No. 4 Gators rack up 13 hits to defeat No. 19 Wildcats
Lexington, Ky. - No. 4 Florida topped No. 19 Kentucky by a 10-3 tally powered by 13 hits in game one at Kentucky Proud Park on Thursday night.
BT Riopelle (2-for-4) drove in a team-high four runs while Wyatt Langford (3-for-5) churned out three hits including two doubles to go along with three runs and two RBI. Cade Kurland (3-for-4) reached base four times and finished with three runs scored.
The Gators (41-12, 19-9 SEC) busted out to a host start, putting two runs on the Wildcats (25-16, 15-13 SEC) in the top of the first inning. Kurland drew a leadoff walk and scored on an RBI double into the right-center field gap by Langford. From there, Jac Caglianone made it 2-0 with a single up the middle to plate Langford.
Florida starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep blanked Kentucky across the first two frames, with Josh Rivera receiving a relay throw from Tyler Shelnut to cut Jase Felker down at home for the final out of the second.
The Wildcats broke through in the third, loading up the bases with two outs. An RBI infield single by Emilien Pitre allowed Chase Stanke to cross home safely, moving the score to 2-1. Kentucky drew even one inning later on a James McCoy sacrifice fly to center field.
After Waldrep stranded a lone Wildcat in the bottom of the fifth, Florida regained the lead in the next half inning. Kurland and Langford swatted back-to-back doubles to get it started, followed by an RBI single to left off the bat of Josh Rivera. Riopelle also got in the action, driving in Caglianone and Rivera with a two-run double into the left-field corner. Luke Heyman capped off the five-run outburst with an RBI single to left to score Riopelle.
Kentucky got one run right back, using a solo homer by Grant Smith to cut Florida's lead to 7-3. Florida had an answer in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on an RBI groundout by Rivera and two-run single to center from Riopelle.
With a 10-3 lead, the Gators turned to reliever Ryan Slater following the seventh-inning stretch. The righty worked scoreless innings in the seventh through the ninth to record his third save of the season. Slater finished with three innings pitched, allowing three hits and striking out three.
Waldrep (7-3) picked up the win after turning in his sixth quality start of the season. The right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) across six innings while fanning six Wildcats.
Kentucky starter Travis Smith (4-3) was saddled with the loss after allowing five earned runs in five innings. Smith gave up four hits and two walks while striking out four.
- With Arkansas defeating Vanderbilt on Thursday, Florida (19-9) remained in first place in the SEC East while trailing the Razorbacks by one game for the top spot in the SEC.
- Waldrep turned in his sixth quality start of the season - his first wins April 15 vs. Georgia. Waldrep won his first game since April 7 at No. 11 Tennessee.
- Langford notched his seventh three-hit games of the season, tying Caglianone for the team lead.
- Kurland recorded his sixth three-hit game of the year.
- Florida's one-two-three hitters (Kurland, Langford, Caglianone) scored eight of Florida's 10 runs.
- Florida has struck out 543 batters in 451 innings - translating to 10.8 per nine innings, which would mark a new program record.
- The Gators have 538 hits through 53 games (10.2 hits/game).
- The Gators have scored in 46.6% of batted innings (198 of 425).
- Florida is now 147-71-1 all-time vs. Kentucky including 63-38-1 in Lexington. The Gators are 26-20 in the series under O'Sullivan featuring a 12-10 mark on the road.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
On the game...
"Hurston pitched really good. If he can get three runs or less with six innings, you'll take it. He only gave up two earned runs. Slater came in and did a real nice job to close it down. Offensively, we turned the lineup over twice. Cade (Kurland) led off the sixth and we scored the five runs that inning. I think he led off the seventh as well and we scored three. We swung the bats well offensively. We got off to a good start. Their pitcher did a real nice job of throwing the ball in the low part of the zone. We beat a lot of balls into the turf from the second through the fifth. We did a real nice job. They're really tough to beat at home."
On Waldrep's sixth inning...
"I told him that before he went out there. It was a really long inning for him. When he went out for the sixth, we scored the five there. The bottom line is I just told him that we're going to turn the lineup over and this is the most important inning of the game. He did a real nice job of stranding a leadoff double. We still made some mistakes. We didn't cover first that one inning and we were late another time. We made the base running mistake with Cade and one out, going on contact. There are some things that we obviously need to clean up like everyone does. All-in-all it's a road win. This time of the year. We're playing for something. You've gotta be pleased with that."
On Kurland's performance...
"He's been swinging the bat really good. He uses the whole field. He hit a double to left-center gap, hit the ball the other way tonight. He's done a real nice job. He started the game with a leadoff walk. He's done a really nice job for us. It gives us a chance to get Wyatt (Langford), Jac (Caglianone), Josh (Rivera) and BT (Riopelle) to the plate. He's had a really good last four games for sure."
Florida and Kentucky go head-to-head in game two on Friday with coverage on SEC Network+ at 6:30 p.m. ET. Right-hander Brandon Sproat (7-4, 4.44 ERA) takes the bump against righty Zack Lee (4-2, 3.42 ERA) for the Wildcats.