By JM Soracchi, Correspondent
After a scary play on the field knocked out their starting pitcher, the Florida baseball team rallied together in its SEC series opener against Kentucky on Friday night.
The Gators outlasted the Wildcats 10-8 at McKethan Stadium to begin the weekend in the win column.
Gators starting pitcher Tommy Mace was forced to exit the game in the fifth inning after taking a line drive off his head.
Mace was able to leave the field under his own power but was done for the evening and will be evaluated.
“We really dodged a bullet there,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said about the injury to Mace. “I mean, when it first happened, we thought it caught him flush.
“But obviously when he got up right away, that was a good sign, but we really didn’t know.”
Following that, the combination of Christian Scott, Jordan Butler and Nolan Crisp combined for no earned runs to help get Florida (27-17, 8-11 SEC) to the finish line.
Scott got the win after an inning of relief to improve his record to 4-3.
Crisp impressed, coming on in the eighth inning with his team clinging to a two-run lead and recording a 20-pitch, five-out save.
During the play where Mace was injured, Kentucky (21-21, 4-15) had tied the game at 4-4 when Marshal Gei was able to come home on the infield single by Ryan Johnson.
The Gators responded in the very next half-inning. Cory Acton singled with two outs and junior right fielder Wil Dalton drove a 3-2 pitch out of the park for a two-run homer to help Florida regain a 6-4 lead.
Then back-to-back doubles by Brady Smith and Jacob Young put Florida on top 7-4.
UF senior designated hitter Nelson Maldonado led the Gators offensively by going 3 for 5 with a two-run double and three-run home run for a career-high five RBIs.
“You’ve got to go into those situations relaxed,” Maldonado said. “You know, you never want to be tensed up … you’ve just got to look for your pitch and put a good swing on it and hope a good thing happens.”
Brady McConnell led off the game with a solo home run and the Gators also doubled five times during its offensive barrage.
Florida goes for the series win at 6 p.m. Saturday in the series’ second game.
Who: Kentucky vs. Florida
When: 6 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
TV: SEC Network
Sunday: 12 p.m. (ESPN2)