Tucker Approves of Team Chemistry

Heading into his senior season, Preston Tucker has gone from the highly regarded freshman to the trusted senior leader of the Gators this season. The roster is full of juniors and seniors, which breeds an easy learning curve as the team goes through fall practice. Tucker likes where the intensity at practice is as Florida heads through the final two weeks of fall practice.

"There's no one in the stands, no umpires or fans, and we can still have that sense of urgency and drive to get better and beat our teammates," Preston Tucker said. "We try to do anything we can to win even these practice games."

The upperclassmen have also focused on trying to implement the young players along. After the juniors and seniors were welcomed in when thy first came to Gainesville, it has made them easy for them to do the same for this year's freshman class.

The nervousness of a freshman on one of the nation's top teams is to be expected. However, Tucker said that the freshman realize they "have a shot to be a part of something special." That has helped team chemistry come together fast this fall.

"From day one, older guys are hitting with younger guys in the batting cages," Tucker said. "Everyone is doing individuals and teaching the young guys what to do. When everyone starts to work together, you develop a sense of friendship on and off the field."

The upperclassmen usually pull a player under their wing by position groups. For Tucker, he has spent time with freshman outfielder Cory Reid. The Florida coaching staff and players realize Reid is already one of the fastest players on the team, along with fellow freshman Josh Tobias.

"(Reid) sticks out because he's probably the fastest guy on the team, him and Josh Tobias," Tucker said. "They're good. (Reid) has a lot of raw tools and has one of the best arms on the team. His bat is starting to come around. He can be a key piece to helping the team do well."

RAMJIT PREPARING FOR BIGGER ROLE: Vickash Ramjit waited patiently throughout last season. He played different positions in practice in hopes of creating an opportunity for himself while serving as the vocal presence on the Florida bench. That opportunity came when Austin Maddox injured his foot in the first game of Regionals.

With Brian Johnson out because of a concussion, Ramjit stepped in to play first base and thrived. He ended the season hitting .382 with one home run, which came in the third game of the Super Regional, and seven RBIs.

"It's just always being ready," Ramjit said. "When you go in there, you don't change your mood from being on the bench. You have to be mentally prepared in case your number does get called. That's how I like to play the game, rooting for guys and cheering them on. When I go into the game, I do the same thing."

Ramjit was limited to first base and third base last season. This year, he isn't working at third base anymore, but he has added left field to his arsenal. He played left field while playing for the Wilmington Sharks in the Coastal Plains League and was confident enough to let the Florida coaches know he could do it for the Gators.

"I feel comfortable," Ramjit said. "Coach Bell has been working with me, and I've worked there some during (batting practice). But I'm still mainly at first."

This year might have a similar feel to last season for Ramjit. Johnson and Maddox are healthy and expected to get most reps at first base and designated hitter, but Ramjit will be a valuable hitter off the bench and substitute in case of an injury.

"I'm ready for anything," Ramjit said. "I feel like we're pretty stacked. Our main goal is just to get to Omaha again and finish better than we did last year."

ZUNINO HELPING SEDELL: Florida's All-American catcher Mike Zunino has a different responsibility this fall. It's to help freshman catcher Brandon Sedell. An Aflac All-American from American Heritage High School, Sedell brings a power bat and a big body behind the plate.

"Right away, he has improved his flexibility and catching," Zunino said. "It took a couple intrasquads, but he's getting going with the bat. He's starting to figure out that he doesn't have to swing so hard, just let the pitcher supply the power and barrel stuff up."

Sedell has been able to work with Zunino and former Florida catcher Buddy Munroe, who is serving as the team's student assistant coach. The two have helped Sedell improve his catch-and-throw abilities behind the plate.

"He's a good receiver," Zunino said. "He's working on his footwork, which a lot of guys don't know how to do coming out of high school because it's not really taught that well. He works hard."

The fall has been about fine-tuning for Zunino. He's coming off a sophomore season that saw him hit .371 with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs. Projected as a first round pick in next summer's MLB Draft, he is working hard at the plate and on his catching this fall.

There are still some differences for Zunino. Before each of the past two seasons, he was forced to cram and learn about every pitcher before the spring started. This year, most of the pitchers are returners. Zunino is already comfortable with them and knows what pitches they throw and how they want to attack hitters. Some of the stress is gone from having to know every pitcher.

"When you first come in, you have to learn about the whole staff," Zunino said. "For two years now, I've known the guys, so I really only have to learn one class."

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