For the first time in 351 days the No. 6 Florida Gators (32-11, 12-7 SEC) was shutout at home in a 3-0 loss to Kentucky (24-16, 9-9 SEC) on Friday night.
The Florida bats, which had been swinging red hot the past two weekends, ran into a buzz saw in the form of sophomore right-hander Zack Brown. Brown was throwing heat, topping out at 97 MPH, and he kept Florida’s bats off balance with an array of off-speed pitches as well.
“He competed and made pitches when he needed to,” Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “He pitched really well. We had very few opportunities, but when we did, we just didn’t have great at-bats.”
Logan Shore came out of the gate strong, striking out the side in the first inning before a mishap started the second off in the wrong way for the Gators. JaVon Shelby led off the inning and blooped a ball into shallow right field. The outfield was playing for Shelby to pull the ball, so Ryan Larson wasn’t in position to make the play. Dalton Guthrie raced out into the outfield and made a diving effort at the ball but it bounced off the palm of his glove and into foul territory. Larson was able to track the ball down and make a strong throw but it was too late as Shelby slid into third safely.
A groundout to Guthrie score Shelby and Shore worked out of the rest of the inning unscathed but would find himself in trouble once again in the third. Kentucky roped three two-out singles in the inning to score another run, putting Florida in a two-run hole.
The Gators would have a chance to eat into that after Larson and Guthrie singled to start the Florida half of the inning but the Gators squandered the opportunity.
“We had runners on first and second with nobody out in the third, but we just didn’t do much with the opportunities that we had,” O’Sullivan said. “Credit their starter because he did a really good job. He was pretty good tonight. He threw his breaking ball for strikes and wasn’t behind the count.”
Kentucky added an insurance run in the eighth inning and even though Florida would get the tying run to the plate in the ninth it just wasn’t meant to be on Friday.
The loss ends Florida’s six-game SEC winning streak and was the first time the Gators had been shut out since the SEC Tournament Championship game last season against LSU (335 days, 44 games).
Dane Dunning will take the mound tomorrow at 7 pm as Florida tries to even the series against the Wildcats.