No. 5 Florida Secures Series Win at Kentucky

The Gators went to Lexington needed a series win to gain momentum and have a chance to stay in the SEC championship race. No. 5 Florida didn't waste much time making sure that would be the case. The Gators clinched the series win over No. 6 Kentucky with a 5-1 victory on Friday night behind clutch hitting in the late innings and another strong outing on the mound.

With the game tied at one in the seventh inning, Florida freshman third baseman Josh Tobias lined a single to center field that scored Casey Turgeon, who tripled to start the inning. That pushed the Gators into a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"Tobias' hit was huge and with two strikes," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said on the post game radio show. "He did a really nice job there driving in a run."

The Florida offense didn't stop there. After Preston Tucker walked and Mike Zunino doubled to start the ninth inning, Brian Johnson used a sacrifice fly to score Tucker. Pinch hitter Jeff Moyer recorded his second hit of the second with a bouncer over first base to score Zunino.

Justin Shafer hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Moyer later in the inning, giving Florida the 5-1 lead it would hold.

The three freshmen in the lineup—Shafer, Tobias and Turgeon— combined to go 4-9 with two RBI and one run scored.

"They're no longer freshmen now," O'Sullivan said. "They've been playing long enough in some really tough situations. I consider them older kids at this point."

Karsten Whitson took another step forward on Friday. He went 4.2 innings, allowing six hits, three walks, one hit batter and one run while striking out two. The sophomore right-hander allowed the run in the first inning before settling down and improving as the outing went on.

"He's still knocking the rust off. I was really proud of how he competed tonight. He needed to go out there for 75 (pitches) tonight, and I think he went 74 without the intentional walk—which was probably the first intentional walked he's had in his career," O'Sullivan said with a laugh.

"I was really pleased with how he competed. I would expect him to get better each time out. He battled and did what he had to do.

Whitson was removed after allowing a two-out double to Zac Zellers. Freshman left-hander Bobby Poyner came into the game and got out of the jam before recording two more outs in the sixth inning.

Senior Greg Larson added 1.1 shutout innings of work before Steven Rodriguez threw the final two perfect innings. Rodriguez didn't have an SEC save in his career before recording one in the first two games of the series.

"Our pitching was really good," O'Sullivan said. "We had to pitch ourselves out of a few jams tonight, but that's what the game comes down to. It's one of those weekends where we've made some pitches.

"Even without (closer Austin) Maddox, we've got some other guys that can step up. Rodriguez has obviously stepped up these past two games."

The Gators now have a chance for a rare road sweep in conference play. The Gators already have one road sweep in non-conference play when they took three from Miami in Coral Gables in March.

Florida is confident in the pitching remaining out of the bullpen. The Gators will send junior left-hander Brian Johnson (5-3, 4.50) to the mound to face Kentucky sophomore left-hander Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.44).

"You don't get a chance for many sweeps in this league," O'Sullivan said. "With Brian on the mound, he has been in our program for his third year, I would expect him to give us a great effort. We've still got (Jonathon) Crawford, who we could extend tomorrow. If we needed (Rodriguez), I feel comfortable he could come back in and close things down. Our pitching should be in great shape."

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