The No. 20 Florida Gators (20-11) survived a late rally by No. 19 Kentucky (21-10) Saturday afternoon in game two of the three-game series. In a game that featured 21 runs and 29 hits between the two teams, Florida came out on top 11-10 after having their 9-run lead cut to one in a single inning.
With Florida up 9-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Kentucky came fighting back with a three-run bomb by DH A.J. Reed. The Wildcats then scored five runs with two outs after multiple hits and walks to reach base. The Gators used four pitchers in the inning, with junior Ryan Harris finally being able to record the third out of the inning.
The Gators started the game off with a single by second baseman Casey Turgeon and a walk by shortstop Richie Martin. After both advanced on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Harrison Bader, catcher Taylor Gushue hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Turgeon. Junior Braden Mattson then singled home Martin to give the Gators an early 2-0 lead.
A solo home run by Gushue in the third increased the Florida lead to 3-0. In the sixth inning, the Gators struck for five runs on four hits and one Kentucky error, capped off by a 2-RBI single from Gushue. Florida increased its lead even further with a solo home run from first baseman Zack Powers to make it 9-0.
After the Kentucky comeback and up by a run, the Gators scored two insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning. Freshman John Sternagel hit an RBI single scoring Powers who had been hit by a pitch earlier in the inning. Turgeon then hit a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Jason Lombardozzi who ran for DH Peter Alonso after he doubled.
Florida faced a late surge from the Wildcats in the bottom of the ninth. After getting the last out of the previous inning, Harris was able to get the first out of the final inning but not before giving up a run and putting runners on base. Freshman A.J. Puk came on and gave up one run that was credited to Harris and then was able to get the final two outs. Kentucky left two men on base to end the game. Puk recorded his first save of the season.
Eight Florida starters recorded at least a hit and scored at least a run. Martin was a perfect 3-3 on the day with two walks. Sternagel was 4-5 from the ninth spot in the batting order and had 2 RBI. Gushue was 2-4 and led the Gators with 4 RBI.
Florida starter Logan Shore (3-1) picked up the win for the Gators. He didn’t allow a run over the first seven innings and gave up only three hits with three strikeouts. Junior Chandler Shepherd (5-2) took the loss for the Wildcats after allowing seven runs in 5.1 innings.
The Gators scored 11 runs on 17 hits and had no errors. Kentucky had 10 runs on 12 hits and had one error defensively.
The same two teams will meet tomorrow for the tie-breaker in the series. Junior Andrew Nelson (1-2) is scheduled to pitch for Kentucky and Florida’s pitcher is TBA.