Two Gators Invited to Team USA Tryouts

Collegiate Team USA is usually stacked with players who recently completed their sophomore seasons, and this year is no different. This summer, the team decided to carry only two players who just finished their freshmen seasons. Both of them are Florida Gators.

Shortstop Nolan Fontana and left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson were the two Florida invitees to try out for the team at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The 39-man trial roster had only four freshmen trying out to make the team. Fontana and Johnson were the only two to stick, after Samford pitcher Lex Rutledge and Cal State Fullerton pitcher Dylan Floro were cut.

Johnson was one of the best pitchers over the trials event. His two outings combined for five innings, where he allowed one hit, one run, nine strikeouts and didn't walk a batter. The only run came on the one hit allowed. On the first pitch of Johnson's second outing, Bethune-Cookman catcher Peter O'Brien hit a solo home run. Besides that, Johnson was dominant.

Fontana was 3-for-10 at the plate, scoring two runs and recording four RBIs. He hit a double and a two-run home run during the trials. He also served as a vacuum at shortstop. Fontana made four errors all season as the shortstop for the Gators, and although he made one error during the trials, the Team USA coaches liked everything else he did in the field. Fontana is one of two true shortstops on the team, with Clemson's Brad Miller, an Olympia High School alumnus, being the other.

Five of the 22 players on the team are from the SEC, with Florida being the only team to have multiple players. Vanderbilt ace right-hander Sonny Gray, LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook and South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., were the other three SEC members to make the team.

The projected starting infield for Team USA is Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, Fontana at shortstop, Arizona State second baseman Drew Maggi and Louisville utility infielder Ryan Wright at first base. Rendon is projected as a top three overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft.

Bradley Jr. should start in center field. George Springer (Connecticut), Alex Dickerson (Indiana) and Mahtook will battle it out for the corner outfield positions.

The team's pitching staff is as loaded as it has been in recent memory. Gerrit Cole (UCLA), Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt), Noe Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton) and Matt Barnes (Connecticut) could all make arguments to be the ace of the staff. Johnson joins Tyler Anderson (Oregon), Sean Gilmartin (Florida State), Scott McGough (Oregon), Brett Mooneyham (Stanford) and Kyle Winkler (TCU) fill out the rest of the pitching staff for Team USA.

The team will play in the Carolinas for the next week, before heading the Omaha, Neb., to play two games against Japan at Rosenblatt Stadium. For the three weeks following that, the team will play 10 games in Taiwan and Japan, culminating in a potential gold medal game for the FISU World University Baseball Championships.


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