Friday January 27, 2012Six Gator Baseball Players Earn Preseason All-American Honors From Perfect Game
University of Florida junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.), junior left-hander/first baseman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.), junior infielder/right-hander Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.), junior right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.), sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) and junior catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) were each named to Perfect Game’s 2012 Preseason All-America Team announced on Friday. The six selections from head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club led the nation and Zunino was tabbed as PG’s Preseason Player of the Year.
A first-team pick behind the plate who was the 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Zunino led the Gators and was among the league leaders in batting average (.371), total bases (178), hits (98), runs (75), doubles (23), homers (19), slugging percentage (.674) and on-base percentage (.442). He registered a .995 fielding percentage, with three errors in 570 chances, was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award and a semifinalist for both the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy. Zunino collected All-American honors last season from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) (first team), Baseball America (first team), Perfect Game (first team), Louisville Slugger (second team) and the NCBWA (third team).
In UF’s 11 NCAA Tourney games, he hit .395 (17-for-43) with 12 runs, eight RBI, four homers and four doubles. Zunino led the Gators with a .571 (4-for-7) average in the NCAA College World Series Championship Finals against South Carolina and was 6-for-13 (.462) and belted a pair of round-trippers versus Mississippi State in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional. He batted .422 in conference games and had 36 runs, 33 RBI, 14 doubles and eight homers in the 30 league outings. Zunino became the first Florida catcher to earn first-team All-SEC since Mario Linares in 1991 and was a two-time SEC Player of the Week recipient.
A first-team choice in the utility spot, Johnson was a semifinalist for the 2011 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award. A first-team All-SEC selection, Johnson compiled an 8-3 record with a 3.62 earned run average in 15 starts on the mound spanning 79.2 innings. The left-hander was third on the Orange and Blue with 72 strikeouts and limited opponents to a .253 batting average. Johnson hit .307 with 29 RBI, 26 runs and 18 extra-base hits (11 doubles, five homers and two triples).
Chosen as an Honorable Mention All-American by College Baseball Insider and as a quarterfinalist for the Pitcher of the Year Award last year, Randall was a first-team choice by Perfect Game after earning second-team All-South Region and second-team All-SEC recognition. The righty turned in an 11-3 record and ranked fifth in the SEC with a 2.17 ERA. Randall tied Whitson for the team lead with 19 starts, the most by a Gator pitcher since 2005. He had 73 strikeouts and 13 walks in a team-high 124.1 innings, held opponents to a .227 batting average and started four of Florida’s school-record 11 shutouts. Over 10 SEC starts, Randall turned in a 6-3 record with a 3.00 ERA and tossed complete games against South Carolina and Tennessee. He was 3-0 with a 1.49 ERA in five postseason starts, including 2-0 with a 1.91 ERA in four NCAA Tournament games in which he had 24 strikeouts and issued five walks. He is the Gators’ all-time NCAA Tournament leader in innings pitched (45.0, tied with Tommy Boss) and strikeouts (40). Randall was named to the SEC All-Tournament Team after firing eight innings of shutout ball versus Alabama and was a two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week recipient.
A second-team All-SEC choice who was chosen to the league’s All-Defensive Team for the second year in a row, Fontana was a member of Perfect Game’s second team at shortstop. He became the first Gator shortstop to earn all-league accolades in back-to-back seasons since Julio Mendez accomplished the feat in 1987 and 1988 and joined Matt den Dekker (2008-09-10) as the lone Florida players to be chosen to the league’s All-Defensive Team on multiple occasions. Fontana was a semifinalist for the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s top shortstop, had a .289 average and led the SEC in walks (52) and sacrifice flies (nine). In addition, he paced the Gators in sacrifices (20) and triples (five), rated second with 57 runs and was third with a career-high 49 RBI.
After registering a 3-0 record with a 0.67 ERA and five saves in 21 appearances last season, Maddox was named to the second team as a utility player. The righty totaled 21 strikeouts, issued three walks and limited opponents to a .198 performance in 27 innings of work. Maddox was not scored upon in five postseason appearances, a span of 5.2 innings in which he was 1-0 and picked up two saves. He pitched 2.2 scoreless frames in the College World Series, one inning in the first game of the CWS Championship Finals against South Carolina and 1.2 innings to earn the decision in the Gators’ 6-4 victory over Vanderbilt. The 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year made three shutout appearances and collected a couple of saves during the SEC Tournament as UF brought home its first title since 1991. In 62 games, all of which were starts in the field – 41 at first base, 15 at third base, five as the designated hitter and one at catcher – he batted .280 with 35 RBI, 30 runs, 14 walks, six homers and three doubles.
A second-team honoree, Whitson was chosen as the 2011 National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game and was named as a Freshman All-American by Baseball America, Louisville Slugger and the NCBWA. Chosen to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team, Whitson held a permanent spot in the Gators’ weekend rotation and finished 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA. He tied Randall for the top spot with 19 starts, led the club with 92 strikeouts in 97.1 innings and limited opponents to a .235 batting average. Whitson collected SEC Freshman of the Week honors on April 25 after a seven-strikeout performance in a career-high 6.2 innings versus Alabama and 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.
Last season, the Gators were 53-19, finished as the runner-up at the NCAA College World Series and established a school record for victories. Florida made the trip to Omaha in consecutive seasons for the first time and made 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 league’s 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. O’Sullivan’s 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). Ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, the Gators will open the season on Feb. 17 with a three-game series against No. 16 Cal State Fullerton at McKethan Stadium.
Single-game tickets for the 2012 Gator Baseball season are now on sale. Both single-game and season tickets can be purchased online at www.GatorZone.com/tickets or by calling the Gator Ticket Office at 1-800-34-GATOR from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Single-Game Ticket Prices are as follows:
$10 – Reserved Box
$8 – Reserved Chairback
$6 – Reserved Bleacher
$4 – General Admission