GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Friday night pitching matchup between two of the Southeastern Conference's top aces -- James McArthur of Ole Miss and Florida's Alex Faedo -- lived up to its billing until the fourth inning of the Gators' 11-2 win.
McArthur, a 6-foot-7 right-hander and reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, retired the first 10 Gators he faced but ran into a mess in the fourth as the Gators broke a scoreless tie with seven runs in the inning, highlighted by Ryan Larson's grand slam. The breakout inning was ample support for Faedo, who tossed six shutout innings. Faedo struck out nine, walked three and gave up three hits to improve to 7-1, tying Jackson Kowar for the team lead in victories.
Coupled with Kentucky's 5-3 loss earlier in the day to Georgia, the Gators (33-13, 14-8 SEC) moved into a first-place tie with the Wildcats (31-15, 14-8) in the SEC East. The Gators dropped as far as three games behind Kentucky in the division before getting hot. The Gators have won seven consecutive games and are 13-2 since losing a home series to Tennessee on April 7-9.
Back to that fourth-inning outburst for Florida, which marked the sixth time in the last 14 games the Gators have scored five or more runs in an inning. They did it just once in their first 32 games.
Dalton Guthrie's one-out single gave the Gators their first base runner of the game and Austin Langworthy's walk put two on for UF. After McArthur struck out Nelson Maldonado for the second out, he walked JJ Schwarz to load the bases, setting up the most important at-bat of the game.
Christian Hicks fell behind 0-2 in the count and fouled off 10 pitches to get the count to 3-2. McArthur's 15th pitch to Hicks was ball four, which pushed home Guthrie from third to give Florida a 1-0 lead. That's when Larson stepped to the plate and hit a grand slam to left field. Just like that, the Gators led 5-0 and cruised the rest of the way behind Faedo and the bullpen.
Ole Miss spoiled the shutout when pinch-hitter DJ Miller hit a two-run homer off UF reliever Cole Maye in the ninth.