Gainesville, Fla -- University of Florida head baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan earned 2011 College Coach of the Year honors from Baseball America on Thursday. O’Sullivan just completed his fourth year and guided the Gators to a runner-up finish at the NCAA College World Series with a school-record 53 victories and an overall mark of 53-19. He is the first baseball coach from UF to collect the publication’s yearly accolade.
Under O’Sullivan’s tutelage, Florida earned a trip to Omaha in consecutive seasons for the first time and made the CWS for the seventh time in school history (1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011). Although UF fell in the CWS Championship Finals to South Carolina, it notched a second-place showing for the second time in school history (2005).
The Gators secured the All-SEC final round by downing Texas (8-4) and then knocking off league rival Vanderbilt twice (3-1, 6-4). Florida had been the second national seed in the NCAA Tournament, its third-straight year within the Top-8 seeds. The Gators swept the NCAA Gainesville Regional with victories over Manhattan (17-3) and Miami (Fla.) (5-4, 11-4) and then defeated Mississippi State twice (11-1, 3-4, 8-6) in a classic Gainesville Super Regional to advance to the College World Series. O’Sullivan joined Joe Arnold (1988, 1991) and Andy Lopez (1996, 1998) as Gator head coaches who have made multiple trips to Omaha.
This season marked the 10th time that McKethan Stadium has hosted NCAA Regional action and the third-straight year for the first time in school history. The Gators have now gone on to the College World Series from Gainesville on six occasions: 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010 and 2011. Florida is 35-10 (.778) on its own turf during NCAA play and claimed five of the six outings on its own turf this season. O’Sullivan is 13-3 (.813) in NCAA play at home, 9-0 (1.000) in Regionals and 4-3 (.571) in Super Regionals.
Florida reached the 40-win plateau for the 20th time in school history and the third-straight year under O’Sullivan and the school-record 53 wins marked the third time that the program exceeded 50 wins (also in 1991 & 1996).
On May 29, the Gators blanked Vanderbilt, 5-0, to capture the 2011 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. It was the first time in 20 years that Florida won the league’s tourney and was its sixth title (1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, 2011). The triumph also represented the first time since 1988 that the Orange and Blue had won the SEC and SEC Tourney in the same season.
With a 22-8 performance in the SEC that matched South Carolina and Vanderbilt, Florida has now captured an SEC-best 21 division championships and its 12 league championships are third behind LSU (14) and Alabama (13). UF became the East winner for the third year in a row, matching its feat from 1996-98. Florida has also won SEC crowns in 1952, 1956, 1962, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2010. The Gators claimed eight of their 10 SEC series and the team’s 22 victories in league play matched the school record set last season.
According to statistics guru Warren Nolan, Florida’s strength of schedule was second in the country, trailing only fellow SEC Eastern Division member Georgia and the NCAA had the Gators second in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) behind North Carolina.
The Gator pitching staff twirled 11 shutouts in 72 games, exceeding the three donuts in 64 games last year and breaking the previous school record for shutouts (10 in 1970).
Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was named the SEC Player of the Year, joining Matt LaPorta (2005, 2007) as Gators who have earned the league’s top accolade and right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) was tabbed as the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game.
Junior outfielder Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) and Zunino were named All-Americans and were joined on the All-South Region squad by senior second baseman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) and sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.), while Whitson was honored as a Freshman All-American by four different organizations.
Florida boasted six All-SEC selections, as sophomore LHP/1B Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.), Tucker and Zunino made the first team and Adams, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) and Randall were second-team picks. Third baseman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) and Whitson represented UF on the league’s All-Freshman Team. Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was the Most Valuable Player of the SEC Tournament, with Fontana, Randall and senior outfielder Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) earning All-Tourney recognition.
During the postseason, Tucker was voted as the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Gainesville Regional and was joined on the All-Tourney squad by Fontana, junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.), Pigott, junior outfielder Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) and Zunino. Sophomore third baseman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and Smith were members of the 2011 NCAA College World Series All-Tourney Team.
A school-record 11 players were chosen in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, giving O’Sullivan 30 draftees during his tenure after three in 2008, 10 in 2009 and six in 2010. Before his arrival, the Gators’ previous high number of picks was eight in both 1999 and 2002.