Five Gators Named to First Team All-America

Baseball America released their 2010 College Freshman All-America Team this week, and the SEC was well represented. Out of the 15 first-team members, the Gators had five of them.

Before the 2010 season started, it was clear Florida's season would depend on their top-ranked recruiting class. The Gators started three freshmen on opening night, and that number would grow as high as five throughout the course of the season.

Catcher Mike Zunino was named starting catcher before the opening game. Freshman All-America honors for him don't come only from his statistics. He hit .267 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs. His importance to the team came in what he did behind the plate. For a freshman, Zunino's ability to handle a pitching staff was unmatched. He also threw out 14 of 24 base runners attempting to steal against him.

Shortstop Nolan Fontana went the same route as Zunino, winning the starting position before the season started. The Florida coaches knew they were getting a solid defensive infielder, but they didn't know he would be this good, especially during his first year on campus. Fontana made only four errors in 279 chances on the season, good for a .986 fielding percentage. He made it to the 30th game of the season before making his first error.

Fontana hit .287 as the leadoff hitter, but his .437 on-base percentage was his key offensive statistic. Despite hitting three home runs on the season, he led the team with 53 walks because of his patience and eye at the plate.

Austin Maddox was on the Freshman All-America Team as the designated hitter, but he switched between multiple positions for the Gators. He started the season as Florida's designated hitter, but most of his starts during the second half of the season came at third base. He did fill in at first base also, when Preston Tucker played the outfield.

Regardless of what position he played, Maddox always hit. He ended the season with a .333 batting average, 17 home runs and 72 RBIs. Maddox will work out as an outfielder during the offseason to see if he could handle the position during the season.

Brian Johnson served as the utility player for the Freshman All-America Team because of his success as a two-way player. He started the season only as a starting pitcher. Johnson went 6-4 with a 4.03 ERA. In 74 innings, he allowed 88 hits and 14 walks while recording 51 strikeouts.

He started to hit at about the midway point of the season. Johnson ended with a .405 batting average, four home runs and 21 RBI. If he had the same amount of at-bats as Maddox, Johnson would have had projected to hit 12 home runs and 63 RBI. It's safe to assume he will be in the lineup throughout next season. He could even see time at first base.

Hudson Randall was forced into the starting rotation when Tommy Toledo was hit in the face with a line drive. Instead of serving as the weak point of the rotation, Randall sometimes carried it. He ended the season with an 8-4 record and 3.24 ERA. Randall doesn't strike many hitters out, only 69 in 97 innings, but he pitches to contact well enough to be successful.

South Carolina was second in the SEC with two freshmen on the Freshmen All-America teams. Closer Matt Price was a first-team selection. He recorded ten saves on the year, striking out 80 hitters in 53 innings. He also allowed only 36 hits all season.

South Carolina's Christian Walker was named the second-team first baseman. He hit .324 with nine home runs and 51 RBIs. The freshman also played third base for the Gamecocks.

Vanderbilt second baseman Anthony Gomez was named to the first team. He ended the season hitting .379 with two home runs and 30 RBI. He was over .400 for most of the season, and his low RBI total occurred because he hit near the bottom of the order until the second half of the year. He also stole nine bases.

Ole Miss closer Brett Huber rounded out the SEC selections. He was named as the second-team relief pitcher. He ended the season 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA. In 46 innings pitched, Huber struck out 54 hitters. Opponents hit only .185 against him.

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