Gators drop SEC Tournament opener to Kentucky

No. 1 seed Florida fell into a hole early and was never able to recover. Kentucky jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and cruised behind starting pitcher Kyle Cody. The Gators had chances in the late innings but weren't able to capitalize, suffering a 4-2 loss to the Wildcats on Wednesday.

"Kentucky got off to a quick start with two in the first and then two in the third," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We settled down after that on the mound and did a nice job. The bottom line is we just didn't hit enough."

The first at-bat of the game set the tempo for Kentucky. Leadoff hitter Austin Cousino battled through a 10-pitch at-bat with Florida starter Logan Shore, eventually earning a walk. After an infield single, Shore struck out A.J. Reed, who leads the country in home runs and is expected to be named SEC Player of the Year next week.

Ka'ai Tom followed with a double in the left-center field gap to score one run, and a Thomas Bernal sacrifice fly pushed the Kentucky lead to 2-0 before Florida even had a chance to hit.

After a five-pitch second inning, Shore hit Cousino with a pitch to start the third inning. Max Kuhn followed with a two-run home run to left field, giving the Wildcats a 4-1 lead in the third inning.

It was the first home run Shore allowed after going the first 87 innings of his freshman season without giving up one.

"I felt alright," Shore said. "There's always going to be some calls I thought should've gone my way but didn't. Those are some things you've got to battle through. I settled down more, but Kentucky can really swing the bat."

Shore combined with three Florida relievers to throw six shutout innings to end the game, but the damage was done because the Gators were slowed at the plate.

Kentucky starter Kyle Cody last 5.1 innings, giving up four hits, two runs and one walk with four strikeouts. Cody was pulled after Richie Martin walked and Harrison Bader singled to create a threat with one out. The Wildcats went to Chandler Shepherd, who walked Taylor Gushue to load the bases.

Braden Mattson, who scored Florida's first run after a leadoff double in the second inning, flew out to center field to serve as a sacrifice fly and cut Kentucky's lead to 4-2. Zack Powers ended the inning with a lineout to second base.

Florida's last threat came in the eighth inning. Casey Turgeon led off the inning with a walk and moved to second when Martin singled. The Florida coaches thought about bunting with Bader, who was the team's second best hitter in conference play. The sophomore center field got behind in the count and rolled into a double play. Gushue grounded out to end the inning.

Florida falls into the loser's bracket of the double elimination tournament and will face South Carolina on Thursday. The game is projected to start at 2 p.m.

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