Gators take SEC opener against Kentucky

After giving freshman right-hander Jay Carmichael his first collegiate start on Friday night against No. 10 Kentucky, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan had to pull the reigns back. Carmichael was immersing himself in film and studying scouting reports of the Wildcats, but O'Sullivan wanted to remind him of how his success came early in the season. He focused on himself and dominated.

That's exactly what he did on Friday.

Carmichael threw his fastball to all areas of the strike zone, located his curveball for strikes and threw his changeup to keep Kentucky honest. And those three pitches gave Kevin O'Sullivan exactly what he wanted to see on a Friday, as the Gators earned their first Friday win of the season.

"I didn't know what to expect, to be honest," Kevin O'Sullivan said about his freshman. "It was his first start. I made a point of it (Thursday) for him not to over analyze. He was looking at stats, watching the video. I didn't want him to do anything different than he has been doing. He threw (5.2) innings against Indiana of shutout ball and prepared a certain way.

"I didn't want him to over analyze this. I wanted him to go into the first inning with the same mentality, and he did."

Jay Carmichael went 5.2 innings, allowing three hits, one run and two walks while striking out two hitters on 95 pitches. He faced the minimum in four of the six innings he pitched.

Carmichael got into trouble in the fourth inning after loading the bases with a hit batter and two walks before getting a pop out to shortstop to escape the jam. His lone run came against the last batter he faced, as Kentucky starting pitcher A.J. Reed laced a two-out RBI double to center field in the sixth inning that scored the Wildcats' only run of the game.

The freshman settled in and gave Florida its best Friday pitching performance of the year, and after being told about it on Wednesday, Carmichael had a lot to get prepared for. The warm up was the biggest difference after spending the first 18 games as a reliever.

"It's a lot different," Carmichael said of starting and relieving. "Sully calls down and says, ‘get hot, get hot.' You have to get hot right away. I actually had a lot of time to prepare myself."

His performance was the perfect start to conference play for the Gators.

"He can throw something other than a fastball in a fastball count," O'Sullivan said. "That's what pitching is all about -- changing speeds and disrupting the timing of the hitter. He has the ability to do that. He's emotional, competitive and doesn't get in."

There were some fireworks in the third inning that raised the emotional level of the game. After Kentucky shortstop Matt Reida reached on an error, he was caught stealing and got into a rundown. While Vickash Ramjit went to tag him, Reida felt the tag was too aggressive and responded with a shove to Ramjit. Umpires separated the two and calmed things down.

Left fielder Lucas Witt came to the plate next and grounded out to shortstop, but when he got to first base, he stepped on Ramjit's foot hard enough that it knocked his shoe off. Benches came close to emptying before umpires calmed both sides while both coaching staffs were yelling at each other.

The Florida offense produced the perfect answer in the bottom of the third when sophomore second baseman Josh Tobias lined a two-out home run to right field for the first homer of his career.

"We always have each other's backs no matter what," Carmichael said. "When he hit that ball, that was a real good message to them."

The floodgates opened for the Florida offense in the seventh inning with some help from the Wildcats. Zack Powers reached second on an error by Kentucky third baseman Paul McConkey to start the inning, and he moved to third when McConkey mishandled a sacrifice bunt by Brady Roberson.

Connor Mitchell followed with an infield single that scored Powers to give the Gators a 2-1 lead. After Tobias bunted the runners to second and third, Casey Turgeon produced a single to right field to score one and push the lead to 3-1. Harrison Bader followed with a groundball to shortstop, and Kentucky tried to get the out at home plate but the throw was late, pushing the lead to 4-1.

"Early on, we squared the ball up good," O'Sullivan said. "That has been a big focus. I don't know what it was, but we just weren't cutting the barrel loose. We spent the whole week talking about it. I thought our approach was good. There were some balls hit hard.

"Obviously, we had some mistakes defensively that helped us."

The Florida bullpen -- Bobby Poyner, Ryan Harris and Johnny Magliozzi -- threw 3.1 scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. Magliozzi earned his fourth save of the season.

The Gators will try to clinch the series on Saturday when they send junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford to the mound to face Kentucky senior left-hander Jerad Grundy. First pitch is set for 12 p.m.


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