Gators facing challenge in star freshman

Freshmen aren't supposed to have the kind of seasons that LSU shortstop Alex Bregman is putting together. A quick look through the Southeastern Conference standings shows him at or near the top of almost every offensive statistical category. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan has been around a few star freshmen, and Bregman catches his eye just as much.

The statistics are eye-popping. With the SEC, Alex Bregman is third batting average (.395), fourth in slugging percentage (.607), second in runs scored (46), first in hits (76), first in triples (7), and second in total bases (116). He is also 15th in the league with 11 stolen bases.

Pick any category, and there isn't much scrolling before the freshman shortstop's name pops up on the screen.

"He's fun to watch," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He plays with energy. He's got confidence. He's extremely aggressive in all phases of his game. He runs the bases aggressively. He plays defense aggressively. He's up there to hit. He's fun to watch. I don't like seeing him in the other dugout, but he's fun to watch."

There's plenty of experience in the LSU lineup. Senior Mason Katz is hitting .379 with 13 home runs and 61 RBIs while joining Bregman at the top of most offensive categories. Outfielder Raph Rhymes led the conference in batting average last year and is hitting .331 this season.

The veteran presence in the lineup makes the offense dangerous, but it's Bregman that has taken them to the next level this year.

"He's a baseball player," O'Sullivan said. "You can tell he likes to play. He's probably mature beyond his years. He's going to be a really good player in this league and for many years to come after that too."

The praise from O'Sullivan comes with experience around star freshman. During his second year at Florida, Preston Tucker was a freshman and broke the school record with 85 RBIs during that season.

Staying at the shortstop position, O'Sullivan was at Clemson when Khalil Greene entered the program. During his first year in the program, Greene broke the school record with 98 hits for a freshman. He led the team in hits while hitting .358 for the season.

The season for Greene turned heads around the country and was a precursor to him earning the Golden Spikes Award. Bregman already has 77 hits and has put up better numbers in other categories.

"When I first saw (Bregman) on TV, he kind of reminded me of a young Khalil Green that we had at Clemson back in the early 2000s there," O'Sullivan said. "It just seems like everything that gets thrown across the plate, he barrels up a lot of balls.

"I remember one at-bat in particular that was extremely impressive. He got a 3-0 swing away. And most young hitters try and get big and try and pull, and he hits a line drive in the four-hole on a 3-0 pitch. That you don't see very often."

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