No. 5 Gators Take Game One in Lexington

The Gators needed to get the series off to a positive start against Kentucky on Thursday. They did that behind a strong outing from starting pitcher Hudson Randall and a three-run third inning. The offense produced five runs, but head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was happy with the quality of at-bats as No. 5 Florida pulled out a 5-3 win at No. 6 Kentucky in the first game of the series on Thursday.

"It was a really good game," O'Sullivan said on the post game radio show. "I thought we played really well tonight. It was obviously big. We knew this was going to be tough."

Hudson Randall was dominant from the start. The junior right-hander went 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out four hitters. He cruised through the first four innings before allowing an RBI double to Cameron Flynn in the fifth inning.

Randall recorded two ground balls out for an easy start to the sixth inning, but Flynn extended the inning with a single up the middle on an 0-2 pitch. Designated hitter Michael Williams launched a first-pitch hanging slider from Randall over the left field fence to cut Florida's lead to 4-3.

The junior was pulled after that pitch, but it didn't overshadow how strong he was throughout the game.

"I thought Hudson Randall was outstanding," O'Sullivan said. "He made pitches all night long. They got something going in the seventh inning, but other than two pitches, that was probably the best he has pitched all year long.

"Those are the types of efforts that you need on Friday nights, especially on the road, if you want to win."

O'Sullivan gave the ball to junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez, who threw 2.1 shutout innings to close the game.

"His cutter was really good," O'Sullivan said. "He made some big pitches."

The Florida offense was struggling as it came into the series, but Preston Tucker got the Gators on the board early. He launched a two-out homer in the first inning to give Florida an early 1-0 lead.

Tucker continued with an RBI single in the third inning that scored one run and allowed another to score on a throwing error by Kentucky left fielder Zac Zellers. Two batters later, Brian Johnson singled to left field to score Tucker and push the Florida lead to 4-0.

The Gators didn't hit every ball hard, but after some bad luck against Arkansas last weekend, O'Sullivan welcomed it.

"That's baseball," he said. "It all evens out in the end. We're not going to take back those balls that found holes tonight. It all evens out over the course of the season.

"I thought we had some really good at-bats. We struck out six times tonight. If you do that every Friday night against the pitching in this league, you've got a chance to win."

Justin Shafer added an RBI single in the ninth inning to give Rodriguez some breathing room with the 5-3 lead that would hold.

"Tacking on that fifth run in the ninth was huge," O'Sullivan said.

The series resumes on Friday as Florida will send sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson to the mound. O'Sullivan said Whitson looked "really sharp in his bullpen this week."

The bullpen is also fresh after Thursday's game. Randall's extended start means the Gators didn't have to use many key arms.

"We've got (Jonathon) Crawford in the pen as well," O'Sullivan said. "(Rodriguez) only threw 30 tonight. Austin (Maddox) felt much, much better today, so I'm anticipating he feels better tomorrow, but it's a day-to-day thing."

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