GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There are two sets of numbers that tell the story of Florida second baseman Deacon Liput’s 2017 season.
The overall numbers — a .227 batting average with 3 home runs, 37 RBI and 32 runs scored — reflect the extended struggles that defined much of his sophomore season.
But then there is also this: a College World Series-leading 7 RBI, hits in 9 of his final 11 NCAA postseason games and a .302 batting average (13 for 43) with 2 homers and 12 total RBI in that span.
As off as Liput was for much of the season, he was that locked in when it mattered most while helping the Gators to their first College World Series championship.
“Honestly, I really tried to execute. I understood I didn’t have the greatest of seasons, but I just wanted to make sure I could do whatever I can to help this team win,” Liput said, reflecting back on his strong finish.
A draft-eligible sophomore, he was selected in the 29th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he says the plan as of now is to return for his junior season at Florida.
After hitting .270 with 3 homers, 4 triples, 14 doubles and 36 RBI as a freshman, Liput figured to be a key cog in the Gators lineup this season. He had shown increased power through the fall and blasted a mammoth homer in the third game of the year.
Very quickly, though, a prolonged slump overtook him at the plate. His batting average dipped as low as .185 during the team’s first SEC series in mid-March and he was at .212 following Florida’s second NCAA regionals game.
Then something started to click. He went 1-for-3 with 2 RBI against Bethune-Cookman to spark what would become a 7-game hit streak. He crushed a deep home run — his first since that opening weekend — in Game 2 of the Super Regionals against Wake Forest to build more momentum.
And by the start of the College World Series, Liput was back near the top of the order for the Gators. He delivered a 3-run homer in Florida’s second game in Omaha, a 5-1 win over Louisville, and closed with another 3-RBI game in the championship finale with LSU.
“Our coaches talk about whatever happens in the regular season happens, but once you get to postseason you flush it and do whatever you can to help your team and I was able to do that,” he said upon returning to Gainesville with the national champions this week.
“I’ve always been taught since a young age there’s two sides to baseball. There’s offense and defense. Whenever my offense wasn’t going well, I really, really tried to focus on defense because I knew if I couldn’t help my team offensively I could definitely help us defensively.”
Incredibly, nearly a third of his RBI (12 of 37) came in the postseason, as did two-thirds of his homers (2 of 3) and 13 of his 58 hits.
“He’s a great player. Obviously he had struggles throughout the year. It’s not easy to fight back through it, and for him to play defense and get a lot of big hits in that tournament that was huge,” shortstop Dalton Guthrie said. “He might have won that Louisville game. Those were big hits all throughout.”
Had this season gone differently, Liput might have made the jump to pro ball this summer, but now he’s hoping to carry the momentum he created at the end of this season right into the start of next spring.
“I’m really motivated. There will be no settling. We’re going to get right to work and get ready for next year,” Liput said.