#1 Florida Baseball 2018 Preview

Florida Gators
Overall Rank: #1
Conference Rank: #1 SEC
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Florida had done everything but win a national championship heading into the 2017 College World Series. Head Coach Kevin O’ Sullivan and his staff had won a ton of games, cranked out plenty of high draft picks but Omaha had always been a house of horrors for the Gators. However, the 2017 College World Series was a different story as Florida kicked the door down and picked up their first national championship in program history. The Gators knocked off LSU in the championship series in two straight games.
2017: 52-19, 21-9
2017 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan
Key Departed Players:
Christian Hicks, IF, .282 BA, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 6 SB
Ryan Larson, OF, .279 BA, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 7 SB
Dalton Guthrie, IF .273 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI
Mike Rivera, C, .238 BA, 3 HR, 28 RBI
Alex Faedo, P, 2.26 ERA, 123.2 IP, 42 BB, 157 SO
Key Returning Players:
JJ Schwarz, C, .259 BA, 12 HR, 56 RBI
Nelson Maldonado, OF, .299 BA, 6 HR, 32 RBI
Jonathan India, IF, .274 BA, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 13 SB
Austin Langworthy, OF, .238 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI
Deacon Liput, IF, .227 BA, 3 HR, 37 RBI, 12 SB
Michael Byrne, P, 1.67 ERA, 75.2 IP, 15 BB, 93 SO, 19 SV
Brady Singer, P, 3.21 ERA, 126.0 IP, 32 BB, 129 SO
Jackson Kowar, P, 4.08 ERA, 108.0 IP, 44 BB, 84 SO
Tyler Dyson, P, 3.23 ERA, 39.0 IP, 10 BB, 47 SO
Garrett Mitchin, P, 3.29 ERA, 27.1 IP, 12 BB, 18 SO
Nick Horvath, P, 3.68 ERA, 29.1 IP, 8 BB, 23 SO
Florida will have a target on its back like they always do, but in 2018 it will be at an even higher level because they have the belt as the defending national champion. The pitching rotation should be loaded as the Gators return Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar in the starting rotation, along with Michael Byrne to close games out. Singer can be dominant at times as he struck out 129 batters in 126.0 innings of work last season. Kowar did not have an outstanding earned run average last season but did find a way to win as he went 12-1 and his potential is unlimited. Offensively, Florida will be led power wise by JJ Schwarz after he hit. 259 last season with 12 homeruns and 56 runs batted in. Nelson Maldonado and Jonathan India are also very good power threats as they combined for 12 homeruns and drove in 66 runs last season for the Gators. A trip to Miami during the second weekend of the season will kick off a very tough schedule. In addition, in-state battles against Florida State, UCF, and Florida Gulf Coast will provide plenty of opportunities for Florida to test themselves outside of the SEC schedule. Speaking of the conference schedule, the Gators will have plenty of road tests at Kentucky, Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Mississippi State. If they can end up at .500 or a game or two over on the road in conference play, then they will be in great position to win the SEC. Look for Florida to end up as a national seed with a clear path to Omaha and overcome the challenge of being the hunted as the defending national champion.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Madness 2018 Draft Rankings:
#1 Brady Singer
#15 Jackson Kowar