Cats chomp top-seeded Gators

Kyle Cody and Chandler Shepherd combined to hold Florida to six hits Wednesday as the Wildcats knocked off the top-seeded Gators 4-2 in the SEC Tournament at Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium.

Cody (4-0), who missed several weeks of action this season due to a forearm injury, allowed only two runs on four hits in just his second start since February.

"I was really, really pleased with Kyle Cody," said UK head coach Gary Henderson. "He is back to doing what we thought he was doing to do at the beginning of the year. It was a shot of adrenaline for the kids. That's the type of outing Kyle is capable of having against that type of team. It was a good win. Now we have to find a couple of more games of pitching."

The hard-throwing sophomore right-hander had been working his way back to full health by serving in the UK bullpen until the last weekend of the regular season. He was in top form today, striking out four and walking only one before giving way to Shepherd in the sixth inning.

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Shepherd, a typical weekend starter for UK during the regular season, responded with 3.2 innings of shutout relief to earn his first save of the season.

His best work came in the eighth inning after the SEC regular season champs put their first two batters on base and had their 3 and 4 hole hitters coming to the plate. The junior right-hander induced a double-play grounder to short off the batt of Harrison Bader, then got Taylor Gushue to ground out to second and end the threat.

The bullpen has been a big asset for UK during its two days in Hoover. Andrew Nelson and Shepherd have combined to pitch 7.2 innings, allowing no runs and only four hits.

Kentucky (34-22) advances to play the winner of Wednesday night's Mississippi State-South Carolina game on Thursday night following the afternoon matchup between Arkansas and LSU. First pitch is expected to occur no earlier than 8:30 p.m. ET.

To get there, the Wildcats had to beat one of the best arms in the SEC, Florida freshman right-hander Logan Shore. He entered the game with a 7-2 record and a 1.69 ERA, but UK got to him for two runs in the first inning and two more in the third when junior third baseman Max Kuhn became the first opposing batter to hit a home run against the Gators' ace.

Kuhn went 2-for-5 with two RBI to lead the Cats at the plate. Ka'ai Tom also drove in a run with a first-inning hit, and Thomas Bernal drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

It marked the third time in four games this season that UK has beaten No. 7 Florida (37-20), which is expected to earn a No. 1 national seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Gators will play the loser of the Mississippi State-South Carolina game in an elimination bracket matchup on Thursday afternoon.

The Cats, who came into the game with a No. 3 strength of schedule and No. 22 RPI, further solidified their position for the NCAA Tournament. UK has beaten 10 Top 25 opponents this season and is 7-3 against the Top 10.

• UK played Florida in the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2000.
• The Cats improved to 20-29 all-time in the SEC Tournament.
• UK is 29-2 when out-hitting its opponent.
• Max Kuhn had his 15th multi-RBI game of the season.
• Junior designated hitter A.J. Reed reached base safely for the 52nd time in 56 games this season with his 16th double. He has reached base in 27 straight games.

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