OMAHA, Neb. — Right fielder and Florida baseball offensive stalwart Neslon Maldonado was in visible pain through the last four innings of Florida’s 3-0 win over TCU. But he’s confident the pain will pass quickly.
Maldonado injured his right ankle rounding third base in the fifth inning Sunday night. 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 Florida baseball 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 Gators’ locker room for precaution, but the boot isn’t sealed on.
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 to field the top of the seventh before leading off the bottom half of the inning. One lazy popout to right field later and O’Sullivan removed Maldonado from the game for some extra rest.
Prior to the injury, Maldonado had been the Florida baseball team’s most potent offensive weapon. Through five innings, Maldonado 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 innings, Maldonado was the only Gator with a hit off of him. The bottom of Florida’s order opened him up for two hits in the fourth, leading to a breakout fifth where Guthrie, Schwarz and Maldonado singled in succession to chase Janczak out of 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 his pitch count up.
“As the game went on, we expected to have better at-bats,” Maldonado said. “We expected to see the ball come 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 night at 7 p.m. ET versus Louisville. Stay posted to SEC Country all week for updates from Omaha.
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