The practice was over but the kid was still out there on the Williston High School practice field. His dad, Jason, would throw pitch after pitch with scruffy balls that had seen better days and Austin Langworthy would hone that sweet swing.
He brought it to Florida, a payoff for all of the work put in after practices, dad first dragging son out there and now son dragging dad.
“His arm gets sore sometimes if he hasn’t thrown for awhile,” Langworthy said Thursday.
During breaks from school, they will still go out there, Jason driving up from his job in Ocala hauling sod and Austin ready and waiting to hit a couple of buckets.
It is that kind of discipline and work ethic that Kevin O’Sullivan saw from the time Langworthy was a freshman in high school.
“He could always hit,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s level-headed, very cerebral. He knows the game. He’s sharp and he’s a hard worker.”
And yet, there he was in early March scuffling through the start of the season and dropping from the leadoff role he had earned during the fall.
“It’s a hard game,” he said. “I just kept working hard. I felt like I had a lot of quality at-bats but just not a lot of luck. The coaches told me to keep my head up. I knew it would happen.”
It did. But not before his averaged dipped below the Mendoza Line. Hard-hit balls found willing gloves and less-than-perfect swings resulted in easy putouts for the opposition.
“I didn’t worry about my average,” Langworthy said, “but if I had looked at the scoreboard and saw I was hitting .190 I would have been freaking out.”
That’s about what he was hitting (actually .192) after the first game of the New Hampshire series back in early March. But O’Sullivan kept sending him up there to take smooth swings and eventually, things changed.
“”It was just a matter of time,” O’Sullivan said. “The game has its ups and downs.”
Lately, it has been trending up for Langworthy. In his last 60 at-bats, he is hitting .400 (to raise his average to .304, third on the team) with 13 of his 15 RBIs.
“I haven’t changed anything,” Langworthy said. “Everyone knows how good a hitter I can be at times. Sometimes it’s not going to go that way. But I knew it was going to happen.”
Starting tonight, he hopes it continues, as Florida plays host to Missouri in a three-game SEC series. The Tigers will throw two left-handed starters at the Gators, which will be a challenge for the left-handed Langworthy.
Or, as he’s known in the stands of McKethan …
“It will be a challenge,” Langworthy said. “But I have been seeing lefties pretty well.”
Florida comes in to the series as the nation’s No. 1 team at 29-6 after completing a sweep of Florida State and leading the SEC at 9-3. Mizzou fell out of the rankings when it lost two of three last weekend to Alabama. The Tigers bounced back to beat No. 19 Missouri State on Tuesday 8-6.
Missouri is led by the 1-2 punch of Kameron Misner (.356 and leads league in walks) and Trey Harris (.344 and tied for fifth in the league in RBIs). The Tigers also feature pitcher Michael Plassmeyer, who has an ERA of 1.99 and is second in the conference in strikeouts.
The Tigers have only hit 19 home runs this year, the second fewest in the SEC.
Who: Missouri (24-9, 6-6 SEC) vs. No. 1 Florida (29-6, 9-3)
When: 6:30 p.m. today, 5 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: McKethan Stadium
Radio: AM.850-, 98.1-FM
Online: SEC Network+
Today’s pitching matchup: Mizzou LHP T.J. Sikkema (2-2, 2.90 ERA) vs. UF RHP Brady Singer (7-1, 3.00)