Kentucky Evens Series with the Gators

The outcome of the night should have been evident after the first batter of the game. No. 4 Florida's starting pitcher Hudson Randall walked the leadoff hitter, his seventh walk of the year, and it was all downhill from there. The Gators (40-15/21-8 SEC) were dominated by Kentucky, which evened the top of the SEC leaderboard, as the Wildcats (25-29/8-21 SEC) won 14-1.

"This one just got away from us," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "The thing that did us in was giving up seven runs in one inning, and when you fall behind by that much, you just try to save your pitching for the next day. The most important thing is we go in tomorrow with a chance to win a ring."

After the leadoff walk, Randall (8-3) picked off the first but threw wildly and Neiko Johnson to third base with no outs. Chad Wright's RBI ground out scored Johnson to give the Wildcats an early lead.

With two outs in the third inning, Randall gave up a solo home run to Taylor Black, followed by three more hits that tacked on two extra runs.

"(Randall) just got some balls up," O'Sullivan said. "When his command is good, he's really tough. When he gets balls in the middle of the plate, anybody can get hit."

The knockout blow came in the fifth inning. The Wildcats loaded the bases with no outs and used two sacrifice flies to push the lead to 6-0. They then reloaded the bases before Neiko Johnson cleared the bases with a double. Wright added an RBI single, and it 11-0 in the fifth inning.

"They were squaring up a lot of balls tonight," Randall said. "I fell behind a little bit and they were sitting on my fastball. It's my second year here, and I've been waiting for these opportunities. It presented itself, and I didn't come up big for the team."

Eleven runs would be tough to overcome against any pitcher, but it was made even tougher against Kentucky starting pitcher Alex Meyer. The right-hander has sat in the upper 90s all season, and Friday was no different. He is projected as a top-20 overall pick in next month's MLB Draft while 20-25 scouts sat behind home plate Friday with radar guns in hand.

Meyer went seven innings, allowing five hits and three walks while giving up one run and striking out nine hitters on 109 pitches. His control wasn't sharp early in the game, but as the Kentucky offense gave him room to work with, Meyer settled into a groove, threw strikes and set the Florida hitters down with ease.

The impressive part of Meyer's start is that it came while mostly using a fastball and slider. The fastball's velocity made it tough for the Florida hitters to catch up to, but the slider was his strikeout pitch. Even when he didn't throw the slider for a strike, it looked like a fastball out of his hand and got the Florida hitters swinging at a pitch in the dirt.

"He had his best stuff," Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana said. "He's a great pitcher and we all knew that coming in. He had a great night on the mound."

The Florida loss combined with wins from South Carolina and Vanderbilt squares the three teams at 21-8 at the top of the conference standings with one day left in conference play. If the teams tie, they will split the championship.

The Gators will send freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (6-0, 2.51) to the mound against a Kentucky pitcher yet to be announced. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.


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