Jonathan India played the best game of his young career Tuesday night.
In the seventh inning against UCF, the freshman roped his first career home run down the left-field line to give the Gators an 8-3 lead.
In the next inning at third base, India dove to his right on a sharp groundball, popped up and threw out the first batter of the inning.
“That was a big league play,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “You’re not gonna see much better plays at this level.”
Behind India’s career-high three hits, the No. 1 Gators (8-1) defeated the Knights 9-5 at Jay Bergman Field in Orlando.
Florida recorded 14 hits, one shy of its season high. O’Sullivan said he liked the way his team adapted to each of UCF’s six pitchers.
“There was a lot of different things that were thrown at us, so I thought we had a really good approach,” he said.
Florida wasted no time scoring runs.
In the first, the Gators loaded the bases for Jeremy Vasquez, who roped a two-run double to right field to put UF up 2-0.
In the third, Vasquez bolstered Florida’s lead to 3-0 on a sacrifice fly ball that scored JJ Schwarz from third. The sophomore finished the game 1-for-4 with three RBIs.
The Knights (6-3) woke up their bats in the bottom of the third to tie the game.
Brennan Bozeman doubled in UCF’s first run, and Austin Griffin tied the game on a two-run single up the middle.
But in the top of the fourth, O’Sullivan and the Gators played small ball to take back the lead.
Junior Buddy Reed laid down a squeeze bunt that allowed Ryan Larson to score from third and give Florida a 4-3 advantage. A few batters later, Schwarz doubled off the wall in left field to plate India from second, giving UF a two-run cushion.
In the sixth, the Gators tacked on two more runs to take a 7-3 lead.
Dalton Guthrie doubled to leadoff the inning, and Reed lined a ball off the first baseman’s glove to bring Guthrie home. Two batters later, Peter Alonso doubled to right field to score Reed.
Florida pounded out run No. 8 on India’s homer in the seventh, and it added its ninth and final run when Alonso scored after Bozeman committed an error at shortstop. India, a Coral Springs native, finished 3-for-5 with one RBI and two runs scored.
The Knights added runs in the seventh and ninth innings on RBI groundouts to round out their five runs, but ultimately Florida’s offense was too powerful.
On the mound, UF starter Dane Dunning went just 3.1 innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out six.
Florida’s bullpen held off UCF down the stretch, as sophomore Nick Horvath and junior Frank Rubio combined for the final 5.2 innings, surrendering two runs.
O’Sullivan said despite Dunning’s one bad inning, he liked what he saw from the junior.
“Sometimes the line doesn’t always tell the whole story,” he said.
UF and UCF will square off again Wednesday at 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville.
A radio broadcast contributed to this report.