Kentucky Evens Series With Ace on Mound

The Kentucky Wildcats (25-29, 8-21 SEC) recorded their first SEC road win of the 2011 campaign with a 14-1 victory over the No. 4 Florida Gators (40-15, 21-8 SEC) in game two of the three-game series at McKethan Stadium Friday night. Josh Adams, Bryson Smith, Tommy Toledo, Matt Campbell, Justin Poovey, and Paul Wilson were honored in a pre-game ceremony celebrating the Gator seniors.

RHP Hudson Randall (8-3) started on the hill for Florida, recording his second loss in three starts. Randall allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits, walking one, and striking out three in 4 IP. Kentucky ace RHP Alex Myer (7-5) was oustanding in 7IP, allowing one earned run on five hits, walking three, and striking out nine batters collecting his seventh win of the season.

Randall opened the game issuing a walk to Neiko Johnson (RF) who advanced to third on a throwing error by the pitcher on a failed pickoff attempt. Taylor Black (SS) struck out, followed by Chad Wright (LF) who grounded out unassisted to first base, but scored Black for an early Wildcat run. Thomas McCarthy (3b) singled into left center field but Brayden Kapteyn (1b) struck out to end the Wildcat first. Nolan Fontana (SS) reached on a fielding error by Kentucky second baseman Matt Reida. On the next at-bat Bryson Smith (CF) popped to Reida, who threw to Kapteyn who caught Fontana tagging up for the double play. Preston Tucker (RF) doubled into right center for his 14th of the campaign. Zunino flied out to right field, ending the first inning 1-0 Kentucky.

Randall retired the Kentucky side in the second, forcing Michael Williams (C) into a groundout, JT Riddle (RF) into a line out, and striking out Lucas Witt (CF). Brian Johnson (DH) with three homeruns and 19 RBIs on the season, reached base on a fielding error by Black. Austin Maddox (1b) struck out looking, followed by a foul out behind the plate by Josh Adams (2b) and a fly out to end the inning by Daniel Pigott (LF).

After back-to-back ground outs to start off the third inning, Black hit a first-pitch homerun over the left field fence for a two-run Wildcats lead. Wright doubled down the left field line and scored on a single into left field by McCarthy, who advanced to second on the throw. A basehit to center by Kapteyn scored McCarthy, and Williams ended the visitor’s half with a flyout to right field and a 4-0 lead. Cody Dent (3b) led off the bottom of the inning with a strikeout, followed by a Fontana single to center field.  Smith struck out, and with Tucker at the plate, Myer pitched out and Williams caught Fontana attempting to steal second for the third out.

In the top of the fourth, Riddle smoked a line drive over the glove of Maddox into the right field corner for a stand-up double. Witt sent a chopper directly at Adams who easily made the throw to first, but Riddle advanced to third on the play. With the infield drawn in, Adams made a diving stop on a Reida grounder saving a run with a quick throw to Zunino, who tagged Riddle out. With two out and Reida at first, Johnson flied out to center field to end the stanza. Preston Tucker flied out to left field, followed by a strike out by Zunino. After issuing Johnson a free pass, Myer struck out Maddox for his fifth K of the contest to end the inning.

After Black singled to third base, Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced Randall with LHP Daniel Gibson who hit Wright on the elbow and allowed a basehit by McCarthy. With the bases loaded and no outs, O’Sullivan opted to pull Gibson in favor of righty Matt Campbell. Consecutive sacrifice flies by Kapteyn and Williams put the Wildcats up 6-0 before Riddle was issued a walk. Witt singled up the middle, scoring McCarthy, and advancing himself and Riddle over a base on a fielding error by Smith in center field. Campbell issued the third walk of the inning to Reida, and Johnson followed up with a double down the line, scoring an additional three runs. Reida landed on first after getting plunked by Campbell, and Wright hit an RBI basehit through the left side, scoring Johnson. With the score 11-0, O’Sullivan made his third pitching change in the fifth inning, putting RHP Justin Poovey on the mound who forced McCarthy to lined out to finally end the inning for the Florida defense. With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Piggot doubled down the left field line. After Dent fouled out, Fontana was walked, and Smith singled through the left side to load the bases. Tucker was hit by a pitch, and without any room, Pigott scored the first run of the game for the Gators, before Zunino grounded out for the third out, 11-1 Kentucky.

Kapteyn led off the sixth inning with a basehit to left field, but Poovey set down the next three Wildcat batters in order. Johnson started the bottom of the inning with a single to center field, followed by Maddox who was struck out for the third time in the ball game. Adams flied out to left field, and Pigott was the seventh victim of a Myer strikeout to end the inning.

With the score 11-1 in the Wildcats’ favor, Reida started off the seventh with a single to left field, and scored on a Johnson double to the gap in left center field. Black singled through the left side for his third hit of the night but was out on a fielder’s choice after a hit by Wright, scoring Johnson. McCarthy flied out to center and Kapteyn fouled out to Zunino to end the half. Dent had a lead off walk in the bottom of the inning. After a Fontana strike out, Tyler Thompson was in to pinch hit for Smith and flied out to center field. Tucker reached on a fielding error by Reida at second, advancing Dent over a base. Ben McMahon pinch hit for Zunino (0-for- ), striking out to end the seventh inning, 13-1 Kentucky.

After Poovey retired the side in the top of the eighth, Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson replaced Myer with lefty Alex Phillips who allowed a basehit through the left side by Johnson. Paul Wilson pinch ran for Johnson, and Vickash Ramjit pinch hit for Maddox; grounding into a 6-4-3 double play. Adams flied out to end the eighth with the Wildcats still up by 12 runs.

Right handed freshman Keenan Kish took the mound for Florida to open the final inning of the contest, forcing the lead off batter Reida to ground out to short stop. Johnson singled up the middle and advanced to second on a wild pitch after a Black strikeout. Wright singled through the right side, and with men on the corners McCarthy had an RBI single to right field, scoring Johnson, before Kish forced Kapteyn into a stanza ending ground out to second. The Gators had back-to-back ground outs to short stop, and down to their last out, Fontana recorded his second hit of the evening, a single to right center. Thompson then ended the game with a strike out.

Shortly after the Florida-Kentucky game ended, Vanderbilt defeated Georgia 9-3, and Alabama fell to South Carolina 6-3 for a three-way tie on top of the SEC leaderboard.

The Gators will play the rubber game with Kentucky tomorrow at 4pm ET. The game will be televised on FS Florida/FSN and online at ESPN3.com.

Dory LeBlanc is a contributing author at GatorsFirst.com and BourbonMeyer.com.  For more thoughts on the Florida  Gators (and more) follow Dory LeBlanc on Twitter (@Dory_LeBlanc).

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