Top-ranked Florida Gators win series opener against Kentucky Wildcats

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Top-ranked Florida did not get the dominant starting pitching performance it expected from Logan Shore on Friday at Kentucky, but some surprising pop in the Gators' lineup helped carry them to an 12-5 win over the Wildcats in the opener of a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Nelson Maldonado, who brought a .173 batting average into the game, hit a pair of opposite-field home runs over the short porch in right field against UK starter Zack Brown to help stake Florida to a lead that proved to be too difficult for the Cats to overcome.

Maldonado hit a solo homer in the third inning to tie the game at 1-1 and connected for a two-run shot in the fourth to extend the lead to 5-1. He added a single later in the game for a three-hit night.

Florida (23-1, 4-0 SEC) also got two hits apiece from Dalton Guthrie and Buddy Reed at the top of its order and a three-run triple from Jonathan India out of the 9 hole.

The Gators, who had 10 hits and drew 10 walks, scored five runs in the ninth to turn a close game into a romp. In doing so, they extended their winning streak to 17 games.

Shore (5-0) entered the game with a 2.23 ERA, but the Cats chased him after five innings of work. The right-hander allowed four earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out six.

The Cats' Brown (1-4) battled control issues, perhaps due to a blister on his pitching hand that forced him out of the game early. The junior right-hander allowed five earned runs on four hits and six walks before leaving after 3.2 innings. He had only walked 12 batters previously this season.

Kentucky (15-6, 2-2 SEC) got two hits and two RBI from Gunnar McNeill, a junior college transfer who pushed his team-leading batting average to .405 and extended his streak of reaching base in every game he's played thus far at Kentucky. Evan White also had two hits for the Cats.

The series resumes Saturday at 2 p.m. ET with what is expected to be a great pitching matchup between UK's Dustin Beggs (5-0, 1.77 ERA) and Florida's A.J. Puk (1-1, 1.88 ERA).

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