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Thursday, December 09, 2021

UF's home-run leader injured in series win over Vanderbilt

<p>Peter Alonso bats during Florida's 10-4 loss to Mississippi State on April 9, 2016, at McKethan Stadium.</p>

Peter Alonso bats during Florida's 10-4 loss to Mississippi State on April 9, 2016, at McKethan Stadium.

Florida may have won its weekend series against Vanderbilt, but it lost its best hitter in the process.

First baseman Peter Alonso suffered a small fracture in his left hand Friday night after he was drilled by a Jordan Sheffield mid-90s fastball in the seventh inning.

Alonso trotted down to first but was replaced by a pinch runner when he reached third base.

UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he expects Alonso will be out of his cast and healthy for regional play, which starts June 3.

“I hate it for Pete, I hate it for our team,” O'Sullivan said. “But at the end of the day there’s nothing we can do at this point except try to get him back, get him healthy.”

Alonso has been the offensive heart and soul for the Gators (43-9), who are having the best season in program history.

The cleanup hitter leads Florida in nearly every offensive category, including  batting average (.352), home runs (9) and RBIs (47).

UF pounded out 13 hits Sunday but was three-hit Saturday, after which shortstop Dalton Guthrie and the rest of Florida’s hitters felt the absence of Alonso’s bat.

“Obviously, Pete’s our best hitter. It’s tough,” Guthrie said. “But it just means people are gonna have to step up and fill in for him. This is where people fill some shoes and make a name for themselves.”

First up on that list is Jeremy Vasquez.

Vasquez, who manned first base in UF’s last two games, is no stranger to the corner position — Sunday marked his 14th career start at first base.

While the sophomore went just 1-for-6 with an RBI between Saturday and Sunday, he’s still hitting .300.

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O’Sullivan said he trusts Vasquez to produce, despite having significantly less power than Alonso — he has zero homers this year.

“This is college baseball. We don’t have minor leagues where we can call people up,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s gonna have to step up. Some other guys are gonna have to step up. He’s certainly capable.”

Without Alonso, O’Sullivan will likely mix and match the lineup to help create runs. But he said he wants hitters to stay simple and focus on squaring balls up.

“I don’t want guys to change their approach like, ‘Well, I hit fourth now so let’s try to hit home runs,’” O’Sullivan said. “Let’s try to have good at-bats.”

This isn’t the first time Alonso has been shelved due to injury.

He missed Florida’s first 30 games last season after breaking his right foot three days before the season opener.

Bad luck struck again a month after he returned in April when a ball hit his face and broke his nose in a batting-practice session.

O’Sullivan said Alonso will bounce back just as he as from his other injuries.

“He’s resilient,” he said. “I think the news of him being told that there’s a really good chance he’ll be back in regionals, that was positive.”

Contact Patrick Pinak at ppinak@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter @Pinakk12

Peter Alonso bats during Florida's 10-4 loss to Mississippi State on April 9, 2016, at McKethan Stadium.

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