Freshman right-hander Eric Hanhold punched the hill for the orange and blue at the start of the 12 p.m. contest to face off against UK’s third left-handed starter of the weekend Corey Littrell.
Hanhold let up a leadoff single to right field off center fielder Austin Cousino, but was able to hold the rest of the Wildcats off for the first inning following the hit with a strikeout and two fly-outs. Littrell’s poise on the mound coasted him through a five-pitch first inning, retiring the Gators in order.
Kentucky at-bats emerged in a big way in the second inning when catcher Micheal Thomas pulled a one-out, three-run home run over the left-field wall to put the Wildcats at a 3-0 advantage.
Florida first baseman Vickash Ramjit led off the UF offense in the second, reaching first off a fielding error by Kentucky third baseman Max Kuhn. Gators third baseman Zack Powers launched a two-out single into center field to put runners on the corners for the Gators, but UF failed to execute, stranding two.
Hanhold let up a leadoff single to first baseman A.J. Reed in the third inning, but Reed was sent back to the dugout off Kuhn’s fielder’s choice to Powers. Kuhn then scored off of second baseman J.T. Riddle’s single to left field to up UK to four runs.
The Gators answered back with a leadoff single from right fielder Connor Mitchell; however, it was Florida’s skewed base-running in the fourth that stained their opportunity to produce on the scoreboard. Mitchell was picked off at first, and shortstop Casey Turgeon, who reached from singling down the left-field line, was charged with the third out while trying to take the extra base off of left fielder Justin Shafer’s single through the right side.
“Our base running has got to get better,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’re just making mistakes that we continue to talk about over and over.”
UF’s starting freshman pitcher failed to retire UK’s leadoff batter in the fourth, letting up a double to shortstop Matt Reida. Reida came across the plate off right fielder Zac Zeller’s single through the left side to chalk up Kentucky’s fifth run of the contest. With two outs and runners on first and second, UF replaced Hanhold with left-hander Daniel Gibson to take on lefty Riddle. The hurler did his job and Reed was out off Riddle’s grounder to short.
Though designated hitter Taylor Gushue and Powers both reached off their singles, UF continued to remain absent on the scoreboard in the fourth.
Gibson held the Wildcats at five in the fifth inning following a strikeout, walk and batter hit by a pitch with a groundout,. double play to bring Florida back to the plate.
Mitchell notched the first multiple-game hit of his career Sunday after he led off with a single into left field.
However, Turgeon grounded the Gators into a double play to leave the bases empty for freshman center fielder Harrison Bader. Florida notched three consecutive singles from Bader, Shafer and Ramjit — who’s left-field single brought Bader home to put UF on the board.
“We have to hit leftys,” Shafer said. “We’ve seen a lot of leftys lately, so there’s no excuse for us not to hit them.”
Gibson maintained command on the hill through the seventh inning and was pulled after walking leadoff batter and left fielder Kyle Barrett in the eighth. The left-hander clocked in a career-high 3.1 innings after 58 pitches. He was swapped for right-handed freshman Mike Vinson. Though Reida’s one-out, RBI single through the right side upped UK’s lead 6-1, Vinson boasted a line-out and strikeout on the Wildcats following the hit.
The Gators would slide in one more run for the day in the bottom of the ninth off Wildcats closer Trevor Gott, after pinch hitter Cody Dent scored off of Shafer’s single up the middle to stick the final score at 6-2.
Florida finished the game with 13 hits versus Kentucky’s 12.
“We had our hits, but we didn’t have many two out hits,” Shafer said. “I think that’s what got us.”
The loss puts the orange and blue at a 9-12 record and a 1-2 run in the SEC. Florida’s next matchup will be at home against North Florida 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m not really worried about UNF, I’m really just concerned about our team,” O’Sullivan said. “We have to figure out a starter (Monday) and just continue to work hard. That’s all we can do.”