VETTEL: Awards Time For Gator Baseball

After the best season in Gator Baseball history it seems appropriate to recognize the best performances of the season. No sport is more award- oriented than baseball, so let's use traditional baseball awards to salute the Gator stars of 2005.

We're also borrowing an award from elsewhere because I am a big believer that there should be a "Player-of-the-Year" award and a MVP. The awards could go to the same guy, but in this case they do not.

Player of the Year, Matt LaPorta

The slugging sophomore had one of the better seasons in school history and his powerful bat was a key to the Gator offense most of the season. His 26 homers broke the school record by three and his 79 RBI was one shy of the UF standard. But LaPorta was more than just a home run hitter. His .328 batting average was second only to Jeff Corsaletti as were his 16 doubles. LaPorta also led the Gators, with 7 sacrifice flies and was hit by 13 pitches, again, the most on the team. LaPorta gave the Gators solid defense at first base and gave opponents plenty to worry about.

Most Valuable Player, Brian Jeroloman

Another of Florida's Super Sophomores, Jeroloman was behind the plate for all 71 Gator games in 2005. His handling of the pitching staff belies his youth and his outstanding catch-and-throw skills made opponents all but give up on the running game. College catchers who throw out one-third of opposing base runners are considered excellent. Jeroloman tossed out just under half (.474). Additionally he was a solid hitter, with a .298 average, eight homers and 49 RBI and tied for the team lead by drawing 50 walks. He was far and away the Gator Pat McMahon could least live without.

Cy Young, Darren O'Day

On the major league level I don't think relief pitchers should win the Cy Young, but college ball is different. O'Day was Florida's most consistent guy on the mound from the start of the season until the final pitch. He led the Gators with a 2.87 ERA and was the only Florida hurler to have more innings pitched than hits allowed. O'Day was 8-3 with seven saves and two of those losses were early in the season in non-conference play. He was dominant in Omaha, appearing in four games, earning a win and a save without allowing an earned run. Alan Horne won ten games and Conner Falkenbach seemed to pitch in every game, but O'Day was the best.

Rookie of the Year, Stephen Locke

The lefty from Tampa King is pretty much an automatic choice here. Locke was 5-0 at one point of the season including wins on the road against Florida State and Georgia. He struggled in May and was put in a very difficult position against Texas. Still his final numbers of 5-2 with a 4.04 ERA are solid and give hope he will be an integral part of the Florida pitching staff the next couple of years.

Comeback Player of the Year, Brandon McArthur

You can retire this award at UF as far as I'm concerned. McArthur's story has been well chronicled as he came back from nearly dying in the fall of 2003 to become the regular third baseman on a team in the College World Series. He ended up starting 60 games and hit a solid .260. McArthur struggled at times defensively, but he has made incredible strides in the last year. Another year of progress and McArthur could edge towards once again becoming the player he was two years ago when he was the fifth-round choice of the Minnesota Twins.

Game of the Year, May 21st @ Vanderbilt

It's too easy to choose the Super Regional Clincher over FSU or the win over Arizona State. Both were important wins and will rank with the greatest in school history. I choose this game because to me it was the key to the late-season run. Florida went to Nashville looking to claim the SEC Title, secure a NCAA host opportunity and re-claim its swagger. They also needed this game/series to be in position to host a Super Regional. Bryan Ball pitched into the eighth inning. Darren O'Day threw five scoreless innings out of the pen and Matt LaPorta blasted a homer in the 13th inning for the win. It all but settled the SEC Title and showed the tenacity and grit that would carry these Gators to the deepest post-season run UF has ever experienced.

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: .

I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.

Fightin Gators Top Stories