Sox giving UVA's Hlinka chance to get back in swing

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Christian Hlinka feels like he's getting back into the swing of things as the Tom Sox head down the stretch of their schedule this summer.

Hlinka broke a bone in his ankle while caught in a rundown in practice at Virginia last fall. That injury cost the outfielder his entire sophomore season with the Wahoos. He hadn't faced live pitching in months until joining the Tom Sox this summer.

After easing back into the lineup -- and adjusting to a new position this summer, first base -- Hlinka has started to heat up at the plate for the Sox. He went 7-for-16 with a home run, a double and five RBI during a four-game hitting streak last week that raised his batting average more than 100 points.

He entered Monday's game at home against Waynesboro hitting .256 with two homers and nine RBI in 17 games for the Sox. He added two more hits and another RBI against the Generals.

"You don't realize how much you love the game, and what you do for the game, until you're in a situation where you aren't able to play it anymore. Or you've been injured for a long time, sitting on the sidelines watching a bunch of other guys playing," Hlinka said before Monday's game. "So being able to be back out there, just lace up again, run out onto the field, step in the batter's box, is a great opportunity and so much fun."

Despite joining the team before the start of the season, Hlinka didn't play until the sixth game of Charlottesville's season. He didn't get his first hit until a 3-for-3 night at Covington -- which included his first homer and three RBI -- in his sixth game of the summer.

Hlinka admitted that following his injury, it took some time to get his rhythm back at the plate. He believes he has found that timing again the past few weeks -- and admitted he was surprised by how comfortable he has felt at first base.

Tom Sox head coach Corey Hunt says he could sense Hlinka was knocking the rust off as he got more opportunities.

"As coaches, we've always got to make sure that they're healthy, and they continue to be healthy. We don't want to send them back to school hurt," Hunt said. "So we've kind of eased him into this thing, and gradually pulled him along. But he's been very patient."

"But he's also been ready to go," Hunt added. "He's asked us when he's going to get more chances and things like that. That's what you want out of your guys, is that encouraged spirit to try to get out there and help your teammates."

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