Kentucky baseball evens series with Florida

Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 3:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 3:14 p.m.

The 10th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats scored 11 runs in their final four at-bats to erase a 3-0 Florida lead and even their opening Southeastern Conference series at one game apiece with an 11-5 win Saturday before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 3,120.

The Gators (9-11, 1-1) jumped out to an early lead, scoring once in the first on senior Vickash Ramjit's two-out RBI single and adding two more runs in the second on sophomore Josh Tobias' lead-off home run, his second in two days, and an RBI single by freshman Harrison Bader.

It appeared that would be more than enough for UF starter Jonathon Crawford, a preseason All-America who cruised through the first five innings and allowed no runs on two hits, at one point retiring seven straight batters on groundouts.

Kentucky (15-3, 1-1) finally got to him for a pair of runs in the sixth to cut the lead to 3-2, and then came a forgettable seventh in which the first three UK batters reached base without a hit, courtesy of two walks and a hit batsman that ended the day for Crawford.

By the time a trio of UF relievers had each managed to get an out to end the inning, the Wildcats had sent 11 men to the plate and scored five times, with the big blow a two-run single by Austin Cousino.

“There were situations where all we needed to do was throw a strike,” UF head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “The game's not won until the last out, but I did not see that coming. I did not see a total breakdown on the pitching side of things.”

Florida did plate a run in the bottom of the inning on Bader's one-out, RBI double off Kentucky reliever Chandler Shepherd to make it 7-4, and an inning later, the Gators brought the potential tying run to the plate with two on and two outs in the eighth. UK closer Trevor Gott, however, came on to record a strikeout and end the threat.

The Wildcats then put the game on ice with four runs in the ninth off redshirt freshman reliever Aaron Rhodes, the last of five UF pitchers, with Cousino, who was 4-for-5 with four RBIs, capping UK's scoring with a two-out, two-run homer to right.

UF did add a run in its final at-bat off Gott, who earned his sixth save, but it was too little, too late.

“It's disappointing, but Jonathon did a really good job the first six innings,” said Bader, who was 3-for-4 with two singles and a double and reached base in all five at-bats (walk, error).

“We kept fighting back and got within three. We were trying to get as loud as possible in the dugout. In situations like that, it's all you can really do.”

For the game, UF pitchers issued seven walks and hit five batters.

“There's not much to say,” O'Sullivan said. “It's not good.”

UK starter Jerad Grundy (4-1) picked up the win, scattering six hits over six innings and allowing three runs, all earned.

Crawford (0-3) took the loss, leaving UF starters still winless on the season after 20 games.

The two teams will conclude the series with the rubber game Sunday at noon.

“It's incredibly important, especially for the series, whether it be Kentucky or any other team,” Bader said. “It's the SEC opener. We know we're going to come out and fight and stay positive.”

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