Special to Gatorsports.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. — After scoring 20 runs to win the first two games of the SEC baseball series, top-ranked Florida was handcuffed by Justin Lewis in a 3-2 loss Saturday to No. 6 Kentucky.
Florida (34-8, 14-4 SEC) managed only two hits, one JJ Schwarz’s 10th home run of the season in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough, as Kentucky (26-14, 8-10) avoided the sweep.
Florida’s other run was unearned and came in the fifth. Nick Horvath walked with two outs, moved to second on a balk and scored on a throwing error on Deacon Liput’s grounder.
Lewis (6-2) struck out 11, walked three and gave up one hit in keeping the Gators at bay through eight innings.
“Going back to the first (inning), I think that’s the second time this year we’ve had the bases loaded, nobody out and we didn’t score,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “You never really know when your opportunities are going to come. Credit their starter, he had his changeup going.
“I think the disappointing thing, not just the first inning, sometimes you just have to credit the pitcher, but as the game went on I don’t think we made the adjustments that we usually do make. But credit their pitcher, it was a really good changeup. We knew that going in, we’ve seen Lewis enough to know that when he’s got that changeup going it’s a tough pitch to handle.”
The Wildcats took advantage of four walks from UF starter Tyler Dyson (5-3) and scored a run in each of the first three innings until Dyson exited in the third inning.
The Gators went to freshman Jack Leftwich, who turned in a career-best performance to combat the start that Kentucky got from Lewis. Leftwich pitched six shutout innings, a career high, with just two hits allowed.
“The bright side is Jack came in and pitched six scoreless innings,” O’Sullivan said. “He was really good. That’s a really good Kentucky team.
“Any time you go on the road and win two out of three against a Top-10 team you’ve got to feel good about it. But we fought, we still got the tying run to the plate there in the ninth. Overall, today was a little disappointing but the big picture on the weekend, we played pretty good.”
UK closer Chris Machamer (seven saves) finished off the game in the ninth despite allowing Schwarz’s homer.
The Gators had just two hits on the day (Liput had a double in the first), their fewest in a game this season.
The Gators return home for a four-game home stand starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Mercer before Auburn visits.