Florida looks to seniors for strong finish
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 9:31 p.m.
They came in as the No. 1 recruiting class in America and lived up to the billing. The 2009 class at Florida went to three straight College World Series and won two SEC titles.
Cody Dent is the only one still playing for Florida's baseball team. But not for long.
Dent and fellow senior Vickash Ramjit likely will be playing their final home series starting tonight when the Gators take on Auburn to open a three-game series.
“It has been an honor, a privilege and a blessing to be here the last four years,” Dent said. “You couldn't ask for anything more in a four-year career.”
Dent came into this season with no guarantees, despite being a senior, and his batting average (.184) hasn't scared anyone.
But he has started 40 of the 44 games he has played in because of his defense. Dent has committed only two errors at shortstop and his fielding percentage (.988) is a big reason why the Gators were able to turn things around this year and put themselves in position for the postseason.
It hasn't simply been the routine play for Dent. He's made some spectacular plays at shortstop.
“It has been amazing,” said Ramjit, Florida's first baseman. “Shortstop is a real backbone of our team, and he just makes some unbelievable plays out there. It's hard to describe. He makes some plays, and you are in awe.”
Dent took over the everyday shortstop job when freshman Richie Martin was out with a broken finger. When Martin returned, he went to center field because Dent was playing so well at shortstop.
“Cody has solidified our defense,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “He's really sure-handed. When we started to turn it around, we kind of found our niche.”
The son of former Major League shortstop Bucky Dent had his first career homer on Monday night, but he is often asked to sacrifice at the bottom of the order.
But his defense and leadership have made him invaluable for a young Florida team.
“To be able to play every day after not being able to start the first three years was a big goal of mine,” Dent said. “I'm proud of that.”
Florida has six games remaining before the SEC Tournament and most projections have UF advancing into the NCAA Tournament because of their RPI (19th in the country) and strength of schedule (1st).
But the Gators still need to finish strong. Auburn comes in with a 29-19 record, 9-15 in the league. But the Tigers have an RPI of 50 and have won four in a row including the final two games of their series last weekend with Ole Miss.
“I'd like to see us finish strong,” Dent said. “The team can feel it. It's very real.”
No matter what happens, O'Sullivan is confident about the future of the last remnants of the Oh-niners.
“He's what any coach could want out of a player in his program.” O'Sullivan said. “He's been great off the field, great in the classroom, a true leader. He's going to be a success in anything he chooses to do in life.”