Florida will begin the 2016 season as the No. 1 team in the country in the Collegiate Baseball Poll that was released on Monday.
The Gators went 52-18 last season and made it to Omaha for the College World Series for the fourth time in the last six years. Florida also earned a top-eight national seed in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven years, more than any other program in the country during that span.
This year’s team brings back many key returners from last season. It starts on the mound where Florida had seven different pitchers touch 94+ mph on the mound this fall. The Gators return all three starters from last year’s Omaha run, led by the duo of A.J. Puk (9-4, 3.81 ERA) and Logan Shore (11-6, 2.72 ERA). Alex Faedo, expected to be the Sunday starter, had made a big jump from last season when he went 6-1 with a 3.23 ERA. Of the 70 games last season, the Gators return pitchers that started 60 of them.
The Gators will have to replace left fielder Harrison Bader (.297, 17 HR, 66 RBI), shortstop Richie Martin (.291, 20 SB, 63 R) and third baseman Josh Tobias (.355, 5 HR, 46 RBI). However, they bring back a roster loaded with impact bats. Sophomore catcher JJ Schwarz (.332, 18 HR, 73 RBI) was named Louisville Slugger co-Freshman of the Year, NCBWA Freshman Hitter of the Year and a second team All-American by multiple publications.
Florida also returns center fielder Buddy Reed (.305, 18 SB, 47 RBI), right fielder Jeremy Vasquez (.339, 2 HR, 20 RBI), first baseman Pete Alonso (.301, 5 HR, 32 RBI), catcher Mike Rivera (.271, 3 HR, 48 RBI) and left fielder Ryan Larson (.305, 25 RBI, 28 R).
The Gators open the season against Florida Gulf Coast on February 19 at 7 p.m.