Freshmen key for Gators entering super regional


There’s been a quiet confidence among the freshmen on Florida’s baseball team all season long.

You won’t see them making a lot of noise whenever they’re off the field, but once they step onto the field, and especially in the batter’s box, it’s hard not to hear them.

The quartet of Jonathan India, Deacon Liput, Nelson Maldonado and Danny Reyes had a huge impact in the outcomes of the three games in last weekend’s regional tournament victory that propelled the top-seeded Gators (50-13) into this weekend’s super regional against Florida State (40-20).

The return of Peter Alonso to the lineup gave it a huge jolt of confidence and production after he missed three weeks with a broken hand. However, he’s different than the four freshmen.

Alonso is building a reputation of having bat flips whenever he crushes a home run, but when India hit his go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 6-5 win over Connecticut, there was no bat flip. But the home run, and the at-bat, was just as big as one Alonso hit.

“Jonathan hit the go-ahead homer in the eighth, it’s (was) really big at-bat for us,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

With the game tied at 5 in the late innings, India — an American Heritage alum who this week was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team— hit his fourth home run of the season, dwarfing the other three in significance.

“I was going up just looking for a fastball. He was actually throwing a lot of sliders early, but I was just sitting dead-red fastball and I got my good pitch,” India said. “I thought I hit it pretty well, but then I saw it coming back a little bit. I’m just glad it went out.”

In the postgame press conference, India sat quietly in between Alonso and pitcher Dane Dunning. Even though he’s doesn’t say much you can see the confidence and the fire that comes from within him.

The same thing can be said about Reyes, who had his chance to speak to the media after going 2-for-2 and driving in three runs in Friday’s 9-3 win over Bethune-Cookman. He hit his first career home run against Connecticut and has seen his playing time increase since being inserted in the lineup during the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

While he hasn’t had the same amount of playing time as India, Liput and Maldonado, Reyes has been one of the Gators’ top producers since the SEC Tournament.

“The freshmen are not freshmen anymore,” said O’Sullivan, a Jupiter High graduate. “I think you can say Danny Reyes is a freshman because he hasn’t had quite as many at-bats, but the other guys have played 62 games now. For me, they’re sophomores.”

And three of those four freshmen, India, Reyes and Maldonado, were named to the Gainesville Regional All-Tournament team.

O’Sullivan is one of the top recruiters in the country. Year-in-and-year-out, he brings freshmen like the four he plays now. It’s not easy to play baseball at Florida, which is expected to make Omaha each year.

O’Sullivan says that everyone on the team has to earn their starting spot. He throws them into the fire and sees how they react, and he’s been impressed with his four underclassmen.

“I knew Jonathan was going to be a good player. … We knew Liput was going to be a good player,” O’Sullivan said. “We had a feeling that Nelly was going to be a good player and we had a good feeling that Reyes was going to be a good player.”

As the Gators continue their march through the postseason with a matchup against rival Florida State in the Super Regionals beginning on Saturday, the freshmen will continue to be quiet.

However, O’Sullivan doesn’t expect their bats to be as silent.

“It’s not easy to play as a freshman in this league, let alone this time of year with the kind of pressure is there and they’re handling it pretty well,” O’Sullivan said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Dez Bryant says Cowboys will miss Lucky Whitehead’s ‘dance moves’ following release
Dez Bryant says Cowboys will miss Lucky Whitehead’s ‘dance moves’ following release

Lucky Whitehead’s off-the-field shenanigans caught up with him on the field. The Cowboys released the three-year wide receiver after a Virginia court issued a warrant for Whitehead’s arrest stemming from a $40 shoplifting charge June 22 at a convenience store. Warrant was issued after reportedly ailed to appear in court for a July...
Miami Heat now have 16 on roster for next season after signing guards Matt Williams, Derrick Walton Jr.
Miami Heat now have 16 on roster for next season after signing guards Matt Williams, Derrick Walton Jr.

Matt Williams signed with the Heat on Monday. (Photo courtesy of the Miami Heat) MIAMI — The Heat have added a few more new faces to their roster. Miami announced Monday that it signed 6-foot-5 shooting guard Matt Williams, who impressed with his 3-point shooting on the Heat’s summer league team, and point guard Derrick Walton...
Kyrie Irving may get what he’s wishing for and then regret it
Kyrie Irving may get what he’s wishing for and then regret it

Not everybody was thrilled with Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors last summer, but at least it was clear what he was after. A championship. A partnership with a team capable of winning several of them, in fact. A super team. Well, Kyrie Irving isn’t interested in being part of a super team any more. He wants to be Superman, period...
What were Gordon Hayward’s thoughts after meeting with Heat? ‘Wow, that’s going to be really tough to beat’
What were Gordon Hayward’s thoughts after meeting with Heat? ‘Wow, that’s going to be really tough to beat’

MIAMI — Before Gordon Hayward decided to sign with the Celtics in free agency earlier this month, he thought he might end up with the Heat. After traveling to Miami to meet with Heat players, coaches and management on the first stop of his free agency tour on July 1, Hayward came away so impressed that he immediately...
Twitter concocts fun trades involving Kyrie Irving in ESPN’s trade machine
Twitter concocts fun trades involving Kyrie Irving in ESPN’s trade machine

When a superstar like Kyrie Irving asks for a trade, there is nothing better than trying to find ways how a big-time talent like Irving can join your favorite NBA team. Luckily for fans, ESPN has the NBA Trade Machine which allows normal people to play general manager for a while and make trades around the league just to see if they would work, financially...
More Stories