GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A college baseball player’s junior season can come with some extra stress and pressure as the Major League Baseball draft looms just months ahead.
Or, in Florida third baseman Jonathan India’s case, it can be a timely showcase and opportunity to boost that draft profile significantly with the payoff for years of perseverance and hard work coming into the focus.
All of that is to say India is likely surging up draft boards with his start to this junior season,
India ranks 14th among all Division I hitters with an SEC-leading .430 batting average through 25 games heading into the No. 2 Gators’ three-game series this weekend with No. 8 Vanderbilt. He’s also tied for 11th nationally with 9 home runs — even though he’ll be quick to say he’s not a home run hitter — third nationally with an .899 slugging percentage and seventh with a .538 on-base percentage.
India is riding a career-best 12-game hitting streak, in which he’s batting .579 with 5 homers, 12 RBIs and 13 runs scored.
“It gives me a lot of confidence, but I knew I could do it, I knew I had the ability to do it. I just had to have a good approach at the plate, and I’m finally doing so,” he said Thursday.
Said Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan: “That junior year sometimes they tend to press a little bit and try to hit balls to the pull side and try to hit with more power and that type of thing, but the most impressive thing for him is developing as a hitter and using the whole field and not falling in that trap that a lot players do.”
No. 8 Vanderbilt at No. 2 Florida
Where | McKethan Stadium, Gainesville
Friday | 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network, Florida RHP Brady Singer (5-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. Vanderbilt RHP Drake Fellows (4-0, 2.16)
Saturday | Noon on ESPNU, Florida RHP Jackson Kowar (4-1, 3.13) vs. Vanderbilt RHP Patrick Raby (2-3, 2.19)
Sunday | Noon on SEC Network, Florida RHP Tyler Dyson (4-1, 2.10) vs. Vanderbilt RHP Mason Hickman (5-0, 2.08)
India jokes that he doesn’t want to give away his secret, but yes, he has committed to using the opposite field and trusting his hands on pitches away.
It’s something he had never fully embraced in previous seasons, he said.
“I’m just fully committed to it now, and I just feel like I wasn’t fully committed the past years,” he said. “… I’m committed to the right side now. I feel like in past years I wasn’t really trusting my hands, my ability to go that way. But yeah, now I’m just trusting myself at the plate and it’s working.”
Case in point, India’s lone hit Tuesday night against Florida State — one of just 4 hits overall for the Gators in their 1-0 win.
“To be honest with you, thinking back to Tuesday night, the single he had over the second baseman’s head on a breaking ball was maybe one of the best swings he’s had all year,” O’Sullivan said. “He stayed on the ball, he’s matured as a player and it’s been fun to watch.”
India hit .274 last season with 6 homers, a team-best 15 doubles and 34 RBIs, but he’s taken his game to another level this spring.
D1Baseball.com moved India up to No. 1 on its mid-season third baseman power rankings this week.
He says he’s not getting caught up in everything, though.
“I don’t even think of it like that,” he said when asked about his sky-high batting average. “I’m just happy we’re winning and I’m producing for the team.”
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