FILE - In this March 4, 2020, file photo, Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan meets with umpires before the team's NCAA college baseball game against Florida A&M in Gainesville, Fla. The top-ranked Gators are off to a program-record 16-0 start and the only unbeaten team in Division I. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)

Gators Baseball Earns Unanimous Preseason No.1 Ranking

The start of the college baseball season is just around the corner. And for the Florida Gators, expectations are high once again coming into 2021.

Earlier this week, the Gators were named the unanimous preseason No.1 team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and USA Today Coaches Poll.

After a 16-1 finish in 2020 and quite a bit of talent returning, Florida is once again in the title conversation.

A Roster Full of Talent

The last time the Gators were tabbed as a unanimous No.1 team heading into the season was 2018. Additionally, Florida also achieved this honor in 2012 and 2016, too.

The Gators are returning much of their production from 2020, including the three starting pitchers from their weekend rotation. Florida’s bullpen was arguably one of the best in the country last season, finishing with a 1.76 ERA through almost 77 innings pitched. Furthermore, the Gators don’t have to worry much about replacing players in other positions on the field, as eight out of the nine roles will see veteran guys at the helm.

While Florida’s bullpen was one of the team’s biggest strengths in 2020, the Gators were also launching the deep ball in a big way, too. Florida ranked 12th in the nation in home runs, finishing with 21 in the shortened season.

Junior pitcher Jack Leftwich is one of the numerous returning starters for the Gators. He said it is great to have basically the same team returning from a year ago, as it helps push everyone even harder to accomplish their goals.

Leftwich also talked about the young talent in the Gators’ bullpen. He said he’s eager to see what they can accomplish given they will have more games this season.

Like Leftwich, sophomore outfielder Jacob Young also talked about the continuity surrounding this year’s team. He said the returning talent is especially good for the freshman.

When asked how good he thinks the outfield position group could be, Young said everyone is excited and have gotten used to playing around each other over the last few years.

What’s Ahead

Florida will get a test right away to start the season, as an in-state rival and the 21st-ranked Miami Hurricanes come to town for a three-game series Feb. 19-21. The Gators will also be playing their first series at the brand-new Florida Ballpark.

Expectations are high. Will Florida live up to them? We’ll find out soon.

About Nicholas Anschultz

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