Florida (22-20/9-8 SEC) squared its weekend series with Kentucky (27-11-1/7-9-1 SEC) with a 10-7 triumph in front of 3,342 fans on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. Holding a 3-2 advantage, the Gators tallied five runs in the fourth to pull away and end a five-game slide in league action. Junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) went 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBI and senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a run-scoring single.
Junior Bryan Augenstein (Sebastian, Fla.) evened his season ledger at 4-4 by going 5.2 innings and senior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) worked the final 3.1 frames to pick up his fifth save.
“I am proud of the way our club responded today,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “Bryan’s (Augenstein) strikeout with bases loaded was key, and David (Hurst) was stellar out of the bullpen. We had eight walks today, so we still have work to do with our pitching. We were very fortunate that our offense did such a great job of expanding the lead. Several guys stepped up as run-producers.”
The Gators used an RBI single by LaPorta in the first stanza off junior Andrew Albers (5-2) to grab a 1-0 lead. Freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) legged out an infield single and advanced to second on a passed ball by senior Sean Coughlin. Batting second this afternoon, LaPorta smoked a single down the left-field line to open the scoring.
“We had a lot of freshmen in the lineup today, but we came away with it,” LaPorta said. “That five-run inning was big for us, but it is never over until the last out because every SEC team is great and can come back with one swing of the bat. We have to come out tomorrow and get it done again.”
Kentucky evened the score on freshman Jason Kipnis’ bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the second. Junior Brian Spear drew a leadoff walk from Augenstein and senior Matt McKinney was hit by a pitch before sophomore Ryan Wilkes’ sacrifice bunt put both runners in scoring position. Freshman Keenan Wiley earned a free pass to fill the sacks and Kipnis’ fly ball to center field allowed Spear to come across with the tying run.
UF re-claimed a 3-1 lead with two runs on two hits and a throwing error in the third. Senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) started things off by being hit by a pitch and scored all the way from first base when Albers threw away Townsend’s bunt single. Freshman Jake Hicks (Molino, Fla.) roped a one-out double to right field to score Townsend and was sacrificed to third by classmate Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). Albers jammed freshman Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) on a pop-up behind the plate to end the frame.
The Wildcats pulled to within 3-2 in the fourth on an RBI groundout by Wiley. Spear walked and McKinney singled through the left before Wilkes’ second sacrifice of the afternoon left runners on second and third. A grounder to short by Wiley brought home Spear and pushed Wilkes to third. Augenstein caught Kipnis looking on strikes to keep the Gators ahead by a run.
Florida broke the game open with five runs on three hits in the home part of the inning to create an 8-2 margin. Tignor stroked a leadoff single up the middle, Figueroa was grazed by a pitch and LaPorta walked to fill the bags with none out. Leclerc was hit by a pitch to bring in Tignor and Townsend followed with an RBI single to give the hosts a 5-2 advantage and end the afternoon for Albers (3.0 IP, 8 H, 8 R). Freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) greeted junior reliever Aaron Lovett with a RBI grounder and junior pinch hitter Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) lofted a sac fly to continue the offensive outburst. Pigott’s bouncing ball over Wilkes’ head at shortstop went for a single to score Townsend.
Junior Sawyer Carroll connected on a two-run homer in the fifth to reduce the Cats’ deficit to 8-4. Senior Mike Brown walked with one out and Carroll belted his third round-tripper in the visiting bullpen. With two down, Spear walked, McKinney was hit by a pitch and Wilkes drew a base on balls. Augenstein worked out of the jam by whiffing Wiley for his third K.
The Gators tacked on a pair of insurance runs with two out in the eighth to create a 10-4 margin. Leclerc and Townsend socked back-to-back doubles to switch places and Pisani lashed a seeing-eye RBI single in between short and third to help the Orange and Blue reach double-digits for the first time since April 3, a 16-7 win over No. 1 Florida State.
“It is good to switch things up every now and then and get you out of your comfort zone,” Townsend said. “A lot of times, you get complacent with where you are hitting in the lineup, and it played to our strengths to move it around today. I was doing a decent job of swinging when guys were on base, and a not so decent job of leading off innings. It helped me out to be a little further down in the lineup today, and I was fortunate enough to have the guys ahead of me put the ball in play.”
Brown and Carroll opened the ninth with consecutive singles and Coughlin walked to fill the bases. Spear’s sacrifice fly to center trimmed UK’s deficit to 10-5 and Wilkes roped a two-run, two-out double to bring the visitors within three runs. Hurst closed the door by having Wiley ground out.
Florida out-hit Kentucky, 12-9, as seven different players notched at least one RBI. In a battle of right-handers, freshman Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.) (2-4, 4.87) will start tomorrow’s finale at 11 a. m. against UK junior Greg Dombroski (4-1, 4.35).
Courtesy UF Sports Information