No. 5 Florida fell just short of sweeping No. 7 Kentucky this Saturday in a crucial SEC series, thanks to nine shutout innings from UK sophomore Corey Littrell, and sophomore closer Trevor Gott stranding the tying run to end the ballgame.
Florida took the first two games of the series, winning 5-3 Thursday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium, and 5-1 on Friday.
Florida’s Preston Tucker started Thursday night off with a bang, blasting a solo homer to right in the first. A wild throw from left and a few deep hits secured another three runs, quickly answered by a deep double by Zac Kellers to put Kentucky on the board. A bomb from Michael Williams came late in the eighth for 2 runs, but the Cats couldn’t finish off the comeback. One more RBI single from Justin Shafer gave Florida a valuable insurance run to finish the game.
On Friday night, Hudson Randall (5-1) pitched into the seventh inning for Florida before lefty Steven Rodriguez threw 2.1 scoreless innings. Kentucky and Florida played evenly throughout the game, staying tied at one into the eighth inning. Josh Tobias earned the lead with an RBI single, and Florida tacked on three runs in the ninth to seal the deal. Sophomore Karsten Whitson (Florida) held the Wildcats at one run over 4.2 innings, and Bobby Poyner, Greg Larson and Steven Rodriguez combined to throw a scoreless 4.1 innings. Kentucky starter Jerad Grundy (4-2) suffered the loss, and pitched a career-long 7.1 innings.
Saturday was a different story for Kentucky. It was still a close game, but it was clear that the Cats had regained some of their confidence, and it showed.
A two-out RBI single by Matt Rieda broke the scoreless tie in the fifth against Florida’s junior starter Brian Johnson (5-4). A pair of Florida errors in the eighth allowed Kentucky to get a valuable insurance run. Florida senior Daniel Pigott led off the ninth with a solo home run, but it wasn’t enough, and sophomore Trevir Gott came in to close out the series finale.
“We hit a little dry spell,” said Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson. “Hopefully we’ll get going in the other direction now, but I’m proud of our kids, you know. Everyone else in our league has had a dry spell. All of the other teams have had one, so maybe that’s our turn. We’d like to get it going. There’s a lot of baseball to be left, and our guys will show up.
Florida plays North Florida at home Tuesday at 7 p.m., and will host Western Division rival Mississippi State this weekend. Kentucky will play at Indiana Wednesday at 3 p.m., and will play host to Alabama in another SEC matchup this weekend.