SEC Awards Due For Several Gators

The Florida Gator baseball team will pick up its conference championship trophy this week prior to the start of the irrelevant and unnecessary event known as the SEC Baseball Tournament. The trophy is a well earned award for the team which won nine of ten SEC series including the crucial season finale' at South Carolina to clinch the title.

The trophy should not be the only honor bestowed on the Gators this week. Four individuals should receive high recognition from the league's coaches and media as well.

Kevin O'Sullivan, Coach of the Year --- This is about as easy a selection as could be made. Sully not only guided the Gators to an SEC title and high national ranking; he did it with one of the youngest teams in the league. Additionally the Gators lost their No. 1 starter, Tommy Toledo for most of the season. O'Sullivan's team started two freshmen on most of its SEC weekends and yet they kept on winning. He started freshmen at shortstop, catcher and had a rookie as the cleanup hitter and kept winning. He should be a very strong national coach of the year candidate. The SEC honor should be unanimous.

Kevin Chapman, First Team All-SEC --- The junior lefty from Coral Springs might be the Gators' most valuable player and should warrant some pitcher of the year consideration. Chapman earned saves in the first two games of the Carolina series as Florida clinched its first SEC title since 2005. He recorded the final five outs on Friday in front of a Carolina Stadium record crowd of 8,242. Chapman is 3-0 overall with a 1.14 ERA and has totaled 40 Ks in 39.1 innings. He has limited opponents to a .169 batting average. He has been at his best in SEC play, posting a 3-0 record with seven saves and a sparkling 1.59 ERA.

Austin Maddox, First Team All-SEC, Freshman of the Year --- For the second year in a row the Gators were buoyed by the addition of a big time bat in the slugging rookie from Jacksonville. Maddox ripped the ball for a .346 average with 17 HR and 64 RBI. He hit 11 of those HR in SEC play. Maddox leads the Gators with 32 extra base hits and 140 total bases.

Matt den Dekker, First Team All-SEC --- Two years ago no one thought den Dekker would be here for his senior season, but a disappointing 2009 campaign convinced the Gator centerfielder another year in college would be a good idea. It turned out to be a great idea. den Dekker bounced back in style, leading the Gators with a .361 batting average, 55 runs and 21-25 stolen bases. He enters the postseason on a 15-game hitting streak during which he is hitting .444 with 17 runs, 5 HR, 15 RBI and 9 SB.

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The Gators could have as many as five members on the all-freshman team. In addition to Maddox a case can be made for shortstop Nolan Fontana (.284, .429 OBP, only 2 errors), catcher Mike Zunino (,273, 8 HR), pitcher Hudson Randall (6-3, 2.99 ERA) and combo player Brian Johnson (5-3. 3.62 ERA, .357 batting average, 3 HR). You could also make a case for lefty Steven "Paco" Rodriguez (1-0, 2.28 ERA, 16 games).


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