Florida Gators: Mike Zunino

Vote for the ESPYS

June, 27, 2012
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It's an election year, but this type of voting crosses party lines. Cast your vote in all 33 categories. Winners will be announced at The ESPYS (July 11, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN). Among the Gators nominated for awards are catcher Mike Zunino (Best male college athlete), Abby Wambach (Best female athlete) and Tim Tebow (Best moment - Playoff touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas).

Check out the ESPYS homepage.

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. -- Florida catcher Mike Zunino wasn’t quite sure how to pronounce N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon’s last name.

Row-dun or Roe-don?

[+] EnlargeRodon
AP Photo/Brian WesterholtFlorida is preparing to face N.C. State and ACC freshman/pitcher of the year Carlos Rodon.
Doesn’t really matter. That’s actually pretty far down on the list of things about Rodon that Zunino and the Gators have to worry about when the teams meet this weekend at McKethan Stadium for a best-of-three Super Regional -- well below Rodon’s 99-mph fastball, the other four pitches he throws for strikes, and the fact that teams are hitting less than .200 against the 6-foot-3, 234-pound lefty.

"He’s a great presence on the mound," Zunino said. "Obviously his numbers are great. He’s got a great arm so we’re going to have to come out here and battle and have good at-bats and see what happens."

Rodon -- who is scheduled to start Game 2 of the Super Regional -- is 9-0 with a 1.61 ERA and 132 strikeouts and 111.2 innings pitched this season. He was named the ACC’s Pitcher of the Year, a first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top player.

And he’s only a freshman.

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Florida catcher Mike Zunino was selected as one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation's top amateur player. Read it here.
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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Video: Mike Zunino highlights

June, 4, 2012
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Highlights of Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who was drafted third overall by the Seattle Mariners in Monday night's MLB draft.
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. -- The Florida Gators got mad, and that got Georgia Tech beat.

[+] EnlargePreston Tucker
AP Photo/Phil SandlinPreston Tucker's two-run home run against Georgia Tech in the ninth inning on Saturday was his 10th career postseason homer, the most in UF history.
The Gators scored three runs in the fourth inning -- including one on Mike Zunino’s solo home run to left center field -- after a controversial end to the third inning to beat the Yellow Jackets 6-2 in a winners’ bracket game in the Gainesville Regional on Saturday night at McKethan Stadium. The top-seeded Gators will play on Sunday evening against the winner of Sunday’s afternoon’s Georgia Tech-College of Charleston elimination game.

What sparked UF’s offense in the top of the fourth was a debate of how the third inning actually ended. Georgia Tech had runners on first and second with two out, and starting pitcher Hudson Randall appeared to strike out first baseman Jake Davies after Zunino caught a foul tip. As the Gators left the field, however, Davies argued that the ball had actually hit the ground before Zunino caught it.

The umpires gathered in front of home plate to discuss the play while the grounds crew dragged the infield and Georgia Tech took the field. After a huddle that lasted for nearly five minutes, home plate umpire Mike Morris ruled that the ball had hit the ground before Zunino caught it and sent the Yellow Jackets back to the dugout and called the Gators back onto the field.

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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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Zunino No. 5 in Law's first mock draft

May, 15, 2012
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Keith Law unveils his first mock draft of 2012, Insider with Stanford right-handed pitcher Mark Appel going first overall to the Astros. Florida catcher Mike Zunino is projected to Kansas City fifth overall, while Law has flame-throwing Florida recruit Lance McCullers, Jr. going to Oakland at No. 11.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The state of Florida is always loaded with baseball talent, and this year is no different. After you give thanks to our long history of playing host to Grapefruit League spring training, there's the small matter of Major League Baseball raiding the Florida Gators' current roster AND their outstanding class of 2012.

Lance McCullers
Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesWill Gator fans ever see top recruit Lance McCullers Jr. wear orange and blue?
One glance at a projected first round of this summer's MLB draft, and you'll see two to four Gators as well as a couple of UF's best recruits. Here are some of the top hits:

  • UF catcher Mike Zunino, of course, is the lead dog. He's followed up his breakthrough 2011 season with another campaign full of eye-popping stats. Couple that with his reputation for terrific defense, and Zunino is pushing the top of the first round this summer. ESPN senior baseball analyst Keith Law had Zunino as high as No. 2 on his list of prospects, but the backstop now dwells at No. 4 on the top 100 list. Insider
  • ESPN's Jason A. Churchill says Zunino remains the No. 1 college position player available Insider and is the best catcher (not even by a close margin). The lack of solid college catching prospects, Churchill writes, could push Zunino even higher on teams' draft boards.
  • In this recent blog, ESPN MLB draft blogger Kiley McDaniel scouts Florida left-handed reliever Steven "Paco" Rodriguez, Insider who could make the first round.

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GatorNation interview: Catcher Mike Zunino

April, 20, 2012
4/20/12
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Florida catcher Mike Zunino talks about the midpoint of the Southeastern Conference season with GatorNation's Michael DiRocco. Zunino, who leads the Gators with a .346 average, 10 home runs and 39 RBIs, talks about his production at and behind the plate. He also touches on the Gators' rivalry with Georgia.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Nolan Fontana’s new approach of less thinking has resulted in more offensive production.

Florida’s junior shortstop has been pounding the baseball in his last seven games, hitting .542 (13 for 24) and driving in seven runs, since he quit being so picky about which pitches he chose to try and hit. He’s no longer over-analyzing every at-bat and has simplified his approach to: See good pitch, hit good pitch.

Nolan Fontana
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireShortstop Nolan Fontana has been lights out at the plate for Florida lately.
"I guess sometimes I was in those modes where I’m being too patient and being too picky," Fontana said as the top-ranked Gators (29-8, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) prepared to play host to Georgia (23-15, 7-8) for a three-game series beginning Friday. "He [coach Kevin O’Sullivan] has talked to me about it, and what I’m trying to do lately is focus on seeing the ball well and hitting it."

That’s exactly what he’s doing. Fontana has had at least two hits in five of his last seven games, including a 4-for-4 performance against Tennessee on April 13. He followed up with four walks the following day against the Vols.

"Instead of the ball looking like it does, it looks a little bigger -- like a grapefruit," he said. "Sometimes even softball size.

"You just try not to think, and I feel that the more I think as a hitter the more trouble I get into instead of just seeing the ball and hitting the ball."

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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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National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert discusses where Florida goes from here now that its recruiting class has shrunk to eight. Haubert says, however, there's reason for optimism in Gainesville.
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