LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Trailing by nine runs entering the eighth inning, No. 19 Kentucky rallied with eight runs in the frame and added two runs in the ninth inning but fell just short in a 11-10 loss to No. 12 Florida, with the Gators evening up the series, on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (21-10, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) fell behind after allowing two runs in the first inning, then allowed a Taylor Gushue homer to lead off the third inning. The Gators then exploded for five runs, with four coming as unearned tallies, in the top of the sixth inning, with UF getting a solo homer in the seventh. The Wildcats got on the board with a three-run homer in the eighth inning from SEC home run and RBI leader A.J. Reed
, his 11th of the year, with UK batting around off five Florida pitchers in the inning to plate eight runs and put the tying run on third base with two outs, with UK just missing a chance to even up the game. The Gators then got two runs in the ninth inning to stretch their lead to 11-8.
UK mounted a rally in the ninth inning to load the bases, as Ka’ai Tom drew a walk to start the inning, trailing 11-8, and Kyle Barrett
singled to leftfield. After a fly out, pinch hitter Storm Wilson
drew a walk to load the bases for freshman JaVon Shelby
. Shelby singled into centerfield to load the bases with one out for Austin Cousino
. Cousino laced a hard-hit grounder into the hole on the left side of the infield, with Florida shortstop Richie Martin making a spectacular play to get Wilson at the third base bag for the second out. That brought up Max Kuhn
, who hit a three-run homer in UK’s 17-1 series-opening win on Friday. Kuhn chopped a grounder off the plate, with the throw beating him to first base to end the game and secure the series-evening win for the Gators.
With a 17-1 win on Friday over the Gators and an 8-3 smashing of No. 8 Louisville on Tuesday, the Wildcats have scored 35 runs in three games this week against top-15 teams. The Wildcats are currently in a stretch of facing ranked foes in 10 of 11 straight games, including top-15 teams in seven consecutive games. UK has opened up the year with a 6-5 record against top-25 foes and a 6-4 mark against teams ranked in the top 15.
UK junior starter Chandler Shepherd
(5-2) suffered his second straight conference loss after opening the first three years of his SEC career without a loss. A native of Louisa, Ky., Shepherd worked 5.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and seven runs – four earned – walking two and striking out one.
With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, UK turned to lefty Sam Mahar
out of the bullpen. Mahar allowed four runs to score in the inning, before getting two outs to escape the jam. In an effort to save the bullpen for the series rubber match on Sunday, Mahar was able to eat up the 1.2 innings, allowing four hits and two runs, one earned. Lefty Matt Snyder
started the eighth inning, working one inning, allowing one hit and a hit batter, allowing a run and striking out one. Kyle Cody
came in with one runner on in the ninth, allowing a double to the hitter he faced, with the runner scoring. Spencer Jack
replaced Cody with two in scoring position and no outs, allowing one hit with the infield in, walking one and working an inning.
A week after working 8.2 innings in a win over No. 4 LSU, Florida standout freshman Logan Shore (3-1) picked up the win with seven shutout innings. Shore, who entered with a 1.35 ERA in a team-high 40 innings, allowed only three hits and three walks, striking out three. Lefty Kirby Snead replaced him to start the eighth, allowing two hits and three runs without getting an out. Bobby Poyner worked 0.2 innings, allowing two hits and two runs, walking one and striking out two. Aaron Rhodes took over with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, not getting an out and allowing two runs. Danny Young, a potential starter for Sunday, allowed a hit to the one hitter he faced. Ryan Harris came on to get the final out in the eighth, working 0.2 innings, allowing two hits and two runs, walking two. Freshman 6-foot-7 lefty A.J. Puk came on in the ninth to get the final two outs for the save, his first of the year.
The Wildcats were led at the plate by Reed, who belted his 11th homer of the year, a three-run shot in the eighth inning. Reed went 2-for-4 with a walk and four RBI, with UK also getting a 3-for-6 game from Cousino. UK got two RBI singles from Max Kuhn
and Greg Fettes
, with Kyle Barrett
, Micheal Thomas
and Thomas Bernal
each adding hits. Freshman second baseman JaVon Shelby
doubled for the sixth time, going 2-for-4 with a walk. Leftfielder Ka’ai Tom drew three walks, his second career three-walk game, scoring a run.
The series will conclude on Sunday at 12 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Florida (20-11, 7-4 SEC) struck first in the top of the first inning, as Casey Turgeon led off the game with a two-strike single up the middle and Richie Martin followed with a four-pitch walk. After a sacrifice bunt, Taylor Gushue scored Turgeon with a sacrifice fly to leftfield. Braden Mattson then scored Martin with a single up the middle.
The Gators added to their lead to open up the third inning as Gushue launched a solo homer over the rightfield fence, his team-leading fourth homer of the year.
Florida added to its lead in the top of the sixth inning, starting with a one-out single by Peter Alonso. Buddy Reed followed and chopped a one hopper to Matt Reida
at shortstop, with the ball skidding under his glove for an error. John Sternagel followed and drilled a grounder off the chest of Kuhn at third base, scoring Alonso from second base. Shepherd then walked Turgeon on four pitches to load the bases and end his outing with one out in the sixth. Mahar got a sac fly from Martin to score Reed and then Harrison Bader singled through the left side to score on run and then Gushue singled through the left side to score two more runs.
Zack Powers got the Gators a run in the top of the seventh, drilling his first homer of the year over the centerfield fence.
UK got on the board in the bottom of the eighth inning as Cousino doubled into the left-centerfield gap, with Kuhn following with a walk. Reed then smashed his 11th homer of the year over the rightfield fence. Thomas followed with a single and Tom drew a walk. Fettes, pinch hitting for Reida, singled into the right-centerfield gap to score two runs. Shelby then drew a walk and Cousino singled to the diving UF shortstop. Kuhn then followed with a two-out, two-RBI single to left-centerfield. Reed followed with a single up the middle to score Cousino. That brought up Thomas with two outs and the tying run at third base, with UK just missing tying the game on an inning-ending pop up.
Florida rallied in the ninth inning with a lead off hit batter and a double from Alonso. With the UK infield playing in and no outs, Mike Fahrman hit a hard-hit grounder to Connor Heady
playing short, with Heady looking the runner back with a diving snag and getting the out at first base. Sternagel then singled, with the infield in, off the diving glove of Kuhn and Heady on the left side, with Alonso taking third after the ball skidded of the diving infielders gloves. Cousino then made a diving catch in left-centerfield that went as a sacrifice fly for Turgeon and an 11-8 lead.