Sunday, June 9, 2019

2019 Gator Baseball: A Year in Review

The 2019 Florida Gator baseball season was a little different than what most Gator fans were accustomed too. With so much talent being taken in these past couple of MLB drafts in addition to the plethora number of freshmen on the roster, this Gator team struggled.

They posted a record of 34-25 and 13-17 in SEC play as Florida stumbled into the NCAA Tournament. Once in the postseason, the youthful Gators could not do much as Florida did not reach the regional final for the first time since 2014. Here's a brief rundown of how the postseason went.

SEC Tournament
Florida finished 11th in the regular season standings and was paired with the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies (39-23-1) in the First Round. Despite climbing out of an early 3-0 hole, the youthful bullpen would be Florida's downfall as Texas A&M walked off in the bottom of the 10th inning to knock Florida out of the SEC Tournament. At this point, much of Gator Nation was unsure if Florida would even reach the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Tournament
Call it a miracle, but Florida did reach the NCAA Tournament and was assigned as a No. 3 seed to the Lubbock Regional consisting of the No. 8 nationally seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders (43-18), No. 2 seeded Dallas Baptist Patriots (43-20), and No. 4 seeded Army Black Knights (35-26).

Florida would face off against Dallas Baptist, score eight runs, but still lose 11-8. In the elimination game against Army, the Gators lived to see another day with a 13-5 thrashing of the Black Knights. In a rematch with Dallas Baptist, Florida again scored eight runs and lost as the Patriots defeated the Gators 9-8. At last, this painful and uncharacteristic 2019 season had been put to bed for good.

Season Notes
Despite not making it out of regional play, there are many positives that can still be taken away from this season of Gator baseball. Here are some of the achievements that the Florida Gator baseball team accomplished in 2019:

  • Two shutout victories 
  • Notched eight victories over five ranked opponents. They were (at the time): No. 6/21 Florida State (twice), No. 5 Mississippi State (once), No. 14 LSU (once), No. 23 Tennessee (once), No. 22 Missouri (thrice).
  • Five series sweeps (Long Beach State, Winthrop, Yale, Alabama, Missouri)
  • Won four of their 10 SEC series while suffering losses to Mississippi State (twice), Vanderbilt (thrice), Ole Miss (thrice), South Carolina (once), LSU (twice), Kentucky (once), Georgia (thrice), and Tennessee (twice).
  • Swept Florida State for the fourth consecutive season.
  • Won the Miami series for the fifth consecutive season.
  • Finished with a 26-11 home record in their second-to-last season at McKethan Stadium.
  • Made the NCAA Tournament for the 12th consecutive season and the 35th time overall. 
  • Won one elimination game in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Went 9-5 in midweek games.

Award Winners
After looking at what the team as a whole did, let's now look at some of the accolades that the players themselves earned:


MLB Draft Selections
Here's a look at the Gators who were selected in this year's MLB Draft:

  • Brady McConnell (sophomore): 2nd Round (44th overall) to the KC Royals, shortstop
  • Tyler Dyson (junior): 5th Round (153rd overall) to the Washington Nationals, pitcher
  • Wil Dalton (junior): 8th Round (257th overall) to the Boston Red Sox, outfielder
  • Nelson Maldonado (senior) : 31st Round (947th overall) to the Chicago Cubs, outfielder

Now that the SEC award winners and MLB draftees have been lauded, it's time now to look at the stat leaders for the 2019 season:


Hits: Brady McConnell (76)

RBI's: Kendrick Calilao (49)

Doubles: Nelson Maldonado (14)

Triples: Austin Langworthy (3) (Junior)

Home Runs: Brady McConnell (15)

Batting Average: Nelson Maldonado (.343)

Slugging Percentage: Brady McConnell (.576)

On Base Percentage: Nelson Maldonado (.408)

Stolen Bases: Jacob Young/Jud Fabian (7) (Freshmen)

Runs Scored: Brady McConnell (51)

Total Bases: Brady McConnell (132)

Strikeouts: Brady McConnell (57)

Walks: Cory Action/Jud Fabian (28) (Freshman)

Hit By Pitch: Wil Dalton (11)

Sacrifice Bunts: Jud Fabian/Austin Langworthy (3)

Sacrifice Flies: Kendrick Calilao (8)


Assists: Brady McConnell (114)

Putouts: Kendrick Calilao (409)

Errors: Brady McConnell (15)

Fielding Percentage: Austin Langworthy (.1000)


Wins: Tommy Mace (8) (Sophomore)

Losses: Tommy Mace/Jack Leftwich (5) (Sophomore)

Strikeouts: Tommy Mace (74)

Walks: Tommy Mace (38)

Starting Pitcher ERA: Jack Leftwich (5.31)

Relieving Pitcher ERA: David Luethje (3.86) (Freshman)

Saves: Nolan Crisp (8) (Freshman)

Appearances: Christian Scott/Ben Specht (22) (Freshmen)

Innings Pitched: Tommy Mace (89.2)

Shutouts: Jack Leftwich (1)

Hit By Pitch: Tommy Mace (16)

Balks: Christian Scott (3)

Senior Sendoff
Nelson Maldonado and Blake Reese began their Gator careers in 2016 while Jonah Girand came on board in 2018 after transferring from Seminole State Community College. In their four years, Nelly and Blake have helped lead the Gators to a mark of 187-82 (.695 winning percentage) and 83-47 (.638 winning percentage) since Jonah joined the team. Though their final seasons for the Orange and Blue ended in regional play, these three can look back on their collegiate careers and take much joy in what they accomplished.

Nelson Maldonado
Photo Credits:

Nelson Maldonado was a captain this past season and arguably had one of his best seasons to date as he hit over .300 for the first time and led the Gators in three offensive statistical categories. In his four years as a Gator, Nelly finishes with a slash line of .292/.391/.454 with 253 hits, 163 runs scored, 31 home runs, 149 RBI's, 20 stolen bases, and a .995 fielding percentage.

Nelly's collegiate accolades include:

  • 2019 SEC First Team All-American
  • 2018 & 2017 SEC Regular Season Champion
  • 2018 & 2017 SEC Academic Honor Roll
  • 2017 National Champion
  • 2016 NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team

Statistically, Nelly also leaves the Gators as a member of the Top 10 career hits club with 253 base knocks.  This ties him with Mark Kiger for tenth all-time in UF history!

Nelly graduated with a degree in Anthropology, but will have a chance to continue his baseball career as the Chicago Cubs selected him 947th overall in the 31st Round of the MLB Draft. Thank you for these last four years, Nelly!

Blake Reese
Photo Credits:

A Tallahassee boy who chose to take his playing talents down to Gainesville, Blake Reese was an excellent utility man for the Gators and was also a captain this past season. After not playing much his freshman year, Blake's playing time sky-rocketed as he appeared in 141 games over the remaining three years of his Florida career.

One of Blake's most memorable moments came in Game 3 of the 2018 Gainesville Super Regional against Auburn. Standing on third base with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning in a 1-1 game, Blake successfully stole home plate as teammate Nick Horvath dashed for second base on a delayed steal. This run would prove to be critical, as the Gators would ultimately win the contest by a margin of 3-2.

Blake leaves Gainesville with a slash line of .247/.375/.371 with 91 hits, 68 runs scored, 6 home runs, 62 RBI's, 20 stolen bases, and a .949 fielding percentage.

Blake's accolades include:

  • 2018 NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team
  • 2018 & 2017 SEC Regular Season Champion
  • 2018, 2017, & 2016 SEC Academic Honor Roll
  • 2016 National Champion

Blake graduated with a degree in Forestry and will probably do great things keeping Florida's wildernesses preserved as he was not taken in this year's MLB Draft. Thank you for these last four years, Blake!

Jonah Girand
Photo Credits:

Jonah Girand transferred to the University of Florida at the start of the 2018 season. He will most fondly be remembered for his performance in the 2018 Gainesville Regional, where he mashed three home runs over the course of the weekend and earned himself the Most Outstanding Player Award for the regional.

Over the course of his two years at Florida, Jonah finishes with a slash line of .170/.278/.468 with 8 hits, 9 runs scored, 4 home runs, 9 RBI's, and a .1000 fielding percentage. He played a total of 25 games and started 10 of those contests. Jonah's lone collegiate accolade is the Most Outstanding Player Award he received for his performance in the 2018 Gainesville Regional.

Jonah graduated with a degree in Criminology and will do a great job enacting justice in the state of Florida as he was not taken in this year's MLB Draft. Thank you for these last two years, Jonah!

Final Takeaway
Before giving my final thoughts, here are my Top 5 Gator games of the 2019 season:

  1. Florida sweeps Florida State for the fourth straight season - 3/12, 3/26, and 4/9
  2. Wil Dalton hits a go-ahead double in the 8th inning against Miami - 2/23
  3. Jordan Butler hits a walk off home run against South Carolina to win the series - 4/13 
  4. Jack Leftwich shuts out Missouri - 5/17
  5. Florida scores 28 runs on Winthrop - 3/3

2019 can best be described as Florida finally suffering from its success. After losing so many talented and experienced guys to the MLB Draft, Florida had to rely mostly on freshmen during the course of the season. Four freshmen (Jacob Young, Kendrick Calilao, Cory Acton, and Jud Fabian) were in the everyday starting lineup while five freshmen (David Luethje, Nick Pogue, Nolan Crisp, Ben Specht, and Christian Scott) appeared in 15 or more games out of the bullpen.

Florida's roster for 2020 looks like it will consist of six seniors (four of whom transferred in previously), seven juniors, 11 sophomores, and 12 freshmen.

The 2020 Florida recruiting class will most likely contain:

In the transfer portal, I have heard news that both freshman infielder Roberto Pena and sophomore transfer pitcher Justin Alintoff will be looking to play ball somewhere else next season. I would not be surprised if rising junior catcher Cal Greenfield followed suit as he is the same year as starting backstop Brady Smith, who played in 56 games this year and started 53 of those contests. The Gators will also be losing long-time assistant coach, Brad Weitzel, who has served 12 years on the Gator staff along side head coach Kevin O'Sullivan.

As frustrating as it was to see the team struggle this year, a season like this can go a long way for these freshmen as they progress in their UF careers. Many of them received a good amount of playing time, and by the time they are juniors and seniors the Gators will once again be a juggernaut on the diamond. 

This isn't the first time Kevin O'Sullivan has dealt with a rough season. In fact, the last time Florida did not reach a super regional (2014), they only went on to rack up four straight College World Series appearances in the following seasons and of course a national championship in 2017.

Thank you for everything, 2019 Gator Baseball! Go Gators!

*All stats accredited to
**All awards & honors accredited to



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