Florida scores four runs in ninth to down Kentucky 8-5

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida's Jud Fabian had himself a game Friday against Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Down to its final strike and trailing Kentucky 5-4 in the top of the ninth inning Friday, Florida was in need of a hero. The No. 10 Gators found two.

Cory Acton hit a game-tying RBI single and Kendrick Calilao followed with a three-run home run to pull the Gators out of the jaws of defeat for an 8-5 win. 

Florida improved to 32-14 overall and 14-9 in the SEC, while Kentucky, which won the series-opener 7-5 on Thursday, dropped to 27-16, 11-12. 

The rubber game of the series is set for a 2 p.m. Saturday (stream on SEC Network +), with Florida pitching lefty Hunter Barco (7-2) vs. UK righty Zack Lee (4-4).

Facing the series defeat, the Gators mounted the rally with two outs and one on base in the ninth. Kris Armstrong singled to advance Jacob Young, who had walked. Halter, pinch hitting for Jordan Carrion, got the count to 3-2 before lacing a single to drive in Young. Calilao followed with his home run.

 "I’m really, really happy for those guys," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It’s one of those games that comes down to the last strike, and we kept hanging in there.

"We made a bunch of mistakes again, but hopefully we’re going to get through this. I keep saying it, but hopefully a win like this can help us play a little bit better on the road.”

Kentucky jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Cam Hill's two-run single.

Fabian followed in the third with a two-run home run to deadlock the game at 2-all. He put the Gators up 3-2 with a solo home run in the fifth.

The Wildcats retook the lead with two runs in the fifth. 

Then after a 15-minute rain delay following the seventh inning, UF tied the game at 4-4 in the eighth when Kirby McMullen doubled and scored on a single by Calilao.

Not to be outdone, Kentucky went up 5-4 in the home half of the eighth thanks to misplays by the Gators. A single, balk, groundout, error and RBI grounder put the Wildcats in front.

“Nine of our 14 losses this year, they’ve basically been gift-wrapped," O'Sullivan said. "We just beaten ourselves, and that’s the frustrating part. I’m hoping, we’ll see if a win like this can get this team moving even more in the positive direction, but we’ve just got to learn to play cleaner on the road. It’s as simple as that.”

Florida starter Tommy Mace struck out nine in seven innings, and Christian Scott (3-3) picked up the win out of the bullpen. Jack Leftwich shut Kentucky down in the ninth to earn his third save of the season.

Notes: McMullen extended his career-best hitting streak to 13, also the longest by a Gator this year. ... Fabian hit his 17th and 18th home runs, moving into the SEC lead. It marked Fabian’s second consecutive weekend with a multi-homer game. He has four career two-home run games, three of those this season. ... Calilao’s four RBIs marked his personal best in SEC play.