Zunino, Johnson Semifinalists for Top Award

The good news down the stretch for the Gators continued on Friday. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named Florida catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson two of the 25 semifinalists for the 2011 Dick Howser Trophy, given the best player in the country.

The honor for Zunino comes one day after being named a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, which honors the best catcher in the country. Zunino celebrated that honor by hitting two home runs and driving in five runs while helping No. 4 Florida to a 9-6 victory over Kentucky.

Zunino leads the team in the big three categories with a .376 batting average, 15 home runs and 58 RBIs. He also leads the team in hits (73), runs (58), doubles (18), slugging percentage (.701) and on-base percentage (.448). In his last three games, Zunino is 6-for-11 (.545) with 12 RBIs and five home runs.

Johnson has been good on the mound and at the plate this season. He is 8-3 with a 3.58 ERA on the mound while striking out 68 hitters in 78 innings. Opponents are only hitting .246 against Johnson.

At the plate, the sophomore is hitting .304 with 23 runs scored, 19 RBIs, ten doubles and three home runs.

The Dick Howser is named after the two-time All-America shortstop at Florida State. He then coached the Seminoles in 1979 before moving back to the major leagues to manager the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals. He won the World Series with the Royals in 1985.

"The Dick Howser Trophy was founded shortly after his death by a few friends of Dick's in the St. Petersburg Area that played, coached and worked with him," said David Feaster of the Howser Trophy Committee. "All knew him personally and were aware of him as a tremendous player, coach and friend. The award was initially awarded at the Governors Baseball Dinner held each spring in St. Petersburg to welcome Spring Training to Florida and, as time progressed, we moved the presentation to Omaha, the center of college baseball, during the World Series. I have been involved with the award for over 20 years and have loved every minute of my involvement. I have had the opportunity to meet some great college players as well as some great young men. I am so proud of the Character quality we have in our award, which makes it unique. I am also proud of our selection process by the NCBWA which is the most democratic of any award and provides a true national scope."

Other SEC players up for the award include LHP Grayson Garvin (Vanderbilt), OF Mikie Mahtook (LSU), RHP Matt Price (South Carolina) and LHP Michael Roth (South Carolina). In the state of Florida, Seminoles LHP Sean Gilmartin and UCF DH D.J. Hicks were both selected as semifinalists.

Fightin Gators Top Stories