Gators' SEC Title is No Small Feat

Don't take this season's SEC championship for granted. Splitting it with two other teams might make some Florida fans look past the championship, but what happened at McKethan Stadium this season was rare. The Gators became the first team to win back-to-back SEC championships since LSU in 1996-97.

"To be able to do this in back-to-back years is incredible," Florida catcher Mike Zunino said. "It's a great feeling."

Florida's 22-8 record, also put up by Vanderbilt and South Carolina, tied the league record for conference wins. The record was most recently tied when the Gators won 22 games in 2010.

Think about that.

In the last two seasons, the Gators have put up a 44-16 record in the toughest conference in college baseball. That means Florida has won almost 75% of the time they have taken the field in the SEC. In the last two seasons, the Gators have only lost three weekend series, and they have never been swept. Florida has won 17 of its last 20 conference series.

Last year, there were complaints about the offense. This year, the frustration has been about multiple aspects of the team, but it's tough to ignore the product on the field. This team won't see as many picks in this year's draft as a team like Vanderbilt, but that's because of how young this team still is.

Think about the success this sophomore class has already experienced in their time on campus. They are now two-for-two in winning a conference championship. They have one College World Series appearance under their belt and look like a strong favorite to return to Omaha.

There are imperfections. The team is continuing a two-year search for a consistent third baseman, and the starting pitchers haven't been as dominant as the beginning of the season. There are areas of the team that need work, but for now, enjoying a championship in the conference with the top RPI.

It didn't come without a challenge, especially for a team that came into the season at the top of every poll. The pressure put on a highly ranked team before the season starts can be enormous, even taking talented teams out of conference races and trying to find ways to make the NCAA Tournament.

This team thrived on the expectations and took their game to the next level in big moments.

"This has been a huge grind. I'm going to look forward to taking a deep breath tonight," O'Sullivan said after the Gators clinched the championship. "To go out there and the team is expected to play flawlessly and you're not supposed to lose, for these guys to respond and play the way they have this year, it's a huge accomplishment.

"Last year we had a bunch of freshmen. There wasn't a lot expected, and there were a lot of unknowns. But this year, to come out and be ranked where we were preseason and deal with the ups and downs, I thought our guys did a great job of it."


Fightin Gators Top Stories