LUBBOCK, Texas -- Florida head baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan watched as his 2016 squad entered the College World Series as the No. 1 seed but exited after two games, and wondered what could have been.
A year later, O'Sullivan, the Gators and Gator Nation no longer have to wonder. O'Sullivan punched all the right buttons, pulled all the right strings and was able to walk away from Omaha with trophy in hand as the Gators were crowned 2017 National Champions for the first time in school history.
For that effort, O'Sullivan, in his 10th season in Gainesville, is the 2017 recipient of the Skip Bertman National Coach of the Year Award.
"Kevin O'Sullivan's club showed both heart and perseverance in bringing the school its first national championship," said Mike Gustafson, president and CEO of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame and chair of the Bertman Award committee. "We're honored to present this award to coach O'Sullivan for this tremendous accomplishment."
The award finalists and winner were selected by a national committee of active and retired coaches from all levels of college baseball. The Bertman Award recognizes coaches at every level of college baseball. Tim Scannell, head coach of NCAA Division III champion Trinity University, won the award in 2016.
Among the finalists for the 2017 award were six national champions as well as Pat Casey from Oregon State, who led the Beavers to a 56-6 record and the No. 1 ranking for most of the season. The other finalists:
- Jeff Johnson, Chipola College (51-9), NJCAA Division I Champion
- Todd Post, Kankakee Community College (54-11-1), NJCAA Division II Champion
- Jad Prachniak, West Chester University (44-11), NCAA Division II Champion
- Jeremiah Robbins, Lewis-Clark State (40-14), NAIA Champion
- Marty Slimak, Cal Lutheran (40-11), NCAA Division III Champion
- Doug Wren, Tyler Junior College (41-20), NJCAA Division III Champion
The award, sponsored by Easton Sports, is named for legendary LSU head coach and National College Baseball Hall of Famer Skip Bertman, who coached the Tigers from 1984 to 2001. In his time at LSU, Bertman won five national championships and was named National Coach of the Year six times. He coached 31 players who went on to play Major League Baseball and was part of the College Baseball Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 2006.
The 2017 Gators finished 52-19 overall, sweeping Southeastern Conference rival LSU in the CWS finals. It marks the third straight 50-win season for the Gators and fourth since O'Sullivan took over prior to the 2008 season.
It was also Florida's third straight College World Series appearance, all as a national seed, and second appearance in the CWS finals under O'Sullivan. The Gators have also captured three SEC titles under O'Sullivan and were the SEC East champion in 2017.
Eight players from the 2017 team were chosen in the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, four of them in the top seven rounds, including the 18th overall pick, right-handed pitcher Alex Faedo. Sullivan has had 77 players taken in the draft since his arrival.
SKIP BERTMAN NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR - PAST WINNERS
2013: Mike Dickson, Gloucester County (N.J.) College
2014: Tim Tadlock, Texas Tech
2015: Paul Mainieri, LSU
2016: Tim Scannell, Trinity (Texas) University