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Tuesday May 29, 2012Gator Baseball Players Collect Numerous SEC Awards

Gainesville, Fla.

The University of Florida baseball program boasted four first-team All-SEC selections for the first time since 1991 in a vote of the league’s 12 head baseball coaches announced on Tuesday. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club had a total of five All-SEC picks, the third-straight year that it has placed five or more recipients on the list. No. 1 Florida (42-18) opens NCAA Gainesville Regional action on Friday when its hosts Bethune-Cookman (34-25) at 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium.

 

Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) and senior outfielder Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) joined an elite group of Gators on the diamond who have achieved All-SEC status three times, a fraternity that includes Josh Adams (2008-09-11), Mike Stanley (1982-84-85), Marc Valdes (1991-92-93) and Brad Wilkerson (1996-97-98).   

 

Junior left-hander/designated hitter Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.).junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), Tucker and junior catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) were chosen first-team All-SEC, Fontana earned second-team recognition, while third baseman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) was chosen to the league’s All-Freshman Team. Fontana was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team for the third year in a row and Zunino was a repeat honoree.

 

One of the 10 players in the running for the 2012 John Olerud Award presented to the nation’s top two-way standout, Johnson was voted onto the SEC’s first team for the second-straight time in the designated hitter spot after ranking third on the Gators with a .309 batting average in league play. He drove in 16 runs, scored 11 runs, collected five doubles and belted two homers against league foes. On the season, Johnson is 7-4 with a 3.67 earned run average on the mound and has 64 strikeouts in 81 innings, to go along with a .318 clip, 39 RBI, 20 runs, 12 doubles and five homers. The southpaw tossed his first career complete game to oust fourth-ranked South Carolina from the SEC Tourney last Friday night and matched his career high with four hits on Saturday against Vanderbilt.  

 

Rodriguez became the first Gator reliever to earn All-SEC accolades since Kevin Chapman was recognized in 2010. The left-hander has a 3-2 record in a team-high 31 appearances and paces the pitching corps with 77 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. Rodriguez has registered a 2.04 earned run average, notched three saves and limited opponents to a .197 batting average. He racked up 47 strikeouts and issued eight walks in 34.1 innings of work during league play and preserved both wins at third-ranked Kentucky,

 

Tucker, who hit a team-best .322 with 24 RBI, 20 runs, nine doubles and seven homers in conference action, earned All-SEC honors for the third time after being a first-team choice last season and a second-team pick in 2010. He was the 2009 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year with LSU’s Matty Ott. Tucker has a .312 average and is second on the Gators in hits (73), runs (49), RBI (44), walks (30), doubles (15) and homers (14).

 

A semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award and the Dick Howser Trophy who was the 2011 SEC Player of the Year, Zunino leads the Gators in batting average (.323), total bases (146), RBI (55), doubles (27), sacrifice flies (8) and slugging percentage (.664). Now a two-time first-team All-SEC recipient, he has registered a .993 fielding percentage, with three errors in 452 chances, and has thrown out almost a third of the runners who have attempted to steal on him.

 

Fontana became the first Gator shortstop to earn All-SEC three seasons in a row and joined outfielder Matt den Dekker (2008-09-10) as the only UF players to be named to the SEC All-Defensive Team three times. He has a .290 batting average in 59 games, leads the Orange and Blue in runs (52), walks (44) and stolen bases (11-for-12), and has 28 RBI, 10 doubles and a career-high nine homers. On the Watch List for the Brooks Wallace Award presented to the nation’s top shortstop, Fontana sports a .975 fielding percentage and committed just one error in league play.

 

Tobias was chosen to the All-Freshman Team on the hot corner, giving the Gators three-consecutive third-base selections after Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) made the squad in 2010 and Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) earned a spot last season. Tobias turned in a .261 clip in league play and has seen time in 44 games this season, with 37 starts. He returned to the lineup after missing an extended period of time from a hand injury suffered in late March.

 

LSU junior outfielder Raph Rhymes was the SEC Player of the Year, Mississippi State junior right-hander Chris Stratton was selected as the SEC Pitcher of the Year, Kentucky outfielder Austin Cousino was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, Michael Roth of South Carolina was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Kentucky’s Gary Henderson was the SEC Coach of the Year.

  

The complete 2012 All-SEC Team follows:

 

SEC Player of the Year – Raph Rhymes, LSU

SEC Pitcher of the Year – Chris Stratton, Mississippi State

SEC Freshman of the Year – Austin Cousino, Kentucky

SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year – Michael Roth, South Carolina

SEC Coach of the Year – Gary Henderson, Kentucky 

 

First Team                             

1B – Christian Walker, South Carolina            

2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss        

3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas

SS – Anthony Gomez, Vanderbilt

C – Mike Zunino, FLORIDA                

OF – Raph Rhymes, LSU    

OF– Preston Tucker, FLORIDA     

OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama

DH/UTL – Brian Johnson, FLORIDA

P – Chris Stratton, Mississippi State

P – Kevin Gausman, LSU                  

RP– Steven Rodriguez, FLORIDA 

 

Second Team                       

1B – Matt Snyder, Ole Miss

2B – Bo Bigham, Arkansas

3B – Curt Powell, Georgia

SS – Nolan Fontana, FLORIDA

C – Luke Maile, Kentucky

OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky

OF – Ryan Tella, Auburn

OF – Mason Katz, LSU

DH – Drew Steckenrider, Tennessee

P – Alex Wood, Georgia      

P – Corey Littrell, Kentucky

P – Bobby Wahl, Ole Miss

RP – Matt Price, South Carolina

 

All-Freshman Team          

1B – A.J. Reed, Kentucky    

2B – Will Maddox, Tennessee

3B – Josh Tobias, FLORIDA

SS – Joey Pankake, South Carolina

C – Grayson Greiner, South Carolina 

OF – Austin Cousino, Kentucky         

OF– Tanner English, South Carolina

OF – Hunter Cole, Georgia

OF – Ben Moore, Alabama

DH/UTL – A.J. Reed, Kentucky        

P – Aaron Nola, LSU           

P – Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt

RP– Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State

 

All-Defensive Team                            

P – Ryan Eades, LSU

P – Kendall Graveman, Mississippi State

P – Michael Roth, South Carolina 

1B – Dominic Ficociello, Arkansas                 

2B – Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss

SS – Nolan Fontana, FLORIDA

3B – Matt Reynolds, Arkansas

C – Mike Zunino, FLORIDA                

OF – Evan Marzilli, South Carolina  

OF – Taylor Dugas, Alabama          

OF– Austin Cousino, Kentucky  

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