By JM Soracchi, Correspondent
The Florida baseball team, a night after pounding out 13 hits and scoring 10 runs, ran into a stopper Saturday night in the form of Kentucky junior pitcher Zack Thompson.
The Wildcats left-hander pitched a complete game three-hitter with 11 strikeouts to send the Gators to a 5-1 loss.
“He’s probably a first-rounder,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of Thompson. “We don’t see many guys like that in our league.”
With a low 90s fastball, deceptive changeup and effective slider and curveball, the Gators batters didn’t have many answers for Thompson (4-1).
Down 3-1 after three complete innings, the Gators (27-18, 8-12) would never get any closer to scoring off Kentucky’s ace.
UF’s best chance late in the game came in the bottom of the eighth. Gators sophomore shortstop Brady McConnell led off the frame by walking on four straight pitches, then advanced to third during the next batter on an errant pickoff attempt at first by Thompson.
Yet, with a runner on third and no outs, Thompson got Austin Langworthy to strike out looking, induced Nelson Maldonado into a weak infield popup and then froze Kendrick Calilao with a 1-2 curveball to get out of the jam.
The Gators’ lone run came in the third when Jacob Young bunted for a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jud Fabian, took third on a passed ball and scored on a single by Langworthy.
“We knew we kind of needed to get something going,” Young said of his bunt. “So we tried to put the ball on the ground and make them play defense.”
Meanwhile Kentucky (22-21, 5-15) opened the scoring by putting three across in the top of the second by sending nine batters to the plate against Gators sophomore right-hander Jack Leftwich (4-4).
The Wildcats parlayed two hit batters, a walk and two base hits into a 3-0 lead.
For Kentucky, Elliot Curtis and Cam Hill each had two hits and an RBI.
Florida goes for the SEC series win at noon Sunday in the rubber match.
Note: After taking a line drive off his head Friday and having to exit the game, UF sophomore pitcher Tommy Mace “is fine,” according to O’Sullivan on Saturday.
“No concussion or nothing,” O’Sullivan said of Mace. “It’s amazing…he’s fine. We checked on him yesterday and checked on him today. Again, he was in the dugout (Saturday), exactly normal.”
Mace has been the Gators’ ace this season with a 7-3 record, 4.48 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 68.1 innings.
Who: Kentucky vs. Florida
When: 12 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium