Get to Know These Position Players

Mike Zunino
Jr. | C | 6-2

Not only did Zunino's bat help the Gators to the College World Series Finals as a sophomore, his play behind the plate may have helped even more. Zunino became just the second Gator to be named SEC Player of the Year after leading the league in hitting (.371), home runs (19), total bases (178), hits (98), runs (75) and doubles (23). The Cape Coral, Fla., native was also named to the All-SEC Defensive Team after committing just three errors and helping the pitching staff to a 2.93 ERA in 2011. Named a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, Zunino raised his batting average even higher in the postseason, hitting .395 in the NCAA tournament with four home runs in Florida's 11 games.

LJ Mazzilli
Jr. | 2B | 6-1

Key Notes:
• Named a preseason All-American in 2012
• Batted .338, drove in 32 runs and hit 23 doubles last season
• Helped lead Connecticut to first regular-season Big East title in 2011

Tyler Naquin
Texas A&M
Jr. | OF | 6-2

Key Notes:
• Named Big 12 Player of the Year after hitting .381 and leading the nation in hits (104)
• Led the Aggies in runs scored (68), doubles (23), triples (7), walks (29) and total bases (147)
• Also led team with 32 multi-hit games and piled up a team-high seven assists

James Ramsey
Florida State
Sr. | OF | 6-0

Key Notes:
• 2011 All-American
• Started all 65 games in 2011 and hit .364 with 91 hits, 18 doubles, 10 home runs and 67 RBI
• Drafted by Minnesota Twins in the 22nd round last June after leading team in batting average, hits, home runs and RBI

Victor Roache
Georgia Southern
Jr. | OF | 6-1

Key Notes:
• Led the nation with 30 home runs in 2011 while setting the school and SoCon single-season record
• Golden Spikes Award semifinalist as well as the SoCon Player of the Year in 2011
• Finished second in the country with 84 RBIs

Adam Brett Walker
Jr. | 1B | 6-5

Key Notes:
• Named preseason Atlantic Sun Player of the Year
• Led conference in average (.409), hits (99) and doubles (23) to earn A-Sun Player of the Year
• Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist in 2011


Keep an Eye on These Pitchers

Michael Roth
South Carolina
Sr. | LHP | 6-1

In just two years, Roth went from bullpen obscurity to being seen on billboards across Omaha. And that was before the lefthander helped the Gamecocks win their second national title in a row in 2011. Roth turned in an impressive 2011 with a 14-3 record and a 1.06 ERA in 21 games with 112 strikeouts in 145 innings pitched. His final start turned into his 14th win of the season with 7.2 innings and just two runs allowed on five hits as South Carolina beat SEC rival Florida to win the national championship. His ERA was second-lowest in the nation behind Gonzaga reliever Cody Martin.

Mark Appel
Jr. | RHP | 6-5

Key Notes:
• Earned No. 1 prospect status on Team USA this summer by Baseball America after 2.48 ERA in 29 innings
• Went 6-7 with a 3.02 ERA as the Cardinal's top starter on Friday nights
• Struck out at least five in 12 of 15 starts and struck out at least seven in five starts

Branden Kline
Jr. | RHP | 6-3

Key Notes:
• Named first-team All-American in 2011
• Tied single-season school saves record with 18; total also ranked third nationally
• Finished 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 32 appearances -- second-most in school history

Cory Knebel
So. | RHP | 6-3

Key Notes:
• Named Freshman Pitcher of the Year in 2011; also named first-team All-American
• Broke Huston Street's Texas freshman saves record with 19
• Recorded a 1.13 ERA in 55.2 innings with 61 strikeouts in going 3-2

Tyler Ray
Sr. | RHP | 6-1

Key Notes:
• Finished the 2011 season 12-0 with a 2.39 ERA in 116.2 innings and 16 starts
• Named the Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year; semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy
• Enters the 2012 season needing eight wins to set the Troy and Sun Belt Conference record for career wins with 35

Marcus Stroman
Jr. | RHP | 5-9

Key Notes:
• Did not allow a hit in 8.1 scoreless innings in seven relief appearances for Team USA this summer
• Ranked third in the nation with 12.60 strikeouts per nine innings
• Named ACC Freshman of the Year in 2010


Follow Along with These Programs

Key Players (Yr., Pos., 2011 Stats): Hudson Randall (Jr., SP, 11-3, 2.17 ERA), Preston Tucker (Sr., RF, .308, 15 HR, 74 RBI), Mike Zunino (Jr., C, .371, 19, 67)

Noting the Gators:  For those fans that have missed a truly dominating team in college baseball the last few years, you may have found your squad. Nearly every key contributor from the 2011 team that made it all the way to the CWS Finals is back, including six starters in the field and the entire weekend rotation. Hudson Randall, Karsten Whitson and Brian Johnson create one of the nastiest starting rotations in the country. Preston Tucker and Mike Zunino do the same in the lineup, making it one of the most difficult the nation will see.

South Carolina
Key Players (Yr., Pos., 2011 Stats):
Matt Price (Jr., SP, 7-3, 1.83 ERA), Michael Roth (Sr., SP, 14-3, 1.06), Christian Walker (Jr., 1B, .358, 10 HR, 62 RBI).

Noting the Gamecocks: South Carolina rode the wave of momentum en route to a second consecutive national championship in 2011. If Ray Tanner's club wants to become the first school to win three in a row since Southern California won five (1970-74), it has a whole lot of holes to fill. Gone are Jackie Bradley Jr., Scott Wingo and Adrian Morales. But the good news if you're a Gamecocks fan? You still have one of the best starting pitching duos in the nation in Matt Price and Michael Roth. And if South Carolina makes the NCAA tournament, never count them out. The Gamecocks have won an NCAA-record 16 consecutive postseason games, including 11 in Omaha.

Key Players (Yr., Pos., 2011 Stats):
Mark Appel (Jr., SP, 6-7, 3.02 ERA),  Tyler Gaffney (Jr., LF, .327, 3 HR, 35 RBI), Stephen Piscotty (Jr., 3B, .364, 3, 40).

Noting the Cardinal: Last year saw Stanford knock off Cal State Fullerton on the road in the Regional round before losing two close contests in Chapel Hill to North Carolina in the Super Regional. That team was full of underclassmen, which has to make head coach Mark Marquess extremely happy. Starting pitcher Mark Appel has been talked about as potentially being a No. 1 overall pick in June's MLB Draft. Pair him with a lineup that hit .299 last season -- with Stephen Piscotty's .364 average leading the charge -- and there is a lot of room for excitement at Sunken Diamond.

Other Teams to Watch: Arkansas, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Rice, Texas, Texas A&M.

Top Contests to Watch in 2012

No. 1 Florida -- Feb. 17-19: vs. No. 19 Cal State Fullerton March 2-4: at No. 16 Miami (Fla.) March 13, 27, April 10: vs. No. 10 Florida State March 16-18: vs. No. 11 Vanderbilt March 22-24: at No. 2 South Carolina April 27-29: vs. No. 6 Arkansas

No. 10 Florida State -- Feb. 24-26: vs. Florida International March 6-7: at No. 28 UCF March 13, 27, April 10: vs. No. 1 Florida March 17-19: vs. No. 23 Virginia April 6-8: at No. 9 Georgia Tech April 20-22: vs. No. 16 Miami (Fla.)

No. 3 North Carolina -- Feb. 28: vs. No. 28 St. John's March 9-11: at No. 17 Clemson March 27-28: vs. No. 35 Coastal Carolina April 6-8: at No. 16 Miami (Fla.) April 20-22: vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech

No. 8 Rice -- Feb. 17-19: vs. Florida International Feb. 24-26: vs. No. 33 Dallas Baptist March 2: vs. No. 7 Texas March 9-11: at No. 4 Stanford March 13-14: vs. No. 18 Arizona May 17-19: at No. 28 UCF

No. 2 South Carolina -- March 2-4: vs. No. 17 Clemson March 9-11: vs. Princeton March 22-24:  vs. No. 1 Florida March 30-April 1: at No. 11 Vanderbilt May 4-6: at No. 6 Arkansas May 17-19: vs. No. 12 LSU

No. 4 Stanford -- Feb. 17-19: vs. No. 11 Vanderbilt Feb. 24-26: vs. No. 7 Texas March 9-11: vs. No. 8 Rice March 30-April 1: at No. 18 Arizona April 27-29: at No. 20 UCLA May 4-6: at No. 22 Oregon State

No. 5 Texas A&M -- March 2-4: vs. Michigan State March 9-11: vs. No. 19 Cal State Fullerton April 5-7: vs. No. 14 Oklahoma April 27-29: vs. No. 7 Texas May 11-13: vs. San Diego State

School New Coach (From) Former Coach
Akron Rick Rembielak (Georgia Tech assistant) Pat Bangston
Alabama A&M Michael Tompkins (Alabama A&M assistant) Ed McCann
Alabama State Mervyl Melendez (Bethune-Cookman head coach) Larry Watkins
Bethune-Cookman Jason Beverlin (Tennessee assistant) Mervyl Melendez
Cal State Fullerton Rick Vanderhook (UCLA assistant) Dave Serrano
Fairfield Bill Currier (Fairfield assistant) John Slosar
Florida A&M Willie Brown (Maclay HS head coach) Brett Richardson (i)
Fordham Kevin Leighton (Manhattan head coach) Nick Restaino
Hartford Justin Blood (Connecticut assistant) Jeff Calcaterra
Hofstra John Russo (Hofstra assistant) Patrick Anderson
Manhattan Jim Duffy (Seton Hall assistant) Kevin Leighton
NYIT TBA Bob Hirschfield
Nebraska Darin Erstad (Nebraska assistant) Mike Anderson
North Carolina A&T Joel Sanchez (Daytona State assistant) Keith Shumate
North Carolina Central Jim Koerner (Buffalo assistant) Henry White
Old Dominion Chris Finwood (Western Kentucky head coach) Nate Goulet (i)
Sam Houston State David Pierce (Rice assistant) Mark Johnson
Santa Clara Dan O'Brien (UC San Diego head coach) Mark O'Brien
South Alabama Mark Calvi (South Alabama assistant ) Steve Kittrell
South Dakota State Dave Schrage (Former Notre Dame head coach) Ritchie Price
Temple Ryan Wheeler (Richmond assistant) Rob Valli
Tennessee Dave Serrano (Cal State Fullerton head coach) Todd Raleigh
UC Davis Matt Vaughn (UC Davis assistant) Rex Peters
UC Santa Barbara Andrew Checketts (Oregon assistant) Bob Brontsema
UMBC Bob Mumma (UMBC assistant) John Jancuska
Wagner Jim Carone (Villanova assistant) Joe Litterio
Western Kentucky Matt Myers (Western Kentucky assistant) Chris Finwood
(i) -- Interim head coach


All photos courtesy of respective school athletic departments.