Florida Gators: Austin Maddox

3 Gators named All-American

June, 13, 2012
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. – When Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan signed Austin Maddox out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Eagle’s View Academy, he knew he was getting one of the nation’s top hitters -- but he had no idea he was eventually getting one of the nation’s top pitchers, too.

[+] EnlargeAustin Maddox
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMIFlorida closer Austin Maddox has 12 saves this season, one shy of tying the school's single-season mark.
Maddox started his Florida career in 2010 by slugging his way to Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and All-America honors while playing third base, DH, first base and catcher. He hit .333 and led the team in homers (17) and RBIs (72). Save for some troubles defensively, it was everything O’Sullivan had hoped he’d get from the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Maddox.

But O’Sullivan was really intrigued by Maddox’s arm. The right-hander threw in the low 90s and O’Sullivan knew he had potential as a pitcher, so they slowly started working with Maddox in the fall prior to his sophomore season.

“He was a hitter first and a pitcher second (coming out of high school),” O’Sullivan said as the Gators (42-18) began preparing for this weekend’s NCAA regional at McKethan Stadium. “We really didn’t do a whole lot with him his freshman year at all pitching-wise. Sophomore year in the fall it was very limited. It was one inning here, three or four days off, another inning there, and it just kind of evolved into that the second half of his sophomore year.”

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HOOVER, Ala. -- A snoozer turned into a heart-stopper in the blink of an eye.

The Vanderbilt Commodores looked lifeless for six innings in Saturday's semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament, but with the game on the line in the ninth inning, they sprang to life. Austin Maddox, the normally dependable closer for Florida, came apart with only three outs separating the Gators from a shot at a seventh SEC title.

Down one run in the ninth inning, the Commodores pulled off a squeeze bunt for the tying game-tying run, slapped a single off shortstop Nolan Fontana’s glove for another, and then for good measure stole home for insurance. By the time the head-spinning frame was over, Vanderbilt had all it needed to beat Florida, 8-6, and advance to the championship game against Mississippi State on Sunday.

Florida did its best to answer in the home half of the ninth, scoring three runs and loading the bases with two outs before Vanderbilt pulled its closer. Drew VerHagen came on and was able to get the final out to seal the Gators’ fate.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It looks like Florida is finally going to have its complete pitching staff -- one which was projected to be the best in the nation -- just in time for the Gators to make their postseason run.

[+] EnlargeKarsten Whitson
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIKarsten Whitson, a freshman All-American last season, returned from a tired arm on April 3.
Fatigued arms cost the Gators two of their top three starters for varying periods of time this season, and their closer is coming off a mild bout of tendinitis, but Hudson Randall, Karsten Whitson and Austin Maddox are healthy heading into the final two weekends of Southeastern Conference play. That puts the fifth-ranked Gators at full strength for the first time since before the season began.

And that solidifies Florida (36-13, 14-10 SEC) as the favorite to win the national championship.

“We’ve put ourselves in position to where we hoped we would be,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Now we’ve got two big series left, obviously, and this week it’s a big weekend. We don’t have to watch the scoreboard. The bottom line is if we do what we’re capable of doing we’ll be right there in the hunt at the end.”

This weekend’s series against Mississippi State (30-18, 12-12), which begins today, is the just the second time Florida has had its weekend rotation of Randall, Whitson and Brian Johnson intact since the first series of the season against Cal State Fullerton. Whitson threw only 13 pitches before being pulled in his second start of the season and missed 5 weeks with what O’Sullivan said was a tired arm.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- All Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan wanted was just one run.

Trailing 2-0 with two runners on with one out in the bottom of the third inning against rival Florida State, getting one run was the goal to stop the Seminoles' momentum. Preston Tucker gave O'Sullivan what he wanted -- plus two more. The senior right fielder hit a three-run homer over the right-field wall to spark the Gators to a 9-2 victory in front of a McKethan Stadium-record crowd of 6,005 Tuesday night.

"We were down two runs at the time," said Tucker, who is second on the team with 16 RBIs and six home runs. "We were trying to at least get one across. He left it up a little bit and I put a good swing on it."

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak to Florida State. It also was UF's 14th win in a row, which tied a school record set in 2001 and 2004.

Tucker's homer loosened up UF's offense. Nolan Fontana drove in a run in the fourth on a groundout and another in the sixth on a solo home run. Mike Zunino drove in runs in the seventh on a sacrifice fly and in the eighth on a single. Daniel Pigott also drove in a pair of runs in the eighth on a single.

While the top-ranked Gators (16-1) were rolling offensively, the sixth-ranked Seminoles (14-2) couldn't solve UF's bullpen. UF relievers Greg Larson, Steven Rodriguez, Daniel Gibson and Austin Maddox limited FSU to just two hits in 6.1 innings and at one point retired 12 consecutive batters until Sherman Johnson's one-out single in the eighth.

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Gator baseball No. 1 in coaches poll

January, 26, 2012
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).


McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.