Dent finds spark with new swing

Cody Dent found something new this offseason while joking around in the batting cage. He was hitting over the summer with his dad, Bucky, and started using an exaggerated leg kick to start his swing. What started as a joke began to produce better timing. Dent returned to Gainesville in the fall, and the Florida coaches approved. The results were easy to see during the opening weekend.

"It was something I was just messing around with this summer," Cody Dent said. "My dad said to just stay with it. When I got back here, the coaches said they liked it and to keep working on it."

The initial approval from his dad, 1978 World Series MVP Bucky Dent, was the first step. Cody Dent didn't have much of an offensive track record during his first three years at Florida. Serving as a utility infielder with a light bat, Dent was hitting .180 (35-for-194) with just two extra base hits in his career.

The power might not come, but if Dent continues to do what he did in the opening weekend against Duke, that won't be a big deal. The senior center fielder went hit .375 (3-for-8) this weekend and added a walk. He even recorded his second career double over the head of the right fielder on Sunday.

Dent is actually getting to fastballs now. His bat speed lagged over the last three seasons, causing him to be late to the ball and often foul off hittable pitches. That changed this weekend with the help of his leg kick. He's more prepared to get to a fastball and is hitting the ball harder because of it.

"It has helped with my timing a lot more," Dent said. "I get timed up for a fastball and won't swing at a breaking ball until there are two strikes."

Dent will now be given a chance to hit higher in the lineup this season. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said he thought about doing it before Saturday's game, but he didn't want to put too much pressure on the senior's bat. That chance to hit higher could come when Florida travels to Orlando to take on UCF at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"He had a great weekend," O'Sullivan said. "He has earned the opportunity to move up in the (order). He has been swinging the bat real good."

Dent has also been making adjustments in the field. He spent the offseason practicing in the infield and outfield during scrimmages. When the opening night lineup was posted on Friday, Dent found himself in center field. He played in the outfield some last season after Tyler Thompson went down with a torn ACL.

The coaches thought it was better to play senior Daniel Pigott in center field and Justin Shafer in left field, so Dent went back to his role as the utility infielder. He had to learn the outfield some during the 2012 season, but now playing primarily in the outfield this season, he's still getting more comfortable by the game in the outfield.

(It's the) reads," Dent said about the toughest part of the outfield. "The biggest thing is low line drives and getting used to seeing it. It's tough. I've done it in the outfield during batting practice running down fly balls, but never actually in a game."

The few veteran players on the Florida roster are happy to see the positive things happening to Dent. After a rough first three years in Gainesville, the senior stuck with it and didn't give up. He now has a chance to put together a solid senior campaign and earn a short at playing professional baseball.

"He's a solid defender and a spark at the plate," Florida first baseman/designated hitter Zack Powers said. "It's great to have him."

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