With 15 days until the opening of its season, Florida baseball is ready to play.
Outfielder, Jacob Young, is starting his second year at Florida. This season, he has the opportunity to play alongside many of the familiar faces that he played with during last season’s shorted stint.
The NCAA ruled in April 2020 that due to the unexpected shutdown of the pandemic, senior players would be eligible for another season of baseball. This has led to players such as Tommy Mace, Jack Leftwich and Kirby McMullen staying longer than originally expected.
Young said that this will be good for the younger players.
With more eligible players, Florida has depth on its roster that was unexpected. Mace said that this will lead to players needing to find their place on the team.
Young agreed and said that the new players, as well as returners, are going to figure out what their role is and know that it will change as the season goes on.
Young was on a hitting streak in March 2020 when the remainder of the season was cancelled. He was on an 18-game hitting streak with seven consecutive multi-hit games.
His 18-game streak is the second longest that head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has seen since he started coaching at Florida. His seven consecutive games tied him with Jonathon India (2018) and Bryson Smith (2011) for longest multi-hit streak since 2008.
In 2019 he had a 26 RBI, three homeruns, a 0.3111 batting average, 42 runs and only 25 strikeouts.
Still, Young said it is never fun to go up against Leftwich.
With the unexpected return of Mace and Leftwich though, the younger pitchers are likely to stay mostly in the bullpen.
Young said that he believes they will still get opportunities to play and are approaching the season positively.
Between Jud Fabian at center field and Young at right, Florida’s outfield defense is almost complete. Young said, though, that he is happy with any of the options in the lineup to fill the third man.
Gators baseball also now has a new ballpark and field to start the 2021 season. Young said that with the outfield being bigger now he had to learn how the field plays, but that it will be an advantage over other teams during games.
The Gators head into the season unanimously ranked No. 1. They finished 16-1 overall last year just before their season was cancelled.
Six returners on the team are ranked in Baseball America’s 2021 Major League Baseball Draft Top 200 Prospects, including Fabian, Mace, Ben Specht, Leftwich, Nathan Hickey and Christian Scott. Fabian and Mace also collected preseason All-American accolades.
Florida will be face eight teams ranked by D1Baseball’s preseason release. This includes No. 21 Miami, that the Gators open their season with on Feb. 19.
Young said that they are excited to have a Florida rival for their opening game.