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Tuesday May 24, 2011Zunino Named SEC Baseball Player Of The Year, Gators Collect Numerous Awards

Hoover, Ala.

University of Florida sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was named the SEC Player of the Year in a vote of the league’s 12 head baseball coaches announced on Tuesday. He became just the second recipient from the Gators, as current Cleveland Indians’ first baseman Matt LaPorta earned the honor in both 2005 and 2007. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club, which shared the SEC title with South Carolina and Vanderbilt, matched its school record of six All-SEC selections accomplished in 2002 and 2005.


Zunino was the 10th different student-athlete from Florida to earn the SEC Player of the Year honor during the 2010-11 school year, a list that includes: Chandler Parsons (men’s basketball), Bank Vongvanij (men’s golf), Kathryn Williamson (women’s soccer), Kelsey Bruder (softball), Conor Dwyer (men’s swimming), Monica Dodson (women’s diving), Allie Will (women’s tennis), Christian Taylor (men’s indoor track) and Kelly Murphy (volleyball). In addition, UF’s Kitty Cullen was the American Lacrosse Conference’s Player of the Year.


Sophomore left-hander/designated hitter Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.). junior outfielder Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) and Zunino were chosen first-team All-SEC and the trio of senior second baseman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.), sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) and sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) earned second-team recognition. The three Florida players on the first team were the program’s most recipients since 2008, when Adams (2B), Matt den Dekker (OF) and Patrick Keating (RHP) were recognized.


The Gators placed two players on the All-Freshman Team, third baseman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) and right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.). Fontana was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team for the second year in a row and Zunino was chosen for the first time.


A member of the 2011 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team who is also a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, Zunino batted .422 in conference games, second behind LSU’s Mikie Mahtook (.425), and had 36 runs, 33 RBI, 14 doubles and eight homers in the 30 league outings. He became the first Florida catcher to earn first-team All-SEC since Mario Linares in 1991. A two-time SEC Player of the Week recipient, Zunino leads the Orange and Blue and is among the SEC leaders in batting average (.383), total bases (141), hits (77), runs (62), RBI (59), doubles (19), homers (15), slugging percentage (.701) and on-base percentage (.455). He has registered a .998 fielding percentage, with one error in 445 chances, and has thrown out almost a third of the runners who have attempted to steal on him.


Johnson was voted onto the first team for the first time in the designated hitter spot after ranking third on the Gators with a .330 batting average in league play. He drove in 12 runs, scored 12 runs, drew 10 walks, collected five doubles and belted five homers against league foes. On the season, Johnson is 8-3 with a 3.58 earned run average on the mound and has 68 strikeouts in 78 innings, to go along with a .321 clip, 25 runs, 23 RBI, 19 walks, 10 doubles and four homers.  


Tucker, who hit .311 with 25 runs, 22 RBI, seven doubles and four homers in conference action, earned All-SEC honors for the second time after being a second-team pick last season. He was the 2009 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year with LSU’s Matty Ott. Tucker has a .323 average and is second on the Gators in both RBI (50) and homers (10).


Adams became just the fourth Gator baseball player in school history to achieve All-SEC status in three different seasons, as he previously garnered first-team accolades in 2008 and 2009. He is now a member of an elite group that includes Mike Stanley (82-84-85), Marc Valdes (91-92-93) and Brad Wilkerson (96-97-98). Enjoying a tremendous final collegiate campaign, Adams batted .351 with 21 RBI, 15 runs and eight extra-base hits (five doubles, three homers) in SEC action and boasts a .340 clip with 39 RBI, 28 runs, 12 sacrifices and 10 doubles.


Fontana became the first Gator shortstop to earn All-SEC in back-to-back seasons since Julio Mendez accomplished the feat in 1987 and 1988. Boasting a .318 conference average with 24 RBI and 17 runs, Fontana was chosen as the SEC Player of the Week on both February 21 and May 16. He has a .318 batting average in 55 games and has drawn a team-high 40 walks, with 44 runs, 35 RBI, 11 doubles and a team-high five triples. Fontana was named to the league’s All-Defensive Team for the second-straight time, joining den Dekker (2008-09-10) as the only Florida players to be chosen on multiple occasions.


Randall has followed up his Freshman All-American season with a solid sophomore year and was rewarded with All-SEC honors for the first time. He was 6-3 in league play with a 3.00 ERA, featuring complete-game victories over defending national champion South Carolina (2-1 on March 26) and Tennessee (3-0 on April 1). Randall totaled 28 strikeouts and issued six walks in 63 innings of SEC action and was tabbed as the SEC Pitcher of the Week on March 21 and April 4. The righty sports an 8-3 season ledger with a 2.45 ERA and has a strikeout-to-walk differential of 47-7 in a team-high 88 innings.


Powers was chosen to the All-Freshman Team on the hot corner, giving the Gators consecutive third-base selections after Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) made the squad last season. Powers turned in a .333 clip in league play and has seen time in 35 games this season, with 21 starts. He earned SEC Freshman of the Week recognition on March 7 after going 4-for-10 (.400) over four games, including UF’s sweep of Miami (Fla.).


Having collected SEC Freshman of the Week honors on April 25 after a seven-strikeout performance in a career-high 6.2 innings versus Alabama, Whitson was 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA in conference games. In 10 SEC starts, the righty posted victories over Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss and Kentucky. Over 14 starts in his debut season, Whitson is an unblemished 7-0 with a 2.47 ERA and leads the club with 71 strikeouts in 73 innings while limiting opponents to a .238 average.


Vanderbilt junior left-hander Grayson Garvin was selected as the 2011 SEC Pitcher of the Year, Vanderbilt outfielder Tony Kemp was named SEC Freshman of the Year, James McCann of Arkansas was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and South Carolina’s Ray Tanner was the SEC Coach of the Year.


The complete 2011 All-SEC Team follows:


SEC Player of the Year: Mike Zunino, FLORIDA

SEC Pitcher of the Year: Grayson Garvin, Vanderbilt

SEC Freshman of the Year: Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt

SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year: James McCann, Arkansas

SEC Coach of the Year: Ray Tanner, South Carolina                                                                       


First Team                         

1B – Aaron Westlake, Vanderbilt          

2B – Scott Wingo, South Carolina

3B – Thomas McCarthy, Kentucky

SS – Casey McElroy, Auburn

C – Mike Zunino, FLORIDA     

OF – Mikie Mahtook, LSU

OF – Preston Tucker, FLORIDA      

OF – Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt

DH – Brian Johnson, FLORIDA     

P – Grayson Garvin, Vanderbilt

P – Michael Roth, South Carolina

RP – Matt Price, South Carolina                      


Second Team                                              

1B – Christian Walker, South Carolina

2B – Josh Adams, FLORIDA

2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss

3B – Jason Esposito, Vanderbilt

SS – Nolan Fontana, FLORIDA        

C – Tony Caldwell, Auburn

OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama

OF – Mason Katz, LSU

OF – Chad Wright, Kentucky

DH – Conrad Gregor, Vanderbilt

P – DJ Baxendale, Arkansas

P – Hudson Randall, FLORIDA

P – Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt

P – Alex Meyer, Kentucky

RP – Caleb Reed, Mississippi State


All-Freshman Team                                     

1B – Dominic Ficociello, Arkansas

2B – JaCoby Jones, LSU

3B – Zack Powers, FLORIDA

SS – Adam Frazier, Mississippi State

C – Ty Ross, LSU

OF – Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt

OF – C.T. Bradford, Mississippi State

OF – Andrew Toles, Tennessee

DH – Conrad Gregor, Vanderbilt

P – Karsten Whitson, FLORIDA

P – Forrest Koumas, South Carolina

RP – Kevin Ziomek, Vanderbilt


All-Defensive Team

P – Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt

1B – Dominic Ficociello, Arkansas

1B – Christian Walker, South Carolina

2B – Scott Wingo, South Carolina

SS – Nolan Fontana, FLORIDA

3B – Jason Esposito, Vanderbilt

C – Mike Zunino, FLORIDA

OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama

OF – Mikie Mahtook, LSU

OF – Zach Cone, Georgia

OF – Jackie Bradley, Jr., South Carolina


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