Gainesville Regional Breakdown
The conference tournaments are over and the top seed belongs to last year’s College World Series runner-up, the Florida Gators. As a result, Gainesville gets to host the regional as the top overall seed, and its competition is a little weaker than other tournaments might be. The Gators carry a 42-18 overall record into the NCAA opener thanks to the powerful bats provided by junior catcher Mike Zunino, senior infielder/outfielder Preston Tucker, and junior infielder Nolan Fontana. The three have combined for over 40 home runs, and Fontana’s steals have helped Florida to a strong record in both the Southeastern Conference and overall. A pitching rotation six-deep, led by junior Austin Maddux and senior Greg Larson, has helped Florida to a strong performance on the mound. The Gators rank among the top 15 in the nation in home runs per game, earned run average and fielding percentage. Florida is trying for its fourth World Series appearance since 2005. That year, Texas eliminated Florida, and South Carolina finished off the Gators last year in an all-SEC World Series final.
Georgia Tech is perhaps Florida’s strongest competition in this regional, making its fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Yellow Jackets have a strong .294 batting average and a solid speed game, but they have some embarrassing losses under their belts (to Duke and Mercer), but if junior Duke Farmer can replicate his 100-plus strikeout performance in the postseason then Georgia Tech should be fine. The College of Charleston, from the Southern Conference, has a strong hitting performance with senior Marty Gantt and sophomores Brandon Murray and Daniel Aldrich, and Charleston did go a long way in its 2010 regional appearance but otherwise its postseason history is spotty. Bethune-Cookman has been to every regional since 2007 but has had rotten luck with Florida teams, including losses to the Gators in 2009 and 2010. Bethune-Cookman’s strength is its running game, with 20-plus steals from senior Brashad Johnson, junior Brandon Turner and sophomore Josh Johnson.