Gators claim SEC opener over Wildcats
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 11:19 p.m.
The Florida Gators parlayed a trio of Kentucky errors and two hits into a decisive three-run seventh to break a 1-1 tie and take the opening game of their first Southeastern Conference series, 4-1, over No. 10 Kentucky on Friday night.
Saturday vs. Kentucky, noon
TV: Sun Sports
It was the first Friday night win for UF (9-10, 1-0 SEC) of the season after four consecutive series-opening losses and also ended a two-game losing streak for the Gators, while the Wildcats slipped to 14-3 overall and 0-1 in the SEC.
For the first time in the last five games, Florida scored first as sophomore Josh Tobias smacked his first career home run, a two-out solo shot over the right field fence, on the first pitch he saw from Wildcats starter A.J. Reed in the bottom of the third.
That staked freshman Jay Carmichael, who was making his first career start, to a 1-0 lead.
“It makes everything a lot more comfortable to pitch,” Carmichael said. “When you're ahead, it gives you a little more wiggle room.”
Carmichael, the first UF rookie to start an SEC series opener since Hudson Randall did so on May 7, 2010 against Alabama, cruised through the first three innings, allowing just one hit while facing the minimum of nine batters thanks to a double play that followed Austin Cousino's lead-off single in the top of the first.
He worked his way out of trouble in the fourth, retiring Michael Thomas on a pop up to short with the bases loaded and two outs, and, after retiring Kentucky in order in the fifth, Carmichael was one pitch away from throwing a career-high six innings.
But Reed helped his own cause by driving a 3-2, two-out pitch over the head of center fielder Harrison Bader for an RBI double, scoring Cousino, who led off the inning with his second single of the contest, to knot the score.
The Gators looked like they would get it right back when Bader led off the bottom of the inning with a triple to center field, but Reed got Justin Shafer to pop up to first, then got back-to-back strikeouts of Vickash Ramjit and Taylor Gushue to escape the threat.
UK third baseman Paul McConkey overthrew first on Zack Powers' lead-off grounder in the seventh, putting him on second, and then booted freshman Brady Roberson's attempted sacrifice bunt that followed, putting men on the corners with no one out.
Redshirt freshman Connor Mitchell followed with an RBI infield hit to put UF up 2-1, and following a sac bunt by Tobias, Casey Turgeon's RBI single made it 3-1 and Bader drove in another run with a fielder's choice.
McConkey later booted another grounder for his third error of the frame, and although UF did not score again, the damage was done.
Carmichael matched his career-high of 5 2/3 innings set in relief last weekend against Indiana, allowing just three hits and one run.
“It was a really good start by Jay,” said UF head coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “It's one thing to get your first collegiate start, but to get it against a ranked team like Kentucky and it's your first SEC game, I thought he pitched outstanding.”
UF reliever Ryan Harris (3-1) picked up the win with two innings of scoreless, no-hit relief, and closer Johnny Magliozzi picked up his third save of the season by retiring the Wildcats in the ninth, albeit after allowing the first two batters to reach base on a single and a hit batsmen.
He retired the next three batters in a row on fly balls to end the game, saddling Reed (2-2) with the loss.
The two teams will meet today at noon in game two, with junior Jonathon Crawford (0-2, 4.22 ERA), who had started the last four Friday contests for UF coming into this weekend's series, scheduled to start for the Gators against Kentucky senior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-1, 1.35).
Sunday's game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m., has been moved up to noon as well in order to accommodate the Wildcats' travel plans.