Gators tabbed as preseason SEC champions, 4 named All-SEC

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Now that the national college baseball polls, all six of them, have cleared the base paths for the coaches, Florida's top-ranked baseball team is the preseason choice to win the SEC, the league announced Thursday.

The league's 14 coaches voted, with 12 of them listing the Gators as their preseason SEC champion, and 13 choosing Florida as the favorite to win the SEC East in the 30th annual poll.

The Gators open their 2021 campaign with the inaugural game at Florida Ballpark at Alfred A. McKethan Field on Feb. 19 against No. 21 Miami.

Sophomore outfielder Jud Fabian was voted a Preseason All-SEC First Team selection. Fabian was also a D1Baseball Preseason All-America First Team selection, and one of two unanimous selections to Baseball America’s Preseason All-America First Team, which is chosen by members of Major League Baseball scouting departments.

Three Gators – junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Mace, freshman infielder Josh Rivera, and sophomore right-handed pitcher Ben Specht – were Preseason All-SEC Second Team picks.

Mace, who garnered preseason All-America honors from D1Baseball and Baseball America, was chosen as a starting pitcher, while Rivera received the nod at shortstop, and Specht made the team as a relief pitcher.

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.

2021 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll

Eastern Division

1. Florida (13) – 91

2. Vanderbilt (1) - 79

3. Tennessee – 58

4. South Carolina – 55

5. Georgia – 51

6. Missouri – 28

7. Kentucky – 23

Western Division

1. Ole Miss (7) – 78

2. Mississippi State (3) – 73

3. Arkansas (2) – 72

4. LSU (2) – 63

5. Texas A&M – 36

6. Auburn – 32

7. Alabama – 31

() – First place votes

SEC Champion: Florida (12), Mississippi State (1), Vanderbilt (1)

2021 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team

First Team

C: Casey Opitz, Arkansas

1B: T.J. Collett, Kentucky

2B: Robert Moore, Arkansas

3B: Rankin Woley, Auburn

SS: Ryan Bliss, Auburn

OF: Jud Fabian, Florida

OF: Christian Franklin, Arkansas

OF: Tanner Allen, Mississippi State

DH/UTL: Matt Goodheart, Arkansas

SP: Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt

SP: Connor Prielipp, Alabama

RP: Devin Fontenot, LSU

Second Team

C: Hayden Dunhurst, Ole Miss

1B: Josh Hatcher, Mississippi State

2B: Max Ferguson, Tennessee

3B: Tim Elko, Ole Miss

SS: Josh Rivera, Florida

OF: Rowdey Jordan, Mississippi State

OF: Owen Diodati, Alabama

OF: Cade Beloso, LSU

DH/UTL: Wes Clarke, South Carolina

SP: Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt

SP: Tommy Mace, Florida

RP: Ben Specht, Florida