Led by starting pitcher Dustin Beggs and some uncommon offensive heroics, Kentucky (25-16, 10-9) clinched a colossal SEC series in Gainesville with a 7-6 win over No. 5 Florida. UK has won the series versus Florida for three consecutive seasons, which is the first time the Cats have done so since the 1973-75 seasons.
In a bit of a wacky start, UK jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Florida starter Dane Dunning’s misfortune was evident as Marcus Carson led off the inning with a swinging strikeout on a wild pitch, but safely advanced to first base. Dunning then hit the next three batters, bringing Carson home for the first run of the game. After another wild pitch scored Thomas Bernal, Evan White smacked a two-RBI double to left-center, scoring Connor Heady and Greg Fettes.
The Gators responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the second. With bases loaded and no outs, it looked as if Florida was poised for a big inning. However, Beggs kept his composure and surrendered just two sacrifice fly-outs before escaping the jam.
UK stretched the lead to 6-2 in the sixth inning after back-to-back homers by Fettes and Heady, their fourth and second bombs of the year, respectively. The Cats added another run in the seventh to take a 7-2 lead. After Dorian Hairston singled with one out and stole second with two outs, Bernal ripped a double down the left field line to score Hairston.
The Cats held a comfortable five-run lead heading to the bottom of the ninth, but Florida rallied to make things interesting. Kyle Cody came on in relief of Beggs after Josh Tobias led off the frame with a single and Harrison Bader lined out to right. Cody immediately gave up a double to Peter Alonso, scoring Tobias, but got Shwarz to ground out the following at-bat for the second out. Logan Salow then replaced Cody after another single and a walk loaded the bases. After plating a few more, Florida had the tying run on third and the winning run on second for Richie Martin. Attempting to surprise UK, Martin laid down a bunt, but Salow jumped off the mound and flipped the ball to Fettes at home plate for the final out.
While the game ended more dramatically than we might have liked, the Cats looked solid in some very important areas. Beggs had another outstanding performance, working 8.1 innings with six strikeouts and two walks, allowing six hits and three earned runs on a season-high 122 pitches. Salow looked good, as well, in stopping the Gators’ late rally and picking up his third save of the year. UK sluggers Ka’ai Tom and Kyle Barrett finally proved to be human, going a combined 0-for-9 at the plate, but the bottom of the order (Bernal, Fettes, Heady) was 4-for-8 with four RBI and five runs scored. UK also had multi-hit performances from White and Hairston.
The series will conclude Sunday at 12:30 p.m. as the Cats look to sweep an SEC opponent for a second consecutive weekend.
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) April 26, 2015