On Saturday the Florida Gators (20-11, 6-4 SEC) held on to avenge a 17-1 loss from Friday night, beating the Kentucky Wildcats (19-12, 6-5 SEC). The Gators built a 9-0 lead through the first seven innings but the Wildcats charged back, scoring 10 runs in the final two frames and had the winning run on second base with one out but Florida was able to hold on to even the series at one.
The Gators wasted no time coming off of an embarrassing loss, putting up two runs in the very first frame.
Casey Turgeon started the game off with a single and was moved over to second on a Richie Martin walk. Harrison Bader moved the duo up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt before Taylor Gushue put Florida on the board with a sacrifice fly that plated Turgeon. Braden Mattson singled to score Martin and Florida had already surpassed their run total from the night before in just one inning.
Florida added a run in the third to extend their lead to three when Gushue launched a ball high over the wall in right field for his fourth homerun of the season.
The Gators had an offensive outburst in the sixth inning exploding for five more runs to extend their lead to eight. The Gators tacked on a run in the seventh inning and it appeared that Florida was exacting revenge for the Friday night beat down.
But then Kentucky came roaring back. Kirby Snead came in to replace starter Logan Shore (7 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 0 R, 1 HBP, 3 K). Snead got into trouble early, allowing Austin Cousino to double before walking Max Kuhn. Wildcat power bat, A.J. Reed homered to put the Cats on the board but they weren’t done yet. Bobby Poyner replaced Snead on the mound and promptly gave up a single and a walk before striking out Kyle Barrett and Thomas Bernal. Pinch hitter Greg Fettes singled to right center plating two, diminishing the Gators’ lead further.
Before the inning was over, Kentucky had scored eight runs, turned a 9-0 game into a one-run contest and swung momentum firmly in their corner.
“It was a wild won, especially after yesterday’s game,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The message we gave the players this morning was the good thing about baseball is that when today’s game started at 1:05 p.m. the game is 0-0. Obviously, that is not how we wanted to script it out with a 9-0 lead. We’ve got to do a better job out of the bullpen there.”
The Gators responded when John Sternagel’s single plated to Gators. The runs proved to be more important than Florida knew at the time.
Kentucky came back out for their final three outs and quickly put two runners on with no outs. Thomas Bernal flew out to center for the first out of the game but a walk to pinch hitter Storm Wilson loaded the bases. O’Sullivan responded by bringing in freshman lefty A.J. Puk who was able to close out the game for the Gators.
“We’ll take it. We’re not going to be bashful about that,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought that A.J. Puk did an outstanding job coming in and finishing out the game. I thought our offense was really good today. We answered back, and scoring those two runs in the ninth there was really important. There are a lot to build upon going into tomorrow.”
Florida and Kentucky will play the series rubber match on Sunday at noon.
- Florida recorded a season and SEC season high 17 hits.
- Florida is 7-3 against top-25 opponents this season.
- The Gators are 9-0 this season when they hit a home run.
- Freshman Logan Shore is now 3-0 in SEC play.
- John Sternagel recorded a career-high four hits on the day.