Ryan Hall reacted immediately, sprinting toward the wall the moment the ball left Austin Langworthy’s bat.
As the ball got closer, the William and Mary right fielder got slower, eventually coming to a full stop before watching the ball sail over the right field fence, about 10 feet from the foul pole.
Langworthy trotted the bases before being met by a tunnel of teammates after stepping on home plate, each giving the freshman a high-five following his first career home run.
That home run was the beginning of an offensive onslaught that catapulted the Florida baseball team to an 11-6 win and season-opening sweep of the William and Mary Tribe on Sunday afternoon.
“I saw it start to turn a little bit, and I was like, ‘Stay fair, ball,’” Langworthy said. “It stayed fair, so I was pretty happy.”
Langworthy’s home run came a day after he pitched 2 and 2/3 scoreless innings. He’s hitting .444 to start the season and his ERA is zero. But while his home run on Saturday was the day’s first, it wasn’t the most impressive.
That distinction belongs to second baseman Deacon Liput, who hit a towering three-run shot over the scoreboard in right field and onto Stadium Road. Those three RBIs led the team, while Langworthy had the most hits with three. Freshman Keenan Bell also homered — his first in college — in the bottom of the seventh.
“Those are one of those things where you just hit it so well, you don’t even feel it,” Liput said of his home run.
Not to be outdone, however, Florida starter Jackson Kowar was equally potent on the mound.
Armed with a 95-mph fastball and a dancing changeup, the sophomore accumulated 10 strikeouts and gave up three runs over 5 and 2/3 innings pitched.
Of Florida’s three weekend starters (Alex Faedo, Brady Singer), it was Kowar who racked up the most strikeouts, threw the most innings and tied Singer for the fewest earned runs allowed with one.
“After watching the first two nights, I got kinda antsy,” Kowar said. “So I was just excited to get out there and help the boys out.”
The Gators’ bullpen also continued a solid start to the season until the eighth inning, when freshman Nate Brown made his college debut. The righty allowed three hits and three earned runs in his inning of work. Other than Brown, no Florida relievers have allowed a run.
“I’m very, very optimistic about our bullpen,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s just a matter of when the light goes on and kinda clicks for them.”
Florida is back in action on Tuesday when it travels to Jacksonville to take on the Jacksonville University Dolphins in its first road game of 2017. Sophomore Michael Byrne will get the start.
Entering that contest, three players are tied for the team lead in RBIs with four, while shortstop Dalton Guthrie leads in hits with five.
“We’ve gotta continue to build our depth,” O’Sullivan said.
“We’ve got a long ways to go still.”
Contact Ethan Bauer at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ebaueri.
UF outfielder Austin Langworthy connects with a pitch during Florida's 8-1 win over William & Mary on Feb. 18, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.