Florida Gators: Brian Johnson

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February, 10, 2014
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What a historic moment from former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Hats off to one of the SEC's best players in 2013.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When Florida pitcher Greg Larson found out the Gators’ first game in the College World Series is against SEC rival South Carolina, he got excited.

"They’ve had a great run," Larson said of the two-time defending national champion Gamecocks. "Just kind of thinking about last year, we were going to run into them sooner or later, so why not first game in Omaha?"

[+] EnlargeZunino
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina edged Florida in the College World Series final last season.
What Larson was thinking about from last year was South Carolina’s sweep over Florida in the best-of-three CWS championship series. The Gamecocks won the first game 2-1 in 11 innings and the second game 5-2. But Larson said while the Gators remember that heartbreak, they aren’t talking about revenge or anything like that.

"The year has dulled it," he said. "I don’t think there’s any bitterness. We’ve kind of moved on from last year and are trying to make this year count."

Top-seeded Florida (47-18) is the favorite to win the national title despite South Carolina (45-17) winning the last two titles and riding a 21-game NCAA tournament winning streak. The Gators have outscored opponents 41-14 this postseason, which the majority of the runs allowed coming in Sunday’s 9-8 victory over N.C. State to sweep the Super Regional.

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3 Gators named All-American

June, 13, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida pitchers Brian Johnson and Austin Maddox and catcher Mike Zunino were named All-Americans by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Wednesday.

Zunino and Johnson -- both of whom were first-round draft picks last week -- were first-team selections. Maddox was a third-team selection. It's the first time in school history the Gators have had three players named All-American by the same organization.

Zunino, who was the No. 3 overall pick by the Seattle Mariners, leads Florida in RBIs (64), doubles (28) and home runs (19). He is a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, the Golden Spikes Award and the Johnny Bench Award and was previously named a Louisville Slugger All-American.

Johnson, who was a first-round pick by the Boston Red Sox, earned his spot on the first team as a utility player. He is 8-4 with a 3.56 ERA and is hitting .314 with 41 RBIs and six home runs. He is a finalist for the John Olerud Award, which is presented to the nation's top two-way player.

Maddox, who was a third-round pick by the Boston Red Sox, is 3-3 with a 2.50 ERA and has 12 saves -- one shy of the school's single-season record.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – More proof of why the Florida baseball team is the favorite to win the College World series: The Gators had six more players drafted on Tuesday.

Shortstop Nolan Fontana and pitcher Steven Rodriguez were taken in the second round. Pitcher Austin Maddox was taken in the third round, and outfielder Preston Tucker and pitcher Hudson Randall were taken in the seventh round. Outfielder Daniel Pigott was taken in the ninth round.

Including the selections of catcher Mike Zunino (No. 3 overall) and pitcher Brian Johnson (No. 31 overall), the Gators have seen eight players drafted during the first 15 rounds. Rounds 16-40 will take place Wednesday.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s Brian Johnson obviously has the potential to become a Major League player. It just isn’t clear at which position.

The Boston Red Sox selected the left-handed pitcher with the 31st and final pick in the first round of the MLB draft on Monday night. Johnson’s pitching skills got him drafted that high, but his offensive skills make him an intriguing prospect as a position player.

ESPN MLB draft expert Kiley McDaniel said scouts like the fact that Johnson throws four pitches (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup) and has good control. His ability to hit could also earn him time at first base, too.

"He's a pitchability lefty with above-average stuff and command along the lines of Mark Buehrle and also has average raw power from the left side as a solid 1B prospect," McDaniel wrote in analyzing the selection. "Johnson isn't the greatest athlete and is a little stiff, but he makes his delivery work for him and could help the Red Sox as a quick-moving savvy lefty."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Today, and only today, Florida catcher Mike Zunino is allowing himself to finally think about the Major League Baseball draft.

Otherwise, Zunino -- who is projected to be among the top five selections -- has pretty much ignored any thoughts of where he might be selected, by which team, and whether he will sign a professional contract or return to Florida for his senior season, because he’s more focused on helping the Gators return to the College World Series.

Mike Zunino
Rob Foldy/Icon SMIFlorida catcher Mike Zunino is projected as a high pick in Monday night's MLB draft.
"Honestly, it was an afterthought this whole weekend," Zunino said after the Gators’ 15-3 victory over Georgia Tech on Sunday night sent them to this weekend’s Super Regional against either Vanderbilt or N.C. State. "We came out with one goal and that’s to try to make it to the College World Series, and I’ve got 34 other teammates that are trying to do the same goal, and I’m just trying to play for one cause. It was really an afterthought. Once the game starts you really don’t think about it."

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Zunino will be the highest drafted UF player in Monday night’s first round (7 p.m. ET), but there will be numerous Gators and signees selected in the three-day draft. Zunino (fourth), pitcher/DH Brian Johnson (28th), shortstop Nolan Fontana (44th) and reliever Steven Rodriguez (71st) are all ranked among the top 100 players in ESPN Insider Keith Law’s pre-draft rankings. Law also has two UF signees -- pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit) and outfielder Lewis Brinson (Tamarac, Fla./Coral Springs) -- among his top 100. McCullers is 25th and Brinson is 55th.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Five Florida baseball players were named to the All-Southeastern Conference teams released Tuesday, including four who were named to the first team.

Outfielder Preston Tucker, catcher Mike Zunino, pitcher/DH Brian Johnson and reliever Steven Rodriguez made the first team in a vote by the league's 12 coaches. Shortstop Nolan Fontana was a second-team selection. It is the third time Tucker and Fontana have earned All-SEC honors. Only four others players in school history -- Josh Adams, Mike Stanley, Brad Wilkerson and Marc Valdes -- have accomplished that feat.

Zunino leads the Gators (42-18) with a .323 average, 27 doubles, 16 home runs, and 55 RBIs. Tucker (.312) is second with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs. Johnson has started a team-high 15 games as a left-handed pitcher and is 7-4 with a 3.67 ERA. He's hitting .318 with five home runs and 39 RBI. Rodriguez is 3-2 with a 2.04 ERA and three saves.

Fontana is hitting .290 with nine home runs and 28 RBI. He and Zunino also were named to the SEC's All-Defensive team.

In addition, third baseman Josh Tobias (.245, 7 RBI) was named to the All-Freshman team.
HOOVER, Ala. -- The University of Florida Gators saw red Friday night at the SEC baseball tournament. The third-seeded Gators jumped on the South Carolina Gamecocks from the start, putting up four runs in the first three innings on their way to a 7-2 win and a shot at a semifinal rematch against Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon.

The UF offense started the tournament strong with a 6-1 win over Auburn on Tuesday, but came to a screeching halt Thursday against the fifth-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores, losing 3-2. Coming into the postseason, UF had handled Vanderbilt in 2012, going undefeated in three matchups.

Four batters had multiple hits against South Carolina on Friday night. Catcher Mike Zunino led all hitters with three RBIs, two of which came on a laser home run over the left field fence in the top of the third inning.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan was expecting very little from right-hander Jonathan Crawford this season.

The Gators have one of the best pitching staffs in the nation with preseason All-American starters Hudson Randall, Brain Johnson and Karsten Whitson and a stocked bullpen led by Greg Larson, Steven Rodriguez and Austin Maddox. Crawford, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore who threw 3.2 innings last season, was at best going to be a mid-week starter.

Instead, he ended up being a key piece of the Gators’ weekend rotation.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida baseball team, fresh off a 3-1 performance, come it at No. 2 in Eric Sorenson's weekly power rankings.

The Gators (28-8, 9-6 SEC) beat Florida State to finish a 3-0 series sweep of the rival Seminoles and also took two-of-three games at Tennessee last week. Pitcher/DH Brian Johnson had a monster week, hitting .471 (8-for-17) and driving in seven runs in the four games and also pitching six scoreless innings in Sunday's 8-1 victory over the Vols to earn SEC Player of the Week honors.

Florida is second in the SEC's Eastern Division and trails leader Kentucky (32-5, 11-4) by two games.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan is doing a lot of nitpicking these days.

When you’re the No. 1 team in the nation with a 16-1 record and have just tied a school record for consecutive victories, there’s really not much going wrong. So it’s all about fixing the little things as the Gators prepare to begin Southeastern Conference play this weekend at home against Vanderbilt.

"We’ve still got some things to work on," O’Sullivan said after the Gators’ 9-2 victory over sixth-ranked Florida State on Tuesday night in Gainesville. "We missed a couple signs [against FSU], a couple of hit-and-run signs, made the error there that scored the two runs. But overall, how disappointed can you be?"

Not very, because UF is playing pretty well in every aspect of the game. The Gators came out of the FSU game leading the nation in home runs (27) and are hitting .312 with 62 extra-base hits. Of the seven players with at least 50 at-bats, six are hitting .300 or better -- including catcher Mike Zunino (.417) and right fielder Preston Tucker (.313). Those two have a combined 13 home runs and 39 RBIs.

"The bottom half of our lineup is really swinging the bats well," said Tucker, who has six homers and 16 RBIs. "When the bats come alive there, and there’s guys on base for guys at the top of the lineup, it’s really tough to pitch to a lot of these hitters."

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[+] EnlargeKevin O'Sullivan
AP Photo/Eric FrancisKevin O'Sullivan's Florida Gators aim to find their way back to the championship series ... and win it.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has the best team in college baseball. Nearly everyone says so.

The Gators sit atop the Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and USA Today/ESPN Coaches preseasons polls and had an NCAA-record seven players named preseason All-Americans by Louisville Slugger and Baseball America. Perfect Game tabbed five UF players preseason All-Americans, and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association had five on its list.

UF returns seven position starters and nine pitchers from last year’s team that finished runner-up to national champion South Carolina in the College World Series. The Gators also have 14 players who are projected to be drafted in June -- including seven who could go in the first three rounds.

With all that talent and experience, expectations for the Gators are pretty high in 2012. Just making the College World Series -- something UF has done only seven times in school history -- isn’t even enough. It’s almost national title or bust.

“This isn’t the first time they’ve had expectations. They’ve been through this before, especially last year,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Hopefully they’ll draw from their experiences last year and be well prepared for it this year. We’ve talked about it. It’s Florida. There’s expectations. We want to be in Omaha every year and compete for a national championships.”

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Gator baseball No. 1 in coaches poll

January, 26, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida baseball team stands atop the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, which debuted Thursday. The Gators, got 17 first-place votes to rank ahead of No. 2 South Carolina with 12 first-place votes. Florida and South Carolina met in last season's College World Series final, in which the Gamecocks won their second consecutive national championship.

The Gators, who are also ranked No. 1 in Baseball America's and Collegiate Baseball's first polls of the season, went 53-19 last year. They open this season on Feb. 17 to begin a home series against No. 25 Cal State-Fullerton.

Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan returns a strong nucleus, including Southeastern Conference Player of the Year C Mike Zunino, senior OF Preston Tucker, slugger Austin Maddox and the entire weekend rotation (Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson and Karsten Whitson).

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