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TUCSON, Ariz. – Florida is the overwhelming favorite to capture the 2012 NCAA Division I College World Series, according to Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll.
The Gators return one of the strongest teams in college baseball history after finishing second at the CWS last season to South Carolina. Florida brings back seven players who are Louisville Slugger pre-season All-Americans, an all-time record.
The talent level is so high that up to 14 players could be drafted next June, according to head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. The Gators landed Collegiate Baseball’s No. 1 recruiting class in the nation during the fall of 2009 with many of these players key components of the 2012 team. That class featured seven drafted players among the 11-man class.
Florida followed that with a recruiting class ranked fifth in 2010 with six players being drafted among the eight brought in. The headliner in that class was RHP Karsten Whitson who was a first round draft pick of the Padres. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder’s fastball topped out at 96 mph. Last season as a freshman for Florida, he was 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA, 92 strikeouts and only 28 walks.
And you could go on and on about the superb athletes Florida can bring to the table.
Florida has extraordinary starting pitchers, relievers and closers for any potential hitting matchup. Offensively, the team hit .307 with 69 home runs last season and belted 143 doubles as the Gators averaged 6.3 runs per game. In the final 2011 national NCAA statistics, Florida ranked No. 1 in hits by its offense (755), No. 5 in doubles, and No. 5 in homers.
The pitching staff ranked No. 1 in the nation in walks allowed per nine innings at 1.82. The staff had a 2.95 team ERA and had more than a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio (547 strikeouts and 130 walks).
Opponents had a difficult time running on the Gators last season with an All-American catching in Mike Zunino and a pitching staff that kept runners close. Only 31 bases were stolen off the Gators last season in 47 attempts over 72 games.