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Friday May 20, 2011Kentucky Evens Series With No. 4 Florida, 14-1

Gainesville, Fla.

Kentucky (25-29/8-21 SEC) squared its weekend series with a 14-1 victory over No. 4 Florida (40-15/21-8 SEC) on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. Junior right-hander Alex Meyer (7-5) registered nine strikeouts and permitted one run on five hits over seven innings and was supported by a balanced Wildcat offense that banged out 18 hits and scored multiple runs in the third (three), fifth (seven) and seventh (two). With victories by No. 2 South Carolina (6-3 at Alabama) and No. 3 Vanderbilt (9-3 at Georgia), the Gators, Gamecocks and Commodores are all tied for first place in the SEC entering tomorrow’s final day of the regular season.      


Kentucky broke the ice in the first inning on an RBI grounder by junior Chad Wright (3-for-5, three RBI, two runs) that brought across redshirt senior Neiko Johnson (3-for-5, four RBI, four runs). Johnson drew a leadoff walk from sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (8-3), just the seventh free pass issued all season by the right-hander. An errant pickoff throw by Randall enabled Johnson to take third and Wright’s one-out grounder to second base scored Johnson.


Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-4) reached on a leadoff error by freshman Matt Reida in the bottom of the stanza but Meyer had senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) line into a 4-3 double play. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (1-for-3) poked his 14th double into right center with two down before Meyer had sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) fly out to right field.


The Wildcats used four-straight two-out hits in the third to build a 4-0 lead. Randall retired the first two Wildcats before senior Taylor Black (3-for-5, two runs) belted his fourth homer into the left-field bleachers. Wright then doubled down the left-field line and scored on a base-hit into left field by junior Thomas McCarthy (4-for-6, two RBI, two runs), who took second on the relay throw to the plate. Junior Braden Kapteyn (2-for-5, two RBI) roped a single into center field to bring across McCarthy with the third run of the frame.


Kentucky’s attempt to tack on another run in the fourth was cut down when senior second baseman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) threw out freshman J.T. Riddle at home plate. Riddle had opened the inning with a double down the left-field line, went to third on a grounder by freshman Lucas Witt and tried to score on a grounder by Reida. However, Adams made a strong defensive play and fired a bullet to Zunino to record the out.


UK sent 12 batters to the plate and exploded for seven runs on five hits in the fifth, highlighted by a bases-loaded, three-run double by Johnson, for an 11-0 margin. After yielding an infield single to Black to start the inning, Randall (4.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER) was replaced by freshman Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.). The southpaw plunked Wright for two runners aboard and surrendered a single up the middle to McCarthy that loaded the bases with none out. Senior Matt Campbell (Tampa, Fla.) took over on the hill for Gibson (1 H, 2 R) and permitted back-to-back sacrifice flies by Kapteyn and junior Michael Williams that increased the visitors’ lead to 6-0. After Riddle drew a walk, Witt stroked a single up the middle that brought across McCarthy. A fielding error on the play by Smith enabled Witt to take second and Reida earned a free pass to fill the sacks with two down. Johnson roped a double into the left-field corner to plate all of his teammates and Wright delivered an RBI single to score Johnson and prompt a pitching change. Junior Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) replaced Campbell (0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R) and had McCarthy fly out.


The Gators got on the board in the home part of the inning when Tucker was hit with the bases full. Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) doubled to left with one down, Fontana drew a two-out walk and Smith singled into left field to fill the bags. Tucker was plunked on a 2-0 offering from Meyer to bring in Pigott with the hosts’ lone run.


Reida opened the seventh with a single into left field and scored on Johnson’s double into left center. Black singled through the left side for runners on the corners and a fielder’s choice by Wright plated Johnson to increase the score to 13-1.


Junior Alex Phillips came in for Meyer (7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 9 K, 3 BB) prior to UF’s eighth turn at the dish and was greeted by a single from sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.). The lefty answered by having redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) bounce into a 5-4-3 double play and  Adams fly out. Freshman Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) relieved Poovey (3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R) in the ninth and gave up an RBI single by McCarthy to finalize the 14-1 count. The Wildcats out-hit the Gators, 18-7, and the teams combined to commit five errors.


Freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (6-0, 2.51) will start tomorrow’s series finale at 4 p.m., live on FS Florida, and will oppose UK sophomore Jordan Cooper (3-2, 4.61).


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