GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Tristan Pompey's fourth inning grand slam sparked Kentucky to a 12-4 series-opening win over Florida in Gainesville, taking out one of the Southeastern Conference's top starting pitchers in the process.
UK's 38 wins are the sixth most in school history and most since the 2012 team won a school-record 45. The Cats' 19 SEC wins trail only the 2006 championship team's 20 for most in a season.
The Cats pounded out 20 hits against the Gators, tying for the most they've had in a conference game this season. UK scored in five consecutive innings after Florida (38-15, 19-9) took an early 3-0 lead, piling on insurance runs after Pompey's two-out blast over the right field wall changed the momentum of the game.
UK's win, coupled with LSU's road victory over Mississippi State, created a three-way tie for first in the SEC standings with two games remaining on the schedule. The Cats control their own destiny and with two wins would claim at least a share of the second championship in school history.
UK starter Sean Hjelle was erratic in the first two innings, but minimized the damage to give the league's top offense a chance to get the Cats back in the game. With two outs in the fourth, the Cats loaded the bases off Alex Faedo and Pompey fought off several two-strike pitches before sending a laser screaming out to right field. The shot opened the floodgates and helped push Hjelle to his ninth win on the season, tying him for sixth on UK's single-season list.
The teams return to the diamond Friday night for a 7 p.m. start at McKethan Stadium. Zach Logue will get the ball for UK and square off with Florida's Brady Singer.
Kentucky and Florida play the middle game of their series at 7 p.m. on Saturday and fans can listen on the UK Sports Network via UKathletics.com and iHeart Radio, as well as on 630 AM WLAP, and watch on the SEC Network.