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Florida dropped the series 2-1 to No. 19 Kentucky.

Sunday April 6, 2014Florida Rally Falls Short in Series Finale against Kentucky; Gators Tied Atop SEC East

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida dropped the series 2-1 to No. 19 Kentucky.

No. 20 Florida (20-12, 7-5 SEC) dropped the series finale to No. 19 Kentucky (22-10, 6-6 SEC) by a score of 9-8 after UF entered the eighth inning trailing 9-3. Florida scored five in the eighth, highlighted by designated hitter Peter Alonso’s three-run home run, but could not add another run after getting the tying man on base in the ninth.

 

Kentucky relied on the ‘big inning’ all series, and the finale was no different. The Wildcats put seven on the board in the sixth inning and were able to hold off the late Gator charge.

 

After four Southeastern Conference series, the Gators are tied with South Carolina in first place in the Eastern division. UF will travel to Tallahassee on Tuesday to take on Florida State before beginning a three-game series with the Gamecocks in Columbia on Friday.

 

Kentucky struck first with a run in the second off of three consecutive singles. The Gators responded with a pair in the third. Third baseman John Sternagel kept the inning alive with a single and second baseman Casey Turgeon reached on an error. Shortstop Richie Martin delivered the big hit with a 2-RBI double to center.

 

UK answered in the bottom half with a solo shot off the bat of A.J. Reed, his third of the series. Justin Shafer (1.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 K) replaced starter Kirby Snead (2.2 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 1K) in the third and got the Gators out of a jam with a strikeout. Martin gave the Gators the lead in the fifth as the bottom of the order produced for the second time through the order. Alonso led off with a single, but was out at second on left fielder Buddy Reed’s fielder’s choice. Sternagel reached on a one-out error and Martin drove home Reed with a two-out single to right.  

 

Shafer pitched a perfect fourth and was lifted for Bobby Poyner (3-3) in the fifth after Shafer allowed two men on. Poyner forced Kentucky into the a 4-3 double play to end the threat. The Wildcats tied the game with an RBI single in the sixth, and took the 6-3 lead on a three-run homerun off the bat of Max Kuhn. Shaun Anderson (1.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R (1 ER)) came in after Poyner and UK added three more in the inning to make it 9-3 after six.

 

Florida led off the eighth with three straight singles from Martin, center fielder Harrison Bader and catcher Taylor Gushue. Gushue’s single to right scored Martin, giving Gushue a team leading 28 RBIs. Right fielder Braden Mattson added an RBI sac fly to cut UK’s lead to 9-5, chasing Dylan Dwyer (3-1).  

 

Pinch hitter A.J. Puk reached base with a single off of reliever Spencer Jack to give the Gators two on with one out. Alonso cleared the bases with the three-run home run to right to close the gap to 9-8. Florida put the tying run on base in the top of the ninth after Bader knocked a two-out single. UK pitcher Kyle Cody forced Gushue to pop out for the final out of the game.

 

Postgame Quotes:

Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan

“I’m really pleased with how we battled back. We made it an interesting game there. The only thing you can do is try to get the tying run to the plate. We had the winning run at the plate with Gushue, the guy you probably want in that situation. From that point of view, it was a really good comeback. When you’re down 9-3, all you can ask from your team is to keep battling and keep plugging along.”

 

On the pitching staff…

“I thought Kirby was pretty good to start the game. The only at bat I thought he could do better was when he gave up that home run to Reed. We talked about it before the game. If you’re going to miss, you’re going to miss to the side of the plate you’re going to. It was supposed to be a fastball away and he missed in the middle. That was disappointing. Anderson came in and left a ball up in the zone in the sixth. You’ve got to get the ball down in there. It’s a learning experience for him. Most importantly, I was really pleased with how Karsten Whitson (pitched the ninth inning) threw. I’m looking at it now and we probably should have brought him in earlier. He looked really comfortable. Bottom line is we need to get him back out there. He showed a lot of confidence and I was pleased with that.”

 

On offensive leaders…

“Pete had a great weekend. He swung the bat really well and that’s why we left him in the lineup when he was struggling earlier in the year. He’s got to hit for us to be as good as we want to be. I thought Richie had an outstanding weekend as well. Three for three yesterday, another three hits today, really good this week.”

 

Florida Leaders:

·         Martin contributed a season best three RBI and registered his fourth multi-RBI game of the year.

·         Martin’s third inning double was his ninth of the season, which ranks second on the team.

·         Martin finished the series 6-10 with four RBI, two walks and two runs.

·         Alonso’s eighth inning three-run homer was the second of his career. His three RBIs were a career high.

·         Alonso ended the series 7-13.

·         Gushue drove in five runs over the course of the series and ranks fifth in the league with 28 RBIs.

·         Sternagel wrapped us his series 5-8 with two RBI and two runs.

·         Reed stole his second base of the season.

 

Gators by the Numbers:

·         UF has claimed 14 of its last 20 contests and boasts a 5-6 record away from Gainesville (3-6 in true road games, 2-0 at neutral sites). Florida has dropped three of its last four games.

·         The Orange and Blue is 7-4 against top-25 opponents, including a perfect 4-0 against top-5 competition this spring.

·         After six innings this year, Florida is 12-1 (.923) when leading, 1-11 (.083) when trailing and 7-0 (1.000) when tied.

·         The duo of Richie Martin (SS) and Casey Turgeon (2B) has started all 32 games at their respective positions. Taylor Gushue has started all 32 games this year with 25 coming at catcher and six at designated hitter.

 

Series Nuggets:

·         Florida holds a 133-61-1 advantage in the all-time series, including a 57-34-1 edge in Lexington.

·         Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is now 11-10 against Kentucky, 5-4 in Gainesville and 6-6 in Lexington.

·         The Gators have captured 10 of their last 14 series against the Wildcats. Florida has notched 2-1 series triumphs in four of the last six seasons (W, L, W in 2009; W, W, L in 2010; W, L, W in 2011; W, W, L in 2012), with Kentucky emerging victorious last March in Gainesville (UF 4-1, UK 11-5, UK 6-2) and this weekend in Lexington (UK 17-1, UF 11-10, UK 9-8)

 

Road Tripping: Today’s contest was the third of an eight-game road trip for the Gators. Florida is 1-2 after the first three games. The Gators will face Florida State on Tuesday before a three-game series against South Carolina and a midweek contest at Florida Gulf Coast.

 

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