Florida Gators baseball team falls in Game 3, 8-1, to Kentucky Wildcats in Gainesville

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Looking to push for the postseason over the final stretch of the regular season, the Florida baseball team secured the series with Kentucky but couldn’t secure the sweep, falling 8-1 Sunday to the Wildcats at Condron Ballpark. 

The Gators (25-18, 8-13 SEC) opened the weekend with a 9-1 win Friday, and it took more than six hours Saturday for UF to secure the series against the Wildcats as inclement weather led to a pair of rain delays, which ultimately postponed the game by more than three hours. The undesirable conditions meant Sunday’s first pitch occurred less than 12 hours after the conclusion of Saturday’s contest. 

“I think we played better this weekend overall. Anytime you win a series, you’ve got to be doing something right,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Although we put ourselves in a position where we’re trying to collect as many wins as possible, but, with that being said, we still control our own destiny.”

Kentucky (24-20, 7-14 SEC) took a one-run lead in the first inning after Daniel Harris hit a sacrifice fly to score Chase Estep. 

UF pulled even in the second inning when Colby Halter’s RBI single with two outs scored Josh Rivera, though the WIldcats reclaimed the lead in the third with Josh Plastiak’s solo home run to center field. The home run, Plastiak’s 12th home run of the season, wouldn’t be the only time a Kentucky batter sent one over the warning track. 

John Thrasher and Adam Fogel added to the Wildcats’ lead with home runs of their own in the fourth and ninth innings, respectively, to prevent UF from securing the sweep. 

“Obviously today did not go the way we wanted to, but we knew today was not going to be easy,” O’Sullivan said. “We put ourselves in this position, but we’ve got nine league games left. Everything that we want to accomplish is still in front of us.”

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan heads back to the dugout after bringing in Florida pitcher Philip Abner (55) in the top of the eighth inning on Sunday in Game 3 against Kentucky at Condron Family Ballpark in Gainesville.

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Here are 3 takeaways from Sunday’s contest. 

Ryan Slater has tough outing

Florida starter Ryan Slater was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs before the completion of the fourth inning.

Slater struck out just one batter while giving up seven hits across 45 pitches, and Florida didn’t have similar success at the plate, which ultimately made the early-inning offense a decisive sequence in Sunday’s contest. 

Florida pitcher Ryan Slater (13) got the start for the Gators in Game 3 on Sunday against Kentucky in Gainesville.

Slater’s replacement, Fisher Jameson, impresses

Following Slater’s departure after 3.1 innings, Florida’s performance on the mound did improve with a career performance from freshman Fisher Jameson, who replaced Slater at pitcher in the fourth inning and got UF out of the inning without the Gators incurring further damage on the scoreboard. In his second-career appearance with the Gators, Jameson was tagged for just one run off two hits in 4 innings while also striking out five Kentucky batters. 

“He did a real nice job of getting to leadoff hitters, and he did a lot of things he needed to do to be successful,” O’Sullivan said of Jameson. “Just pleased that he was able to keep it like that, because obviously, you know, in the 7th (inning) we were one swing  from getting back into that thing.”

Considering UF’s current pitching situation, there’s a likelihood of Jameson moving into a larger role in the near future, even as a starter on Sundays — if the Gators don’t need him earlier in the weekend, that is. 

“We’re just trying to win baseball games, so if we’ve got to use him on a Friday or Saturday to secure a win, we’ll do that,” O’Sullivan said of Jameson. “I don’t think we’re in a position where we can save anybody for a Sunday start.”

Florida infielder Josh Rivera (24) slides in under the tag off Colby Halter ’s RBI double in the bottom of the second inning in Game 3 against Kentucky.

Streak continues for Josh Rivera

With two outs in the second inning, and the Gators facing an early deficit, Florida shortstop Josh Rivera reached first base on a single to right field, which extended his team-leading on-base record to 17 games and counting heading into Tuesday night’s 6 p.m. match-up at home with South Florida. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+.