FightinGators.com will relive the top-10 stories of the past academic year before a new one gets started in just a little more than a month.
#10 Matt LaPorta sets career home run mark
First on our list is an individual milestone. In what became a trying year for the Gator baseball team, Matt LaPorta returned for his senior season and broke Brad Wilkerson’s career home run mark. In just the third game of the season, and after the Gators lost the first two of the season to visiting VMI, LaPorta launched his second home run of the season – No. 56 in his career.
The blast cleared the left field wall, giving UF a 5-0 lead en route to their first win of the season.
“I was telling myself to relax, and I got a good swing to get it out of the yard,” LaPorta said after the game. “It didn’t really hit me as I was running the bases, but when I sat down in the dugout, it hit me that I had the Florida home run record. I just thought that was amazing.”
LaPorta had a phenomenal senior season, earning SEC Player of the Year honors for the second time (earned in 2005 also). LaPorta led the Gators in nearly every major offensive statistical category: batting average (.402), home runs (20), RBI (52), total bases (138) and slugging percentage (.817). He also led the SEC with 55 walks.
LaPorta’s decision to return to Florida paid off, not just on the baseball field, but also in the Major League Baseball Draft. After his junior season, LaPorta was drafted in the 14th round by the Boston Red Sox as the 433rd pick overall. In the 2007 draft earlier this month, LaPorta moved all the way to the first round, selected seventh overall by the Milwaukee Brewers. He became the 11th Gator to be selected in the first round – a list that includes Wilkerson.
LaPorta was also named a Louisville Slugger All-American and was named as a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year award. His .402 average in 2007 made him just the seventh player in school history to finish a season above .400. He also established single season marks for slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
LaPorta finished his college career with 74 home runs, ranking him third in the SEC all-time and among the top-10 in NCAA Division I history.
Tomorrow, FightinGators.com continues its look back at 2006-07 with No. 9 on our list.
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