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Monday December 19, 2011Gators Ranked No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll

Gainesville, Fla.

On the heels of a runner-up performance at the 2011 NCAA College World Series, the University of Florida was ranked first in Collegiate Baseball's Fabulous 40 NCAA Division I Preseason Poll released on Monday. It marks the first time in school history that the Gators have occupied the top spot during the preseason in the nationís oldest college baseball poll, which began in 1958. It was also announced that Florida established a record with seven Louisville Slugger preseason All-Americans (Nolan Fontana, Brian Johnson, Austin Maddox, Hudson Randall, Preston Tucker, Karsten Whitson and Mike Zunino).

 

UF headlines the publication's top five, followed by South Carolina, Stanford, North Carolina and Texas. Fifth-year head coach Kevin OíSullivanís club will begin the 2012 campaign on Feb. 17 at McKethan Stadium, when No. 21 Cal State Fullerton visits for the opener of a three-game series.

 

Last season, the Gators were 53-19, finished second at the CWS for the second time and established a school record for victories. Florida made the trip to Omaha in consecutive seasons for the first time and reached the CWS for the seventh time in school history (1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011).

 

With a 22-8 performance in the SEC that matched South Carolina and Vanderbilt for the top spot, the Gators blanked the Commodores, 5-0, to capture the 2011 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. It was the first time in 20 years that Florida won the leagueís tourney and was its sixth title (1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, 2011). The triumph also represented the first time since 1988 that the Orange and Blue had won the SEC and SEC Tourney in the same season. OíSullivanís club reached the 40-win plateau for the 20th time in school history and the school-record 53 wins marked the third time that the program exceeded 50 wins (also in 1991 & 1996).

 

The Gators return a solid nucleus that includes 2011 SEC Player of the Year catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.), 2011 Perfect Game Freshman Pitcher of the Year right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.), as well as All-SEC selections shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.), left-hander/first baseman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.), right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) and outfielder Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.), 2011 SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player outfielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.), 2011 College World Series All-Tournament Team selection third baseman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.), catcher/infielder/right-hander Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.), left-hander Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) and 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team third baseman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.). OíSullivan also welcomes his fourth-straight top-10 incoming class.

 

Offensively last season, Florida hit .307 with 143 doubles and 69 homers last season and the squad averaged 6.3 runs per game. According to the final 2011 national NCAA statistics, UF ranked No. 1 in hits by its offense (755), No. 5 in doubles and No. 5 in homers. The pitching staff ranked No. 1 in the nation in walks allowed per nine innings at 1.82, compiled a 2.95 team earned run average and had more than a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio (547 strikeouts and 130 walks).

 

The Gators join several other SEC programs in the poll, as 11 teams are either ranked (two-time defending national champion South Carolina, 2nd; Arkansas, 8th; LSU, 12th; Georgia, 18th; Vanderbilt, 23th) or received votes (Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Tennessee).

 

The contest with the Titans begins the 34-game home schedule at McKethan Stadium, where the Gators were 34-7 (.829) last year and boast a 124-26 (.827) mark in OíSullivanís tenure. Twenty-six of UF's 56 games during the regular season will be against squads listed in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

 

2012 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division I Preseason Poll

Rank

School (í11 Final Record)

Points

1.

FLORIDA (53-19)

497

2.

South Carolina (55-14)

494

3.

Stanford (35-22)

490

4.

North Carolina (51-16)

488

5.

Texas (49-19)

485

6.

Texas A&M (47-22)

484

7.

Rice (42-21)

482

8.

Arkansas (40-22)

479

9.

Georgia Tech (42-21)

476

10.

TCU (43-19)

474

11.

St. Johnís (36-22)

470

12.

LSU (36-20)

468

13.

Florida State (46-19)

465

14.

Miami (Fla.) (38-23)

464

15.

Louisville (32-29)

460

16.

Oklahoma (41-19)

458

17.

Arizona State (43-18)

457

18.

Georgia (33-32)

455

19.

UCLA (35-24)

454

20.

Arizona (39-21)

452

21.

Cal State Fullerton (41-17)

449

22.

California (38-23)

447

23.

Vanderbilt (54-12)

445

24.

Oregon State (41-19)

443

25.

Clemson (43-20)

437

26.

Stetson (43-20)

435

27.

Oregon (33-26-1)

432

28.

Baylor (31-28)

430

29.

UC Irvine (43-18)

425

30.

Southern Miss (39-19)

422

31.

Missouri State (33-23)

419

32.

College of Charleston (39-22)

417

33.

Virginia (56-12)

413

34.

Georgia Southern (36-26)

412

35.

Texas State (41-23)

408

36.

UCF (39-23)

406

37.

Wichita State (39-26)

403

38.

Jacksonville (37-24)

400

39.

FIU (40-20-1)

397

40.

Southern California (25-31)

395

Other Teams Receiving Votes: Coastal Carolina, Oklahoma State., Charlotte, East Carolina, Kent State, Creighton, Oral Roberts, Troy, South Alabama, San Diego, Gonzaga, San Francisco, Fresno State, Hawaii, Dallas Baptist, NC State, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Tennessee, Stony Brook, Maine, Connecticut, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, USF, Liberty, Winthrop, Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas State, Texas Tech., Missouri, Cal Poly, Long Beach State, UC Riverside, James Madison, Tulane, Houston, Manhattan, Rider, Central Michigan, Illinois State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Austin Peay State, Samford, Elon, UNC Greensboro, S.E. Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin, UL-Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, San Jose State, New Mexico State and Cal State Bakersfield.

 

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