Baseball takes series from SEC Champs

The closer position is a unique one in baseball. Closers are called upon on a nightly basis to protect tiny leads, often in desperate situations, in the final innings of games to secure victories for their team.

It is a position that guarantees failure at least some of the time. For those reasons it is no secret that one of the best characteristics a good closer can have is short term memory.

On Sunday afternoon, Kentucky closer Brock Baber forgot his career-long struggles against the Florida Gators. He forgot that two out of his three career losses had come at the hands of the Gators. He forgot that he gave up the two tying runs to Florida in the eighth inning of game one on Saturday.

Brock Baber took the mound in the eighth inning, faced his Florida demons, and nailed down the save to seal the 8-6 Wildcat victory on Sunday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Kentucky earned the 2-1 series win against Florida, which was their first over the Gators since 1999.

After the win, Baber was short of words, but not short of emotion.

"This feeling is unbelievable, indescribable," he said. "I ... I can't even describe it."

The save was the 10th of his Wildcat career, which moves him into a tie for 5th all-time at UK.

The Bat Cats got him the save opportunity by lighting up Florida's freshman starter Chas Spotswood. With memories of game two fresh on their minds, the Wildcats returned the favor on Sunday, scoring six runs in the first two innings off of five hits, including home runs from Collin Cowgill and Ryan Strieby. Michael Bertram added a solo home run in the fifth inning. The homer was his third of the year, which is the most he has ever hit in a single season.

Catcher Sean Coughlin continued his bid for SEC Player of the Week by roping two doubles and tallying two RBIs in the first two frames as well. Coughlin finished this weekend's series 8-11 from the plate with one home run, four doubles, and seven RBIs.

Kentucky's offense chased the Gator starter after only one and two-thirds innings pitched.

With the Bat Cats providing a comfortable lead early, Greg Dombrowski cruised through the Gator lineup. Dombrowski, who lead the SEC with a 1.65 ERA coming into Sunday's game, threw five and one-third innings of no-hit baseball before Gavin Dickey singled in the fifth.

Wildcat errors in the sixth and eighth innings allowed four unearned Florida runs to cross. With his sinker ball losing its action, Dombrowski handed the ball and the 7-5 to Baber. Facing the bases loaded with two outs, Baber got David Cash to fly out to left field to end the inning.

Shaun Lehmann homered in the eighth to stretch Kentucky's lead to 8-5.

Baber breezed through the first two Florida batters in the ninth, but with two down Matt LaPorta smashed a towering home run to straight-away centerfield. But Kentucky's closer refused to let this Florida team get the better of him again. Baber got a new ball from the home plate umpire, and quickly induced Brian Leclerc to ground out to short to end the game and seal the 8-6 win for the Wildcats.

"What a great weekend," said an excited Michael Bertram after the win. "I think I've been here four years and we've never taken a series from Florida."

"We had a tough weekend at Auburn, things didn't go our way. But we are very capable of beating anybody in this conference. I think our team is extremely confident as a ball club. We know we can win, we know we're going to win, and we're just ready and looking forward to next weekend."

Kentucky improves to 25-8 on the year, 7-5 in conference play. The league start is the best for the Wildcats since 1993 and the team has already matched its conference win total from all of last season. The Bat Cats remain in 3rd place in the SEC Eastern Division.

The defending SEC champion Florida Gators fall to 20-16 on the year, 4-8 in the SEC. They have now lost nine of their last 12 games.

Kentucky is scheduled to travel to Arkansas for a three game series with the 12th ranked Razorbacks on Friday-Saturday (April 14-16).


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