Florida rallies past Kentucky in SEC semifinals

Florida's Brett Morales (34) pitches against Kentucky during the first inning of the Gators' 6-5 win in the SEC tournament semifinals Saturday in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo)

Published: Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 7:37 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — Top-seeded Florida gained revenge on ninth-seeded Kentucky by eliminating the Wildcats 6-5 in a SEC baseball tournament semifinal Saturday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.


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Florida (40-20) will face third-seeded LSU (43-14-1), which dominated seventh-seeded Arkansas (38-23) for an 11-1 eight-inning win in the day's other semifinal, for the tournament title starting at 4:30 Sunday on ESPN2. LSU has won its first three tournament games by a combined 29-4.

Kentucky, which won the weekend series over Florida 2-1 earlier this season, knocked the Gators into the losers' bracket Wednesday. UF had to win three consecutive games to play for the title.

“I thought it was a great game,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “Kentucky has had our number this year. They have a real chance in a regional. They have one of the best lineups in the league.

“We knew it was going to be a fight all the way to the end. Our guys fought.”

In a back-and-forth game, Josh Tobias gave the Gators the lead for good with a run-scoring single in the eighth inning.

“I was looking for a pitch to drive,” Tobias said. “He was down 2-0 in the count. He threw me a fastball that I didn't like, and then he threw a slider that I didn't try to do too much with.”

Kentucky (35-23) took a 3-0 lead with a run in the first and two in the second.

UF cut the deficit to 3-2 in the top of the third on Casey Turgeon's RBI single and Richie Martin's run-scoring groundout.

The Gators went up 4-3 in the fifth on Harrison Bader's two-run single.

UK regained the lead in the sixth inning following an infield error, a sacrifice bunt, a run-scoring single and a RBI double.

Florida tied it at 5 in the seventh inning on a Bader RBI single after Martin had reached on a single and stole second base. Bader finished 3 for 4 and drove in three runs.

“I think guys are just trying to get singles and not trying to do too much,” said Bader, who is batting .625 (10 for 16) in the tournament. “We are just trying to hit it hard and not far.”

Tobias put UF up 6-5 in the eighth with an RBI single that followed singles by Peter Alonso and Ryan Larson.

The Gators' bullpen came through in a big way after starter Brett Morales lasted just 1.1 innings. Kirby Snead relieved and went 4.1 of three-hit ball before giving way to Eric Hanhold (4-3) to close it out. Hanhold allowed just two hits in the final 3.1 innings and struck out four.

“I thought Kirby Snead really settled things down for us,” O'Sullivan said. “Eric was really good at the end of the game.”

Notes: LSU has won a conference-best 10 SEC tournament titles and is seeking its fifth tournament championship in seven years. … UF, the regular-season champion, is seeking its second championship in four years. … The 16 sites for NCAA Regionals will be announced at 9 p.m. today, while the 64-team field for the NCAA tournament will be revealed at noon Monday on ESPNU. The Gators swept the three-game home series vs. LSU this season. … UF has won 40 games for the fifth time in seven years under coach Kevin O'Sullivan.

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