Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators Collect Honors

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators Collect Honors

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

First baseman Matt LaPorta was named the SEC's Player of the Year on Tuesday, but he's not the main reason Florida won the regular-season title and is the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament.

Pat McMahon was named the league's Coach of the Year, but he's not the main reason for the Gators' success, either.

Neither are second baseman Adam Davis, shortstop Justin Tordi, outfielder Jeff Corsaletti, catcher Brian Jeroloman or pitcher Connor Falkenbach.

Those guys -- all of whom were named to the All-SEC first or second teams released Tuesday -- certainly helped, McMahon said. But a big reason the Gators won their first SEC regular-season title since 1998 is intensity.

"They have high expectations of themselves, high expectations of each other," the former Bishop Kenny High coach said as the Gators (38-18, 20-10 SEC) prepared for today's first-round game against eighth-seeded Arkansas (37-18, 13-17 SEC) in Hoover, Ala. "We think that's an important part of the equation. We like guys that you need to tone down a little bit instead of push forward. I think it's a group of young men that expects that out of each other, guys that really like to compete."

It's also a group of players who answered a lot of questions. The Gators had to replace key departees in 2005, and they had to do it with young players, such as sophomore LaPorta at first base for graduated C.J. Smith.

At third base, Brandon McArthur survived after being critically injured by a punch in 2003 and was named to the SEC's All-Freshman team Tuesday. Davis and outfielder Gavin Dickey, both sophomores, made key contributions.

"We knew coming into the season we had quite a few question-mark areas, position players returning who played as freshmen a lot," McMahon said. "The second year, how guys respond to, 'Hey, now I've got to perform. I'm the guy,' is an interesting dilemma.

"Everyone has to handle that differently. …

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