Gators baseball team a unanimous preseason No. 1 choice

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida Ballpark will make its debut Feb. 19-21 when Miami pays a visit.

Florida Baseball is the unanimous preseason No. 1 team, as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and USA Today Coaches Poll both listed the Gators as their top-ranked team this week.

Florida was previously named No. 1 in preseason rankings released by D1Baseball, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, Perfect Game and Baseball America.

The Gators, who finished the shortened 2020 season with a 16-1 overall record, are the seventh team since 2008 to be the unanimous preseason No. 1. Florida previously achieved the feat three times (2018, 2016, 2012). No other program has been a multi-time unanimous preseason No. 1 since the start of 2007.

UF faces eight teams ranked in D1Baseball’s preseason release, including a season-opening series against No. 21 Miami which will also be the first series at Florida Ballpark at Alfred A. McKethan Field.

•vs. No. 21 Miami – Feb. 19-21

•vs. No. 24 Florida State – March 16 (Tallahassee), April 13 (Gainesville)

•at No. 18 South Carolina – March 26-28

•vs. No. 6 Ole Miss – April 1-3

•at No. 19 Tennessee – April 9-11

•at No. 23 Auburn – April 23-25

•vs. No. 4 Vanderbilt – April 30-May 2

•at No. 8 Arkansas – May 20-22

Florida returns eight of nine position starters and all three of its weekend starting pitchers from its 2020 team. The Gators finished the 2020 campaign ranked 16th nationally in team earned run average (2.41) and 12th nationally in home runs (21). Florida’s bullpen, the vast majority of which returns for 2021, posted a 1.76 ERA across 76.2 innings pitched last season.

Six of the returners are ranked in Baseball America’s 2021 Major League Baseball Draft Top 200 Prospects, a figure which ranks second nationally.

•Jud Fabian, Outfielder – No. 11

•Tommy Mace, Right-Handed Pitcher – No. 38

•Ben Specht, Right-Handed Pitcher – No. 92

•Jack Leftwich, Right-Handed Pitcher – No. 139

•Nathan Hickey, Catcher / Infielder – No. 183

•Christian Scott, Right-Handed Pitcher – No. 191

Fabian and Mace also collected preseason All-America accolades.

Fabian was a D1Baseball All-America First Team selection, while Mace and returning freshman left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco garnered spots on the Second Team. Baseball America’s preseason All-America teams are chosen by members of Major League Baseball scouting departments, and Fabian was one of two unanimous first-team picks. Mace earned a third-team spot with Baseball America.