LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sophomore starter Corey Littrell took a shutout into the ninth inning and sophomore closer Trevor Gott set a new single-season record with his ninth save, leading No. 3 Kentucky to a 2-1 win over two-time defending conference champion No. 5 Florida, on a pleasant Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Littrell (7-0) took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning in the longest outing of his career, handcuffing the blistering bats of the high-octane Gators, the NCAA’s leader in homers. A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell allowed a leadoff solo homer to start the ninth inning from UF’s Daniel Pigott as he attempted for the complete-game shutout. UK then turned to Gott, who got one strikeout and the final three outs of the game for his single-season UK record ninth save of the year.
In a scoreless duel between two of the top pitchers in college baseball, UK struck first with a two-out RBI single up the middle from shortstop Matt Reida in the bottom of the fifth inning. UK added an insurance run in the eighth on a RBI from Luke Maile, a rally sparked by Austin Cousino’s leadoff single and aggressive base running.
Kentucky (37-11, 15-9 Southeastern Conference) has now won the fifth-most games in UK single-season history, with UK’s 15 conference wins the third-most in UK history. The Wildcats have improved to 13-4 in one-run games and 14-5 in one or two-run contests, with UK also boasting a 12-8 record against top-25 opponents and 10-5 against top-10 opponents in 2012.
UK totaled seven hits in the game, sparked by Cousino’s 2-for-4 game at the top of the order. Senior catcher Michael Williams added a 2-for-3 game with a double, with UK also getting hits from Reida, Brian Adams and A.J. Reed. In addition to making a diving catch for the game’s final out up the middle of the infield, sophomore second baseman J.T. Riddle drew a walk.
Florida (35-13, 14-10 SEC) starter Johnson (5-4) – a member of the 2011 USA Collegiate National Team and projected first-round draft pick in 2012 – worked five innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out two. He was relieved by flame-throwing Jonathan Crawford, who toiled three innings, allowing three hits and one unearned run, striking out two.
Littrell set a new career high with his eight innings pitched, working his seventh quality start of the year and the 11th of his two-year career. The 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year dropped his ERA to 2.30 and boasts a staggering 7-0 record in 2012, working 74.1 innings with 61 strikeouts and 18 walks. In his eight conference starts, Littrell has a 5-0 record and a 2.50 ERA.
UK will return to action on Wednesday, traveling to face Indiana, in Bloomington, Ind., at 3 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, available in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats were first to get on the board in the fifth inning, as Williams poked a double down the rightfield line, with Riddle drawing a walk. Adams then hung a fly ball down the rightfield line, allowing Williams to move to third base with two outs for Reida. Reida drilled a single into centerfield to score Williams and give UK a 1-0 lead.
Kentucky added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth after Cousino led off with a single up the middle and advanced to second after a misplay by the centerfielder. A well-executed sacrifice bunt from Zellers pushed Cousino to third. With one out, Maile hit a ground ball to third, reaching on an error and scoring Cousino to push the Wildcats’ lead to two.