The Nations oldest college baseball poll, which started in 1958, ranked the Gators preseason No. 1 for the first time in the school’s history. Last year Florida made it to the 2011 NCAA College World Series finals where they lost to the defending national champions, the South Carolina Gamecocks. But this year will hopefully end differently. The Gators ended the season 53 – 19 and set a school record in wins.
The Florida Gators Head Coach, Kevin O’Sullivan returns 11 players that look to make a very big impact on the 2012 season. Right-hander Karsten Whitson (So.) who was a 2011 Perfect Game Freshman Pitcher of the year, will be returning as well as Left-hander/first baseman Brian Johnson (Jr.), right-hander Hudson Randall (Jr.) and left-hander Steven Rodriguez (Jr.). The 2011 SEC Player of the year, catcher Mike Zunio (Jr.) and the 2011 SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player, outfielder Daniel Pigott (Sr.) will be returning as well. Rounding out the remaining players are outfielder Preston Tucker (Sr.), catcher/right-hander/infielder Austin Maddox (Jr.), the 2011 College World Series All-Tournament Team Third Baseman Cody Dent (Jr.) and Zack Powers (So.), a 2011 SECC All-Freshman Team third basemen rounds out the group.
As for the new members of the Florida Gators Baseball team, they will be the fourth straight incoming freshman class that are ranked in the top 10 nationally as a recruiting class as a whole.
Keep an eye out on the Gators pitching squad as they look to improve on there already gaudy statistics from last year. Florida led the nation in walks allowed per nine innings with an average of 1.82. As a team, they collectively had an ERA (Earned Run Average) of 2.95 and had 547 strikeouts and 130 walks. The Gators offense ranked No. 1 last year in hits, with 755. They ranked 5th in doubles and homers.
In 2011, the Florida Gators finished with a 22 – 8 record in the Southeastern Conference, which was tied for a conference best with Vanderbilt and South Carolina. The Gators defeated Vanderbilt 5 – 0 in the SEC Championship game to win their sixth league title and first in 20 years.
The Gators open up their season on February 17, 2012 against Cal State Fullerton, which will be the first of a three game series. Cal State is ranked 21 in Collegiate Baseball’s Preseason Poll. It should be a great start to the 2012 season.