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Florida evens series against Kentucky in dominant fashion


It may be difficult for Florida to bounce back from a game in which it gave up a two-run lead in the ninth inning of the game and lost in extra frames to No. 3 Kentucky Friday.

But the Gators had to come out of Game 2 of the series with a sense of urgency as the season began to go downhill and an NCAA Tournament seed on the line.

Right-handed pitcher Liam Peterson was up for the task. It’s been an up-and-down year for Peterson, who entered the game with a 1-4 record and a 6.54 ERA.

However, the freshman came up big for UF, allowing five hits against just one earned run while striking out six Wildcat batters in a career-high 101-pitch outing.

“Today I thought his breaking ball was as good as it has looked all year,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We should be fully rested for tomorrow with Jack on the mound on Senior Day, so there’s a lot to play for. We have a chance to win the Series.”

Florida (26-24, 11-15 SEC) beat No. 3 Kentucky (36-11, 19-7 SEC) 10-1 at Condron Ballpark in Gainesville on Saturday.

The bats were hot in the series opener for Florida after an 11-run extra inning battle. UF carried much of the same theme into the first innings of Saturday’s game to secure a 3-0 lead after the third frame.

Rookie outfielder Hayden Yost was placed in the starting lineup amid O’Sullivan’s mid-season roster moves. Yost answered in impressive fashion with consistent play against quality SEC opponents.

The freshman raised his batting average to .270 with a 2-5 performance and the Gators’ offense got going in the bottom of the second by doubling the field gap to left-center and scoring sophomore catcher Brody Dunae and giving Florida a 1-0 advantage. .

It was far from sophomore Cade Kurland’s best performance on Friday night after going 0-6 at the plate. But Kurland wasted no time in making a positive impact in Game 2 with a walk-off home run in the second inning.

Junior Jac Caglione extended his hitting streak to 29 games in the next at bat with a double down the right field line and later scored on an RBI base hit to the right side of the field from sophomore Colby Shelton to extend UF’s lead to 3-0.

Senior third baseman Dale Thomas was reinserted into Florida’s starting lineup for this series, and he did not disappoint.

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After spending the last several games on the bench with a batting average of just over .200 in 29 starts, Thomas hit a home run in what would be his last home run series of his collegiate career.

Thomas put together an impressive 2-3 performance on Saturday and is now 5-7 in the series. He crushed a double off the wall into left-center field in the fourth inning to give the Gators a 4-0 lead.

“It’s baseball, it’s one of the hardest games in the world,” Thomas said. “But we just have to keep sticking together, keep figuring out ways to push each other and support each other.”

Kentucky made its first run of the game in the fifth inning on a slow drive to the left side of the infield, and Peterson failed to make the play cleanly allowing young British outfielder Ryan Waldschmidt to score from third base.

Giving up a run wasn’t the only damage done to Florida in the top half of the frame, though.

Junior midfielder Ty Evans rushed toward the wall on the right side of foul territory in an attempt to highlight the ball. Evans was unable to make the play, and O’Sullivan stated that Evans’ season was likely ended with a broken wrist.

“Unfortunately, I think there is a risk that it will be disruptive,” O’Sullivan said. “So, it’s going to take a while. I didn’t know the extent of it when we got out there, but you could tell he was in pain, so obviously it’s really unfortunate.”

Shelton responded by walking to open the bottom of the fifth, setting up Heyman’s second home run of the game and ninth of the season to give Florida two runs to secure the middle of the game.

Peterson continued his impressive performance through the sixth inning before right-handed pitcher Ryan Slater entered the game in relief of the freshman.

“I think there were a lot of good plays behind me,” Peterson said. “Throughout the whole game, there were a lot of good plays made for me, so hats off to them [the defense]. They really helped me number of presentations wise.

Slater threw three complete innings with no hits, zero walks and zero base balls allowing Peterson to claim the win.

The Gators got three more runs on the board in the eighth inning and took complete control of the game facilitated by Kurland who ripped an RBI double down the left field line scoring Thomas and Shelnutt. Their efforts gave UF a 9-1 lead into the ninth before securing the win.

Next, Florida will host No. 3 Kentucky in a rubber match on Sunday. First pitch will be at 12 noon at Condron Ballpark.

Contact Max Tucker on mtucker@alligator.org. Follow him on X@Max_Tuckr1.

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Max Tucker

Max Tucker is a redshirt freshman transfer at UF. After earning his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Santa Fe College in 2023, he chose to continue his education at the Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Max is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a concentration in Sports and Media. He enjoys playing golf and going to the beach with his friends in his spare time. Max will cover Gators golf teams this fall for The Alligator.



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