable mention. Second all time at Florida with an 85.6% free throw percentage. 38th all time at Florida with 1,174 points. 2006 and 2007 national champion.
(15) Justin Trattou (football, DE- 2007-10). 2008 national champion. 2010 team captain. Seven year NFL career with Giants, Vikings and Buccaneers. Super Bowl XLVI champion with Giants.
(Note: “national champion” labels are only attributed to starters or critical backups/role players on the team.)
The favorite: (1)Lauren Haeger
Accomplishment wise, Haeger is every bit as successful as Tim Tebow. The company she’s placed herself in is astounding: she’s one of just two baseball or softball players, at either the college or pro level, to ever hit 70 home runs and record 70 pitching wins. The other? Babe Ruth. Throw that on top of her back to back national championship rings and two All-American seasons, and she’s going to be difficult to believe that anybody in this region can take her down. Then add in all her other accolades, like being named the WCWS MOP and earning the Honda Sports Award, and being Florida’s all time home run queen, and it becomes nearly impossible.
The second favorite: (2)Taurean Green
If someone is going to upset Haeger in Regional play, it might just be Green, who matches Haeger’s two national championship rings with two of his own- also in back to back years. Green wasn’t the centerpiece of his title winning teams, though, and he played on a team that was loaded across the board. So his individual stats weren’t all there. But the popularity of March Madness, as well as the extent to which he endeared himself to fans on those back to back magic carpet rides, may just be enough to push him through.
The sleeper: (3)Andre Caldwell
Being an all time leader in any non-embarrassing statistical category for Florida football guarantees you a seat at any conversation regarding the greatest Gator of all time. Caldwell has that with his 185 catches, and supplements his resume with a national championship ring he won in the Sonoran Desert. If he can slip past Green in the Regional semis (assuming chalk holds), he could put a scare into Haeger in the Regional final.
The dark horse: (6)Kenny Boynton
There’s no way Boynton would reach the final of this Regional let alone win it if the eye test was the lone factor fans were using to vote. Being the second leading scorer in Florida basketball history carries weight, though, especially when he helped lead the Gators to back-to-back-to-back Elite 8’s. If he gets past Scot Brantley in the first round, he just might make a contest of it against Caldwell.
The Cinderella candidate: (13)LaMical Perine
Recentism is a powerful tool in these kinds of brackets whether anybody wants to admit it or not. But Perine’s case is built on more than just the fact that he’s the guy Gator fans have the most recent memories of. He’s the eighth leading rusher in school history, which is astounding given how atrocious his blocking was in 2019. And breaking off big runs against Virginia and Auburn last year were more than he needed to get a big green check in the clutch department.