GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida baseball freshman Austin Langworthy pretty much did it all in his collegiate debut last weekend.
Langworthy hit his first home run, picked up 4 hits in 9 at-bats and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief while helping the Gators to a 3-game sweep of William & Mary.
If there will be a learning curve in making the transition from high school star to SEC contributor, well, Langworthy isn’t showing it. He looked like a veteran from the start and talked like one too.
“I’ve been preparing 18 years for this. Why be nervous?” Langworthy said.
A freshman from Williston, Fla., about 22 miles down the road from the university, Langworthy has been eyeing his opportunity at Florida for several years now, waiting for this moment. And, for that matter, so too has Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan.
“I knew well before he got here. He’s come to our camps since he was a little kid. We recruited him right when he got to high school. We kind of knew,” O’Sullivan said. “I would not be telling you the truth if I told you I was surprised. I’m not. I knew from day 1 he was going to come in and hit. I thought he was one of the best hitters in the state last year, to be honest with you.”
Langworthy hit .453 as a high school senior and over the course of 4 seasons compiled a 0.64 ERA and 28-1 record on the mound in 240 2/3 innings.
A polished player whose 5-foot-9, 190-pound frame belies his power, Langworthy was drafted in the 31st round last summer by the Cincinnati Reds but remained committed to playing college baseball at Florida.
“It was a pretty easy decision to know that I was coming here to the University of Florida, especially being so close to Florida. It just made it so much easier for me,” he said.
It was always Florida, Langworthy said. He estimated he came to about 20 Gators games each of the past 2 seasons, all the while envisioning himself in the orange and blue when his time came.
And again, the Florida coaching staff was just as eager for his arrival.
“We weren’t going to let him go anywhere else. If you have a local kid who’s good enough to play here they’re not going anywhere else. You can’t make mistakes like that,” O’Sullivan said. “But he’s waited for a long time to get his opportunity to come here and obviously we’re excited he’s here because he had an opportunity to sign professionally out of high school. We’re just fortunate that he believed in us. You’re going to see, he’s an All-American type player. And I don’t want to put those types of expectations, but he’s that type of player if he plays the way he’s capable.”
Langworthy, a lefty, made his pitching debut Saturday, coming in to give William & Mary a change-of-pace look after facing flamethrower Brady Singer. He guessed his fastball probably topped out at 84 MPH, but he hit his spots and got the job done while giving up 3 hits, 0 walks and picking up 2 strikeouts.
His role out of the bullpen is still to be determined, but his spot in the lineup looks set after he started 2 of the first 3 games in left field. He was 3-for-4 on Sunday with a double, home run, 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored as he looked right at home, just as he had long envisioned.
“It’s everything I thought it would be,” Langworthy said. “I grew up 20 minutes away so it was a dream to come here and I love it here. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Tuesday: Florida (3-0) at Jacksonville (2-1), Jacksonville, Fla., 6 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Jacksonville at Florida, McKethan Stadium, 6:30 p.m. ET
Notes: O’Sullivan said sophomore right-hander Michael Byrne will get the start Tuesday night. Byrne picked up the win in relief Friday while pitching 3 scoreless innings, giving up 1 hit and striking out 4.
Jacksonville went 33-22 last season and is off to a 2-1 start with wins over Jackson State and Morehead State. The Dolphins have a new head coach in Chris Hayes, but they return 5 starters in the field led by sophomore infielder Dakota Julylia (.285 batting average last season with 7 doubles and 21 RBIs).