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Florida head baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan talks with catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher Alex Panteliodis, right, during a timeout in the fourth inning against Oregon State during the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Regional tournament at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, June 5, 2010.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.

It's almost that time of the year, time for college baseball.

The Gators, the SEC defending champions, will start practice Jan. 28 at McKethan Stadium. The season opens Feb. 18 at home against South Florida.

Florida, ranked second in Collegiate Baseball's Preseason Poll released last month, is expected to be ranked in the top five in all the major preseason polls.

And, why not. The Gators welcome back 22 letterwinners, including eight position starters and 11 pitchers, and boasts its third-straight top-six incoming class. Florida returns a solid nucleus that includes two-time, first-team All-SEC senior second baseman Josh Adams, 2010 second-team All-SEC first baseman Preston Tucker and five sophomores who were Freshman All-Americans last season: shortstop Nolan Fontana, left-hander/designated hitter Brian Johnson, infielder Austin Maddox, right-hander Hudson Randall and catcher Mike Zunino. Maddox, junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis and Tucker have been named to preseason All-America teams released by Louisville Slugger and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA).

Florida was 47-17 overall last season and claimed its 11th SEC title and 20th Eastern Division crown with a school-record 22-8 league mark that featured a 9-1 series performance. UF reached the 40-win plateau for the 19th time in school history and swept through the Gainesville Regional and Super Regional rounds to punch its ticket to Omaha. It was the lone school nationally last year to play in a BCS bowl game in football, make it to the NCAA Tournament in men's basketball and advance to the final College World Series held at Rosenblatt Stadium.

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