Florida found themselves tied 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth after battling back from a 5-0 deficit. Unfortunately, the Gators’ arch-nemesis, defense, once again reared its ugly head.
To lead off the inning, Kentucky’s Cam Hill reached on a bunt single. A wild pitch from Trey Van Der Weide put Hill in scoring position. The following sequence seemed to put momentum squarely in Florida’s hands, however, it was short lived.
Chase Estep singled through the hole to left and Hill aggressively rounded third to head for home. Jacob Young rifled a throw that easily beat Hill, but the Kentucky centerfielder barreled into catcher Nathan Hickey, who held on to the ball throughout the collision. Hickey let Hill know he held, emphatically reaching the ball into his face.
With a runner on second and one out, Kevin O’Sullivan went to Jack Leftwich out of the bullpen.
Leftwich’s third pitch was slapped on the ground to third but Kirby McMullen’s throw was wide of the bag, putting runners on the corners with one down. A stolen base put both runners in scoring position before Leftwich got TJ Collett swinging for out number two and it looked like the Gators might escape without any damage. The next batter, John Rhodes changed that. He singled to center and both runs crossed home plate to nullify the effort the offense made in the comeback bid. Florida went down 1-2-3 in the ninth.
For the Gators, Franco Aleman went six innings, but allowed ten hits and five runs in that span. Florida’s fielding certainly didn’t make things easy on the pitching, recording three errors that led to three unearned runs.
- W: Daniel Harper (3-0)
- L: Trey Van Der Weide (2-2)
- Armstrong: 2-4, R
- Thompson: 2-4
- Young: 1-4, 3 RBI
- Rivera: 1-3, 2B, 2 R, BB
- Aleman: 6 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 K, BB
Florida and Kentucky will continue to battle in game two of the series. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+.