FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida baseball program and fifth-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan announced its 2012 schedule on Thursday. The Gators’ 56-game schedule features 35 games within the friendly confines of McKethan Stadium at Perry Field, where the squad registered a 34-7 (.829) mark last season and is 124-26 (.827) during O’Sullivan’s tenure.
UF has exactly half of its games versus opponents who advanced to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, including home series against Arkansas, Cal State Fullerton, Georgia, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, and will have four series totaling 12 games against teams that reached Super Regionals.
For the 12th-consecutive season, and the 24th time in 26 years, the Gators will open their season at home, hosting a three-game series against Cal State Fullerton from Friday-Sunday, Feb. 17-19. It will be the first time that UF has faced the Titans on the diamond. Florida will be tested by the challenging 30-game Southeastern Conference schedule and will also face traditional Sunshine State rivals Florida State, Miami, Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Florida Gulf Coast, North Florida, UCF and USF.
“We have put together a very challenging 2012 schedule,” O’Sullivan said. “This schedule should hopefully prepare us for another postseason run. We are looking forward to the upcoming season and are counting on our Gator fans’ continued support.”
UF will clash with Florida State in three mid-week affairs, hosting the Seminoles on March 13, facing its arch-rivals on March 27 at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and visiting Tallahassee on April 10. The Gators travel to Coral Gables to face Miami for three games over March 2-4. Other foes who will visit McKethan Stadium include William & Mary (Feb. 24-26), Samford (March 20-21) and Georgia Southern (April 17).
In O’Sullivan’s fourth season at the helm, the Gators were 53-19 and finished as the runner-up at the NCAA College World Series and established a school record for victories. He earned 2011 College Coach of the Year honors from Baseball America, the first individual from UF to collect the publication’s yearly accolade. Florida made the trip to Omaha in consecutive seasons for the first time and made the CWS for the seventh time in school history (1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011).
With a 22-8 performance in the SEC that matched South Carolina and Vanderbilt for the top spot, Florida has now captured an SEC-best 21 division championships and its 12 league championships are third behind LSU (14) and Alabama (13). UF became the East winner for the third year in a row, matching its feat from 1996-98. The Gators have also won SEC crowns in 1952, 1956, 1962, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2010. Florida claimed eight of its 10 SEC series and the team’s 22 victories in league play equaled the school record set in ’10.
O’Sullivan’s club reached the 40-win plateau for the 20th time in school history and the school-record 53 wins marked the third time that the program exceeded 50 wins (also in 1991 & 1996). The Gators blanked Vanderbilt, 5-0, to capture the 2011 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. It was the first time in 20 years that Florida won the league’s tourney and was its sixth title (1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, 2011). The triumph also represented the first time since 1988 that the Orange and Blue had won the SEC and SEC Tourney in the same season.
The Gators return a solid nucleus that includes 2011 SEC Player of the Year catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.), 2011 Perfect Game Freshman Pitcher of the Year right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.), as well as All-SEC selections shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.), left-hander/first baseman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.), right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) and outfielder Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.), 2011 SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player outfielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.), 2011 College World Series All-Tournament Team selection third baseman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.), catcher/infielder/right-hander Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.), left-hander Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) and 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team third baseman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.). O’Sullivan welcomes his fourth-straight top-10 incoming class, a group that boasts 13 newcomers.
Following the SEC Tournament from May 23-27, Florida will be seeking its 28th NCAA Tournament appearance. Regionals will take place at 16 campus sites from June 1-4, followed by the best-of-three Super Regionals spread out among eight venues from June 8-11. Soon after, the eight survivors will advance to the 66th College World Series in Omaha, Neb., over June 16-27.
UF went 3-0 last spring to sweep the Gainesville Regional for the third-consecutive year, defeating Manhattan (17-3) and Miami (Fla.) twice (5-4, 11-4) to advance to the NCAA Super Regional for the fifth time in school history, all in the past eight years. The Gators then downed Mississippi State in the three-game Gainesville Super Regional to reach the NCAA College World Series for the second year in a row. UF advanced to the CWS Championship Finals against South Carolina by defeating Texas (8-4) and Vanderbilt twice (3-1, 6-4).
The five, three-game SEC home series pit the Gators against Vanderbilt (March 16-18), LSU (April 6-8), Georgia (April 20-22), Arkansas (April 27-29) and Mississippi State (May 11-13). Florida will open the league schedule in Gainesville on March 16 against Vanderbilt and is not slated to face West rival Alabama during the regular season. For the seventh-straight year, the final weekend of the SEC regular season will be contested from Thursday-Saturday to provide an extra day off before the start of the league’s tourney.
Stops on the Gators’ road itinerary include trips to defending national champion South Carolina (March 23-25), Ole Miss (March 30-April 1), Tennessee (April 13-15), Kentucky (May 4-6) and Auburn (May 17-19). UF’s 2012 schedule boasts 28 games against squads that finished among the top-30 in the final version of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).