Florida outfielder Austin Langworthy returned to the lineup after missing a month with a broken hand and hit .412 (7-for-17) in four games last week.
Gator freshman worthy of praise
Growing up in Williston, Florida freshman outfielder Austin Langworthy would take batting practice with his dad.
The message from Langworthy’s dad, Jason, was simple. Stay away from pitches off the plate. Find a pitch in the strike zone to drive.
From those humble beginnings less than 30 miles from UF’s campus, Langworthy has emerged as one of the best young hitters in the SEC. The Gators are hoping for a continued blend of patience and production from Langworthy, this week's SEC Freshman of the Week, at the plate when they open a three-game series tonight at McKethan Stadium against South Carolina.
Florida has won four of its last five games since Langworthy returned to the lineup from a broken bone in his hand on April 11 at Florida State. During that five-game span, the Gators have scored 42 runs. Langworthy has been a big factor in UF’s recent offensive turnaround, going 8 for 20 with five runs scored and five RBIs.
“I was disappointed that I had to sit out but I’m really glad to be back and doing something productive for this team,” Langworthy said. “That’s the best feeling, knowing that you’re helping this team out.”
Langworthy also has walked six times in his last five games and has a team-high 21 walks despite hitting in just 20 of UF’s 35 games.
“He’s got as good a strike zone management as anyone you’ll see, especially at that age,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He sees the ball early out of the hand and for the most part, sometimes he gets to be too selective because he will not swing at the ball that’s off the plate, normally. Sometimes you get umpires that are going to call three to four inches off the plate. He just will not give in.”
Florida junior pitcher Alex Faedo found out how patient Langworthy was at the plate when he first faced him in batting practice
“I was trying to get him on change-ups,” Faedo said. “I think I got him on one and he took a couple of good ones. He swung at one ... He’s super patient. He knows the strike zone better than anyone we’ve played with.”
A two-way pitcher/outfielder, Langworthy was out of the lineup for a little more than a month after suffering a broken hamate bone in his right (non-throwing) hand. Langworthy said he isn’t exactly sure how he broke it, but said he tried to play through it for about two weeks.
“There was a little bit of pain, but I tried to play through it for the team and it ended up just getting too bad,” Langworthy said.
When Langworthy returned, O’Sullivan didn’t hesitate moving him up to third in the batting order. O’Sullivan said the loss of catcher Mike Rivera (also to a broken hamate bone) contributed to that decision. But O’Sullivan said he also felt Langworthy had the maturity to handle a critical spot in the lineup.
“He’s certainly had some really good at-bats,” O’Sullivan said. “I knew at some point he was going to hit in the middle of the order. I didn’t know exactly where. We tried to protect him early in the year and then he had the hamate, that kind of set him back about a month and then obviously, Mikey going down, Mikey was starting to swing the bat really good and he was hitting in the middle of the order. Somebody had to get in there and you just roll the dice and hopefully you are going to make the right decision.”
Langworthy has become a fan favorite at McKethan Stadium, with fans chanting “Lang … Worthy” during each of his at-bats. Friends and family don’t have to drive far from Williston to watch him play.
“I really enjoy being close to home,” Langworthy said. “Honestly, if I wanted to, I could go home for a home-cooked meal every night.”
Langworthy said his favorite home-cooked meal is steak and potatoes. But at this point, he’ll settle for anything on his plate if it ensures he’ll stay healthy and productive in the lineup.
“I’m glad to be back,” Langworthy said. “It’s a good feeling.”
EXTRA BASES: O’Sullivan said he is still unsure whether sophomore Jonathan India (arm injury) will be able to return to the field at third base during the South Carolina series. “We’re going to kind of figure it out and see what he’s capable of doing,” O’Sullivan said. “But we won’t do anything until he’s 110 percent, until he’s ready to go.” … Asked the timeline for Rivera’s return, “Langworthy came back in four weeks, I think the interesting thing with him, I think he’ll be able to swing the bat in a couple of weeks, but the catching part of it, I don’t know … at the end of the day, we need him back at the end of the year, when it really counts.”
— Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or email@example.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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