Special to The Sun
LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s been the Wil Dalton show in this SEC baseball series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Dalton hit a three-run home run and a three-run triple Friday to power No. 1 Florida to a 9-4 win over No. 6 Kentucky and clinch the series.
“I’m just sticking to an approach,” Dalton told the SEC Network. “I tried to adjust to what they were throwing me. Just keep it simple and be consistent.”
Dalton’s second three-run home run of the series came in the eighth inning to give the Gators a commanding 7-0 lead. Nelson Maldonado had walked before Jonathan India doubled to set the table for Dalton, who padded his SEC-leading homer total to 15.
Dalton has 48 hits on the season with 29 (60 percent) of them going for extra bases: 13 doubles, a triple and 15 home runs.
“Wil had six RBI on two swings with the bases-clearing triple and the three-run homer late,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
“I’ve been up here enough over the years and this is a really tough place to win. To get a series win against a Top-10 Kentucky team is not easy to do. I’m really pleased with how we’ve played the first two games and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
The Gators took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when JJ Schwarz doubled, advanced to third on Austin Langworthy’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Brady Smith’s sacrifice fly.
UF (34-7, 14-3 SEC) made it 4-0 in the third when Dalton drilled a three-run triple over the center fielder’s head after Kentucky ace Sean Hjelle (5-3), a 6-foot-11 righty, walked the bases loaded.
Jackson Kowar (7-1) didn’t allow a run in seven innings for Florida. He struck out five and gave up five hits in 104 pitches.
“I thought Jackson had a really good fastball tonight,” O’Sullivan said. “I think (Kentucky) left eight runners stranded in the first four innings and Jackson made some big pitches when he needed to. He pitched seven innings like Brady (Singer) did yesterday and gave us a chance to win.”
Reliever Jordan Butler struggled in his stint in the eighth, loading the bases on a single, double and hit batter before UK scored on a fielder’s choice. Another walk again loaded the bases and forced O’Sullivan to bring in closer Michael Byrne with two outs. He got UF out of trouble in the frame.
India (13) hit a two-run home run in the ninth to make it 9-1.
Kentucky (25-14, 7-10) scored three runs in the ninth off Byrne.
The teams close out the series at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Gators Radio Network will carry the game and it can be streamed on SEC Network+.
Note: Langworthy extended his hitting streak to 13 games. … Gatorsports.com uses the D1Baseball Top 25 rankings. … It’s UF’s first series win in Lexington since 2012.