LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With the game locked in a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning, No. 5 Florida got a leadoff triple and a game-winning RBI single from Josh Tobias, adding a ninth-inning rally to post a 5-1 series-clinching win over No. 3 Kentucky, just UK’s second series defeat of the year, on a pleasant Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (36-11, 14-9 Southeastern Conference) suffered just its second series defeat of the season with the loss in the second game of the series. The Gators claimed the opener on Thursday night, 5-3, picking up the clinching win on Friday. The series loss is UK’s second consecutive, falling at defending SEC Champion Vanderbilt, before preseason consensus No. 1 and also the defending SEC Champion Gators won the series with wins Thursday and Friday.
The Wildcats mounted eight hits in the game, leaving 10 runners on base. UK got two-hit games from Luke Maile and Paul McConkey, with Zac Zellers, J.T. Riddle, Michael Williams and Matt Reida adding hits.
After both teams plated one run in the first inning, the starting pitchers settled in with scoreless frames entering the eighth inning. Florida got a leadoff triple and a RBI single for the game-winning hit, handing UK the series loss.
UK starter Jerad Grundy (4-2) suffered the loss in a career-long 7.1 innings, allowing six hits and two runs, walking one and striking out two in his fourth quality start of the year. Senior Alex Phillips came on in the eighth, with UK also using Tim Peterson and A.J. Reed in relief.
Florida (35-12, 14-9 SEC) starter Karsten Whitson, a first-round MLB Draft pick out of high school, worked 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking three and striking out two. He was replaced with a runner in scoring position and two outs in the fifth inning by lefty Bobby Poyner. Poyner worked out of the jam, totaling one shutout inning, allowing two hits. Greg Larson (6-0) took over for Poyner with runners on the corners and two outs getting out of the jam to work 1.1 perfect innings for the win. Lefty Steven Rodriguez closed out the game for his second save of the year.
The series will conclude on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with fans in Central Kentucky able to hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.44 ERA) vs. Florida All-America junior lefty Brian Johnson (5-3, 4.50 ERA).
Florida got on the board in its first opportunity, as Nolan Fontana led off with his seventh double of the year down the rightfield line. Daniel Pigott’s sacrifice bunt pushed Fontana to second base, with Preston Tucker pulling a grounder through the right side for an RBI single to give UF an early 1-0 lead.
UK answered in the bottom of the first, as Cousino got hit by a 1-2 pitch to leadoff, taking second on a wild pitch. McCarthy then drew a walk to bring up Maile, who smashed a 0-1 pitch into leftfield for an RBI single to score Cousino from second.
Florida plated the decisive run in the top of the eighth inning, as Casey Turgeon led off with a triple off the wall in rightfield. Justin Shafer followed and grounded out to the drawn-in infield, keeping Turgeon at third base. Josh Tobias then provided the game-winning hit, lofting a single into shallow right-centerfield to score Turgeon.
Florida added insurance in the ninth, as Tucker drew a four-pitch walk and Zunino doubled off the wall in leftfield. Brian Johnson then hung a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score one and push Zunino to third base. Pinch hitter Jeff Moyer then chopped a RBI single into rightfield to score Zunino. Turgeon then singled through the left side, with both runners taking an extra base with a double steal. Justin Shafer then hung a sacrifice fly to rightfield to make it 5-1 Florida.