Strong classes have bonded into a power program at UF


Florida's Daniel Pigott (8) is greeted by fellow senior Preston Tucker after a home run earlier this season.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 11:04 a.m.

OMAHA — When Kevin O'Sullivan took the job of head baseball coach at Florida, he had two things going for him.

First, he had been recruiting some of the players he now wanted to go to UF when he was an assistant at Clemson. Second, it's still Florida.




“It wasn't hard at all,” he said. “It was the University of Florida. And I had a good list of players.”

His third straight College World Series team is a collection of four recruiting classes which have bonded to make a team that is the No. 1 seed in Omaha. Here's a look at each class:

THE SENIORS

The star: Preston Tucker.

The unsung hero: Daniel Pigott.

Attrition from injuries and the draft have depleted this class, but certainly Tucker, who holds almost every Florida offensive record, and the consistent Pigott have been huge. So has reliever Greg Larson. And Tyler Thompson was the starting center fielder before a torn ACL ended his season.

“We knew they were all good players when we signed them,” O'Sullivan said. “Preston Tucker was our first commitment and he was the first player I called when I got the job.”

THE JUNIORS

The star: Mike Zunino.

Unsung hero: Cody Dent.

Really, picking a star from this group depends on your opinion. This is the core of what has made the Gators a CWS team the last three years.

“There were a lot of good players in the state that year,” O'Sullivan said. “But you have to get lucky with the draft. We had guys who wanted to go to school.”

O'Sullivan recalled seeing starter Hudson Randall pitch to six batters at the Perfect Game Nationals in Minneapolis.

“He struck out five of 'em,” O'Sullivan said. “I told him I liked his slider. He told me it was his change-up. I offered him on the spot. Not many kids have the feel of a change-up like that.”

This class also includes mainstays Nolan Fontana, Steven Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and Austin Maddox. Not to mention Vickash Ramjit, who transferred in. Zunino and Johnson are first-team All-Americans and first-round Major League Baseball draft choices.

THE SOPHOMORES

The star: Jonathon Crawford.

Unsung hero: Keenan Kish.

A year ago, Karsten Whitson would have been labeled as the star and there's no reason to think he won't be again after a difficult season. But O'Sullivan has said several times that Crawford might be the MVP of this season.

“This was a smaller class because we had such a big class the year before,” O'Sullivan said. “We went hard after pitching, but you're going to see that be a trend with us.”

Also in this class is infielder Zack Powers, who lost this season with a shoulder injury but could easily be a starter next season.

THE FRESHMEN

The star: Casey Turgeon.

Unsung hero: Josh Tobias.

Turgeon has been impressive as a freshman and Tobias may not be as unsung as he was before the postseason. Add in Justin Shafer and you have one-third of Florida's starting lineup. And for the first half of the season Taylor Gushue was starting as well.

“This class may not have been as heralded as the juniors, but they have done really well,” O'Sullivan said. “I saw them play so many games, so I'm not surprised.”

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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