Friday, 16 March 2012 10:00
Baseball is a living, vibrant force, and the Gator baseball team has been knocking it out of the park, making it to the College World Series the last two years.
Under coach Kevin O'Sullivan (now starting his fifth season), the Gator baseball team is the No. 1 team in the nation. Last season, they posted a monstrous 53-19 record overall, marching unimpeded into the NCAA World Series before being swept to defeat by SEC rival University of South Carolina Gamecocks. As the Gators begin that long march to redemption, here’s a quick rundown on this season’s big-hitters—so you’ll know who to watch while you snack on those Cracker Jacks.
By Joshua Bauer
Photos: Rob Foldy, Rodney Rogers
Austin Maddox #10
.308 batting average
23 home runs
Austin's the Swiss Army knife of the team, with 62 games that include work at first, third, catcher, designated hitter and relief pitcher. (Last year’s pitching stats: 27 innings, .67 ERA, 21 strikeouts... oh yeah, and a team-high five saves). This kid was MLB-ready when he came to UF, and just keeps getting better. The SEC Freshman of the Year for 2010, this may be the last season to see him at UF before he's moved on to fortune and glory.
Hudson Randall #11
A talented pitcher returning for his third year on the mound, Hudson won 11 of his 19 starts and posted the first complete game shutout of his budding career. He was flawless in the tournament last year, with a 1.91 ERA in four games and struck out 24. This unbelievable right-hander was a quarterfinalist for Pitcher of the Year.
Shortstop Nolan Fontana #4
.288 batting average
8 home runs
Mr. Dependable. Yet another third-year standout, Nolan is a Gold Glove winner (first Gator ever to win as a freshman), played for Team USA in 2010 and made the All-SEC team the past two years. Last year he led the SEC in sacrifice flies, and his 57 runs ranked second on the team. Another major league-talent still looking for his title as a Gator, Nolan has been spectacular since stepping into the traditionally tough shortstop position as a freshman with almost error-free ease, and is a consistent contributor both at the plate and on the field.
Steven Rodriguez #32
This lefty pitcher hasn't had much real work as a Gator starter, but what we’ve seen looks pretty good. He pitched the Gators into the 2010 World Series against Miami and has put together several hitless innings in his appearances. He was used primarily to save games, but look for him to be a big starter this year.
Sure, there are more names to know (catcher Mike Zunino hits a monster .330 with 28 home runs, and then there’s rookie phenom pitcher Karsten Whitson), but this is just a taste of some of the names we think you will hear most often. SEC games start March 16 when UF welcomes Vanderbilt to McKethan Stadium. Let's get ourselves a World Series. Chomp em, boys.
Editor’s note: All player statistics listed are career statistics current to magazine printing date.
Florida Baseball at McKethan Stadium
It’s time for some good old all-American Gator Baseball. Grab some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and take yourself (and your 10 closest friends) out to the ball game! For just $4 a ticket you can watch the No. 1 Gators take on the competition at McKethan Stadium. There’s more than 20 games left in the season (at press time). For more information visit www.gatorzone.com.
By Alexandria Ugarte