Sophomore Chris Rusin kept the Florida hitters off balance in a complete game 9-2 victory Friday night at McKethan Stadium. The southpaw was able to pitch ahead thanks to a six run second inning and a less than enthusiastic Florida squad.
Rusin (4-2) allowed just nine hits and walked only one while striking out eight. It was the longest outing of his young career. The Wildcats moved to 27, 10-1, 7-8-1 in the conference.
“He’s (Chris Rusin) a very good pitcher,” Florida shortstop Cole Figueroa said afterward. “He kept everyone off-balance tonight. I just happened to see him pretty well. He pitched well. You have to give it to him. He threw a hell of game.”
Fresh off a highly emotional 5-4 victory in Tallahassee over Florida State, the Gators (21-20, 8-8) played with little emotion. And that is the most disturbing part. Florida entered the weekend only one game behind in the SEC East. Yet, they came out flat. Meanwhile, the Kentucky dugout demonstrated considerably more emotion.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Figueroa stated. “We can’t come out here flat like we did. We need to keep going, come out tomorrow and play better.”
“Everyone is concious about SEC play,” Figueroa added. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We’re all just looking to get SEC wins all the time, so it is definitely kind of frustrating when we lose.”
Freshman Tony Davis sent the Wildcats down in order in the too of the first, but found the waters awfully rough in the second inning. Davis gave a leadoff home run to Sean Coughlin. Matt McKinney followed with a double in the left-center gap. Davis walked Brian Spear on four consecutive balls. Two batters later, Keenan Wiley doubled to right center, scoring both runners to give Kentucky a 3-0 advantage.
Florida coach Pat McMahon called on Steven Porter to calm the waters. However, things only got worse for the Gators. Jason Kipnis ripped the Wildcats third double of the inning, scoring Wiley. Porter then issued consecutive walks to designated hitter Mike Brown and Antone DeJesus. First baseman Sawyer Carroll then popped a single into left field scoring Kipnis and Brown, who was fortunate that Cody Neer was unable to cleanly field Jonathan Pigott’s throw to the plate for the ‘Cats sixth run of the inning.
Coughlin pushed the Wildcats lead to 7-0 with his second home run of the evening.
Florida shortstop Cole Figueroa led off the Gators fourth with a solo shot over the wall in right center. It was the 8th round tripper of the season for the freshman. He led the Gators with a 3 for 4 performance tonight.
The Gators out together a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth with three consecutive singles by Pigott, third baseman Jon Townsend, and Figueroa. Pigott scored on Townsend’s hit to right field to cut the Wildcats lead to 7-2.
Kentucky added a run in the sixth and seventh inning to push their lead to 9-2.
The Wildcats entered the contest with a .331 batting average, 10th best in NCAA Division I baseball. They pounded out 13 hits overall, five for extra bases.
The Florida pitching staff clearly had no answer for the Wildcats. Davis, Porter allowed six hits and five walks in the first three innings. Davis, Porter, and Kris Gawriluk gave up at least two earned runs, yet worked more than 2.2 innings.
The teams will play the second game of the series tomorrow at 4pm. Kentucky left hander Andrew Albers (5-1, 3.70) will challenge right hander Bryan Augenstein (3-4, 5.93).