Tucker, Seniors to be Honored on Friday

When Kevin O'Sullivan left Clemson to take the head coach job at Florida, there was no doubt which recruit was getting the first phone call. It went to an undersized first baseman from Plant High School. O'Sullivan recruited the player to Clemson, but now, he wanted him to stay instate and play in Gainesville. As soon as Preston Tucker agreed to it, he began his assault on the record books.

On Friday night, Preston Tucker will be honored on Senior Night as one of the best players in program history.

It would've been hard to predict the damage Tucker has done in his career.

He needs just three hits to overtake Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis as the all-time hits leader at Florida. Earlier this year, he broke the career RBI record, previously held by Brad Wilkerson. He broke the doubles record at Florida on April 14, also held by Ellis before Tucker broke it.

All-time games played and games started records are still possible depending on the length of Florida's postseason run.

In four years, Tucker has taken an eraser to the Florida record book, writing his name over current and former Major Leaguers.

In many ways, Tucker exemplifies the talent overhaul O'Sullivan brought to Gainesville. The senior outfielder now leaves Gainesville as the leader of the first full recruiting class O'Sullivan ever had at Florida.

"He always hit," O'Sullivan said. "What he has done is not surprising. Even before he got here, he was arguably one of the best hitters in the state."

It's hard to not be surprised by what Tucker has done. From SEC Freshman of the Year honors to multiple First Team All-SEC honors, there haven't been many down points in his careers.

He just hits. Over and over—season after season.

"He loves to hit," O'Sullivan said. "That's what good hitters do—they love to hit. He has always been that way."

Tucker will be honored on the field before Friday's 7 p.m. first pitch along with six others—right-hander Greg Larson, infielder Jeff Moyer, outfielder Daniel Pigott, outfielder Tyler Thompson and student manager Dustin Kline.

"There's a lot of good seniors we're going to miss after this year," O'Sullivan said. "It's a special night for our seniors and their families and for us as a program.

"There are guys we're going to say goodbye to at the end of the year. It's something you don't look forward to, but we're obviously very grateful for what they've done here."

Larson is currently third on Florida's all-time list with 112 appearances. The reliever also leads the team with a 1.55 ERA and has 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 40.1 innings.

Despite the impressive numbers, O'Sullivan thinks a big part of his value comes as a leader.

"He gives us so much beyond just his performance on the mound. He's kind of like that big brother to all the younger pitchers. He has taken on the role of a leader. We're going to miss him a lot.

"He cares about the younger players," O'Sullivan said. "He cares about their success, even when he's gone. He wants to lead a legacy of what a leader is in this program. He gets it. It's a bigger picture than just him."

Thompson will be honored on Friday, but he is eligible for a medical redshirt and could return for the 2013 season. O'Sullivan said they will wait until the end of the season before evaluating it.

"He has had a tough go of it," O'Sullivan said. "He has had a bunch of injuries. I feel really bad for him. I'm trying to look at the positives, and he has had a great career. I'd love for him to come back for his fifth year, but we'll evaluate that at the end of the year."

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