Florida boots allow Kentucky to escape with 7-5 win

Special to
Kentucky starting pitcher Cole Stupp.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Florida's fielding, which hasn't been up to its usual standard this season, had a hand in Thursday's 7-5 loss to Kentucky after the Gators had battled back from a 5-0 deficit to tie it at 5-all.

The No. 10 Gators fell to 31-14 overall and 13-9 in the SEC, while the Wildcats improved to 27-15, 11-11.

Kentucky scored twice in the eighth inning to take the 7-5 lead thanks to some Florida misplays. Cam Hill reached on a bunt single and made it to second on a passed ball. Chase Estep then singled off UF reliever Trey Van Der Weide, but Hill was thrown out at home plate by left fielder Jacob Young. Austin Schultz made it to first on a throwing error by Kirby McMullen at third. Schultz then stole second. 

Jack Leftwich came in to replace Van Der Weide (2-2) with runners on second and third. After a strikeout, John Rhodes hit a two-run single.

Florida had a chance to take the lead in top of the eighth when it loaded the bases with one out, but UK reliever Daniel Harper (3-0) struck out Jordan Butler and Josh Rivera to end the threat.

Kentucky built a 5-0 lead with four runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.

Florida began its comeback in the sixth when Rivera doubled and later scored on a Young sacrifice fly.

Then four runs by the Gators in the seventh tied things at 5-all. Jud Fabian doubled, Kris Armstrong singled before McMullen's RBI single. After Coby Halter walked to force in a run, Young delivered a two-run single.

Florida starter Franco Aleman threw a career-high six innings, with three strikeouts and no decision.

The teams play Game 2 of the series at 6:30 p.m. Friday and finish at 2 p.m. Saturday, with both on SEC Network+  UF is expected to start righty Tommy Mace (5-0) vs. UK's right-hander Sean Harney (3-0).