The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Gators win series, clinch East division title

514 days ago
Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The UF baseball team's journey from worst to first is complete.

Fittingly, the Gators had to come from behind one last time in Saturday's 6-4 victory over Kentucky at McKethan Stadium.

With an outright SEC East crown and at least a share of the overall SEC regular-season title at stake, the Gators trailed 2-0 as they stepped to the plate in the fourth inning against Wildcats starter Justin Lewis. Dalton Guthrie led off the inning with a line-drive single off Lewis' leg. However, as Guthrie attempted to avoid the throw from third baseman Luke Becker, who scooped up the ricocheted ball and threw to first, he rolled his right ankle after lunging toward the bag.

Guthrie was forced to leave and was replaced by pinch-runner Blake Reese. Once Guthrie was helped off the field, JJ Schwarz stepped into the batter's box with the crowd mostly silent following Guthrie's injury.

Schwarz doubled to move Reese to third to revive the crowd, and then Nelson Maldonado brought fans to their feet with three-run homer inside the right-field foul pole. The Gators suddenly led 3-2 and two more runs in the fifth -- one on Maldonado's RBI double -- and one in the sixth, carried a 6-2 lead into the eighth. Kentucky's Marcus Carson hit a two-run homer in the eighth to make it 6-4.

However, closer Michael Byrne finished off the Wildcats in the ninth clinch the division title. The Gators can claim the SEC overall title if LSU loses to Mississippi State later today. If LSU wins, the Gators and Tigers will be co-champions.

Gators starter Jackson Kowar improved to 10-0 with the victory. Kowar gave up eight hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings. The Gators on their first series against Kentucky since 2012 and first after losing the first game since 2007.