Maddox Ready to Rebound

Maddox Ready to Rebound

Last year presented challenges for Austin Maddox. At the plate, he was adjusting to pitchers attacking his weak spots after he was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2010. Maddox was also adjusting to pitching at the collegiate level. He didn't have much trouble on the mound, as he worked his way up to the closer's role. Maddox knows he has to improve at the plate during his junior season.

It wasn't pretty at the plate. As a freshman, Maddox won SEC Freshman of the Year when he hit .333 with 17 home runs and 72 RBI. Last season, Maddox hit .280 with six home runs and 35 RBIs in just one fewer game played. He went for 33 extra-base hits as a freshman to just nine as a sophomore.

There are plenty of factors that could've played into the statistical decline. Pitchers in the SEC didn't know much about Maddox when he was a freshman. They adjusted to Maddox last season, and he knows it's his turn to make another adjustment this season.

The biggest change has come in confidence. Maddox didn't spend the offseason trying to work on his swing or his approach because they're the same ones that produced big numbers as a freshman.

"I feel like I'm back to my old self," Austin Maddox said. "I feel good at the plate. I haven't really changed much, but everybody goes through those phases where they struggle a little bit. You just have to go back to work."

Maddox saw firsthand how pitchers in the SEC make adjustments from year-to-year as they pitched him differently as a sophomore. On the mound, he's preparing to make similar adjustments.

His statistics on the mound as a sophomore were more that Florida could have expected. He went 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA, striking out 21 hitters in 27 innings and recording five saves. After opposing hitters hit just .198 against him and he walked just three hitters all season, Maddox knows he has to get better.

He spent the offseason working on his off-speed pitches to make that happen. He changed the grip on his slider to give him better command of the pitch. The changeup has also got better since last season, giving him three pitches he can throw for strikes.

"I think it has to do with just locating my pitches and off-speed," Maddox said. "Last year, I got by pretty much just on my fastball. My off-speed was pretty much a non-factor all year. If I have that this year, I'll be good to go."

OUTFIELD CHEMISTRY: After being used in a platoon their first three seasons on campus, seniors Daniel Pigott and Tyler Thompson will get to spend their final seasons on the field together. Pigott and Thompson saw spot duty their freshman years as senior Avery Barnes was entrenched as the starter. Even then, the duo would give him a break whenever necessary.

The decision making for head coach Kevin O'Sullivan the past two years has been simple. If the opponent started a left-handed pitcher, the right-handed Pigott would get the start. If the opponent started a right-handed pitcher, Thompson, the left-handed hitter, would get the nod.

With the graduation of Bryson Smith from center field, Thompson will slide over and play the position, allowing both to be in the lineup together.

"It's going to be nice," Pigott said. "When you spend a little time out of the lineup and then he spends a little time out of the lineup, you're kind of rooting for him when he plays. It's going to be nice to be out there at the same time and do it together."

The benefit of the platoon is that the two have spent a lot of time together. There's built in chemistry that they believe will help their play in the outfield. Communication has come naturally on ball hit into the left-center field gap.

"There's definitely some built in chemistry," Pigott said. "We know where we're at and spend a lot of time working together. It's definitely an advantage. You just know the other person. You know their personality, what they're going to go after and what they're going to let you have. Personality plays a lot into it."

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