Johnson named nation's best two-way player

Published: Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 2, 2012 at 5:29 a.m.

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Florida left-hander/designated hitter Brian Johnson claimed the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award that was presented at the College Baseball Night of Champions in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday night. He became the school's first recipient.

At the same event, Brad Wilkerson (1996-98) became the first Gator to be inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame and catcher Mike Zunino was recognized for winning the 2012 Dick Howser Trophy as College Baseball's Player of the Year and the 2012 Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top catcher.

A first-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Perfect Game, Johnson was a second-team All-American by Baseball America and Louisville Slugger. Chosen first-team All-SEC for the past two seasons, he was 8-5 with a 3.90 earned run average on the mound and had 73 strikeouts in 90 innings, to go along with a .307 average, 41 RBIs, 24 runs, 13 doubles and six homers.

The lefty tossed his first career complete game to oust fourth-ranked South Carolina from the SEC Tournament on May 25 and matched his career high with four hits in the semifinal round the following day against Vanderbilt. He was named to the 2012 SEC All-Tournament Team at both pitcher and designated hitter.

During the NCAA Gainesville Regional, Johnson limited the high-powered Georgia Tech offense to one run on three hits over five innings on June 3 as the Gators cruised to a 15-3 victory over the Jackets to punch their fourth straight ticket to Super Regionals. A first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox, he batted .429 (3-for-7) in the sweep of No. 11 N.C. State and tied the second encounter with the Wolfpack with a solo homer in the eighth inning of Florida's eventual 9-8 triumph in 10 innings.

The only three-time All-American in Gator baseball history, Wilkerson was named the 1998 Collegiate Player of the Year by the NCBWA and won the Smith Award given to the National Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year as selected by CoSIDA. A finalist for the 1998 Golden Spikes Award, he was a first-team All-American selection by Baseball America, Baseball Weekly, Collegiate Baseball and Sporting News that year. Wilkerson reset UF career batting average, HR, RBI, runs, walks and slugging percentage standards, broke seven individual season batting records and tied/re-set seven individual performance marks during his career.

With 55 career home runs, he became the eighth player in SEC history to hit 50 or more home runs. In addition, he reached base safely in 141-consecutive games at one point of career and reached base in 190 of 195 career games. Wilkerson was the first player in NCAA history to hit 20 home runs, win 10 games and steal 20 bases in a season (23 homers-10 wins-21 stolen bases in 1998).

An ABCA All-South Region and All-SEC recipient all three years of his career, Wilkerson was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1996 NCAA East Regional held in Gainesville and earned a spot on the 1996 NCAA College World Series All-Tournament Team. His efforts helped the Gators to a combined record of 136-60 (.694), a pair of CWS appearances (1996 & 1998), two SEC titles (1996 & 1998) and three-straight SEC Eastern Division crowns (1996-98). A first-round pick of the Montreal Expos with the 33rd overall selection in the 1998 Draft, Wilkerson played for the Expos (2001-04), Washington Nationals (2005), Texas Rangers (2006-07), Seattle Mariners (2008) and Toronto Blue Jays (2008) in his eight-year MLB career.

Zunino, a consensus first-team All-American, the Dick Howser Trophy recipient, Baseball America's 2012 College Player of the Year and the first Johnny Bench Award winner from UF, is one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award that will be presented Friday. He finished as the Gators' “Triple Crown” winner, leading the team in batting average (.322), RBIs (67) and homers (19), and paced the Gators in total bases (164), doubles (28), sacrifice flies (11) and slugging percentage (.669). He was also 9-for-10 on stolen base attempts. A two-time, first-team All-SEC recipient and two-time member of the league's All-Defensive Team, Zunino registered a .994 fielding percentage, with three errors in 510 chances, and threw out 20 runners who attempted to steal on him.

Zunino was voted to the NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team for the third consecutive season after belting homers in consecutive games against No. 24 Georgia Tech and he led the Gators with a .500 (4-for-8) average in the pair of victories over N.C. State that punched Florida's return ticket to Omaha for its third straight appearance at the College World Series. The first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners at No. 3 overall was 8-for-25 (.320) during the NCAA Tourney with team highs in slugging percentage (.720), RBIs (12) and homers (3).

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