OMAHA, Neb. — Florida right fielder and offensive stalwart Nelson Maldonado was in visible pain through the last four innings of the Gators’ 3-0 win against TCU on Sunday night. But he’s confident that pain will pass quickly.
Maldonado injured his right ankle rounding third base in the fifth inning. The sophomore tried to slow down, and in decelerating, he rolled the ankle. Maldonado stayed in the game for the next two innings and took one more at-bat before coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced Maldonado in right for the top of the eighth inning.
“It was tough,” Maldonado said of the injury. “It gave me some sharp pain. But I was trying to work through it. Then the coaches eventually said they’d just take me out and give me a little rest time.”
After the game, Maldonado said he’s confident he’ll be able to return for Tuesday when the Gators take on Louisville in their next College World Series game. Maldonado was in a walking boot in the locker room for precaution.
The reason Maldonado said he wanted to stay in the game was to take one last at-bat. That at-bat looked like it was going to come in the sixth, but a JJ Schwarz popup stranded him in the on-deck circle. He limped his way back out to right field in the top of the seventh before leading off the bottom half of the inning. One lazy pop out to right field later and O’Sullivan removed Maldonado from the game for some extra rest.
Prior to the injury, Maldonado had been Florida’s most potent offensive weapon. Through five innings, he was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Along with Dalton Guthrie, Maldonado was one of two Florida batters who recorded multiple hits Sunday night.
More impressively, Maldonado did it against TCU pitcher Jared Janczak. Janczak entered the game with a batting average against of .164, and through 3 1/3 innings Maldonado was the only Gator with a hit off of him. The bottom of Florida’s order followed with 2 hits in the fourth, leading to a breakout fifth where Guthrie, Schwarz and Maldonado singled in succession to chase Janczak from the game.
But that was the plan all along, Maldonado explained. The Gators came into the game knowing that the way to get to Janczak was to drive up his pitch count.
“As the game went on, we expected to have better at-bats,” Maldonado said. “We expected to see the ball coming out of his hand a lot better. That’s all we needed, just to get his pitch count up and see his pitches a little deeper into the game.”
The Florida baseball team will return to action Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET versus Louisville. Stay posted to SEC Country all week for updates from Omaha.