India’s secret keeps No. 2 Gators rolling

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Florida's Deacon Liput (8) celebrates with teammates Jonathan India (6) and Blake Reese (12) after Liput's two-run-home run during the first game of the weekend series against Arkansas at McKethan Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Jonathan India has a plan and you don’t need to know about it.

“I’m not going to tell you what it is,” he has said on multiple occasions.

But that’s not going to stop people from asking a guy hitting an SEC-leading .430 how in the heck he’s doing it.

The junior third baseman continues to find safe landing places for baseballs in his at-bats so far this year and will bring a 12-game hitting streak into No. 2 Florida’s three-game series with No. 8 Vanderbilt at McKethan Stadium beginning today at 6:30.

During his hitting streak, India is hitting a robust .579. His slugging percentage for the season is .899, which is 245 points higher than the next most powerful Gator.

“It has been fun to watch,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

Unless, of course, you’re an opposing pitcher.

The man with the plan will reveal only what is the most obvious to the casual observer — he’s feasted on pitches away this year.

“I didn’t change my swing at all,” India said. “I just simplified things. I’m trusting myself on pitches to the right side of the plate.

“I think it’s the hardest pitch to hit, the outside corner. If you can do that, you can be a dangerous hitter.”

Sometimes, especially for a draft-eligible player, going with the pitch away can be hard to do.

“A lot of juniors want to pull everything for the home runs and they tend to press,” O’Sullivan said. “Jonathan has matured as a player.”

It’s not that India wasn’t hitting before this season.

He was a freshman All-American when he hit .303, including a .313 SEC average and .400 in the NCAA Tournament. As a sophomore on a team that struggled at the plate, India hit a respectable .274, including .330 after a midseason injury kept him out of the lineup for a while.

This season he has been hitting at another level so far.

“I finally committed to the right approach,” India said. “It gives me a lot more confidence. I have a plan every time I go to the plate and I’m fully committed to it.”

His plan and the plan of all of the Gators will face another stern test starting today (weather permitting) as Florida (22-5, 4-2 SEC) continues its tour of the nation’s Top 10.

First, it was No. 4 Arkansas, which Florida beat two of three games, then No. 7 FSU on Tuesday (a 1-0 Florida win) and now the No. 8 Commodores (17-8), who share the SEC East lead with Georgia at 5-1.

“When I looked at the schedule before the season, I kinda knew this was going to be a tough stretch,” O’Sullivan said.

But it has been so far, so good for the Gators.

“The guys are enjoying it,” said Saturday’s starter Jackson Kowar. “It’s fun to play against three Omaha-caliber teams.”

After facing the big boppers of Arkansas last weekend, the UF pitching staff will have a different challenge this weekend. Vandy has 50 steals this season, the 11th most in the nation.

“We haven’t faced a team that runs the way they do,” Kowar said. “They are a lot more aggressive team on the basepaths and that’s something the pitchers are going to have to work on.”

Parking: O’Connell Center main lot and garage. Shuttle from Commuter Lot on Gale Lemerand Drive (starting at 4 p.m.)


SEC Showdown

Who: No. 8 Vanderbilt (17-8, 5-1) vs. No. 2 Florida (22-5, 4-2)

When: 6:30 p.m. today, 12 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: McKethan Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM

Pitching matchup: Vandy RHP Drake Fellows (4-0, 2.16 ERA) vs. UF RHP Brady Singer (5-1, 3.00)


4 COMMENTS

  1. Could India please tell his secret to the other Gators? Need to get some more of them hitting like that. Also, need Singer to get back to his dominant performances. He has been off a little lately. Let’s sweep Vandy and defend our home turf. Go Gators.

  2. I had the pleasure of talking with India at the championship celebration last year. All the guys were friendly but he went out of his way to be friendly and accessible.I was on cloud 9 anyway but talking to him for a few minutes was the highlight of my day. To say that I am pleased with his start would be an understatement. Go get ’em Indy!!!! Bring us another title home to Gainesville! Go GATORS!!!