Coaches Pick Gators to Win Conference

With four No. 1 rankings under their belt, the Gators got their final bit of preseason news on Monday afternoon. Coaches around the SEC voted Florida to win the SEC East and earn the conference championship.

Florida split the conference championship last season as Vanderbilt and South Carolina finished the year with the same 22-8 conference record. Florida was predicted to finish at the top of the SEC East this year with South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Tennessee predicted to finish in that order.

Arkansas was picked to win the SEC West ahead of LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn.

The Gators were given the top spot in preseason polls by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches'.

SEVEN ALL-AMERICANS: The individual honors also continued on Wednesday. The Gators put seven players on Baseball America's Preseason All-American Team.

Catcher Mike Zunino (.371, 19 HR, 67 RBI) and utility player Brian Johnson (.307, 5, 29/8-3, 3.62 ERA) were both named to the First Team by the publication. Outfielder Preston Tucker (.308, 15, 74), right-hander Hudson Randall (11-3, 2.17) and utility player Austin Maddox (.280, 6, 35/3-0, 0.67, 5 saves) were named to the Second Team.

Shortstop Nolan Fontana (.289, 5, 49) and right-hander Karsten Whitson (8-1, 2.40) were both named to the Third Team.

GUEST APPEARANCE FRIDAY: Florida will host former players David and Rick Eckstein for the season opener, and they will throw out the first pitch.

David Eckstein was a walk-on at Florida and played from 1993-97. He was a First Team All-SEC selection in 1995 and 1996. Eckstein was a First Team All-American in 1996. He experienced a ten-year career with five professional teams. Eckstein was named Most Valuable Player of the 2006 World Series when the St. Louis Cardinals won the series 4-1.

Rick Eckstein also played for the Gators. He is currently the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals. He also served as the hitting coach on the United State team in the 2008 Olympics.

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