After struggling considerably with all 2nd games in SEC series this season, Nick Mingione decided to “shake things up” as the #1 Florida Gators came to The Cliff on Thursday night. Instead of Sean Hjelle getting the first game of the series, a “pitch by committee” approach seemed to be the strategy, leaving Hjelle and ace Justin Lewis available for the weekend. And for the first 2 innings, this committee approach looked like it might work.
Zach Haake got the start and pitched 2 hitless innings (3 Ks, 0 BBs). Unfortunately, his replacement in the 3rd inning (Mason Hazelwood) was not nearly as successful. Hazelwood walked 2 batters, hit one with a pitch, and gave up 3 earned runs before being pulled in favor of Alec Maley.
Maley lasted 2 innings, but the sizzling bats of the Gators were a bit much and 4 earned runs later, Maley’s evening was finished. The 4th inning wasn’t a complete loss however as the Cats finally managed to get a couple of runs on the board. Luke Heyer was hit by a pitch and then Luke Becker hit a double allowing Heyer to score. Ben Aklinski followed up with a single that scored Becker.
The 5th inning brought the appearance of Aaron McGeorge, who gave up 2 hits and another run for the Gators. One bright spot for the Cats was the 6th inning when Brett Marshall, recently recovered from Tommy John surgery, struck out the side, ending a streak of 3 consecutive innings when Florida scored.
Meanwhile, the Gators’ Brady Singer had an excellent outing, pitching 7 innings, allowing 3 hits, 2 earned runs while striking out 10 batters and only walking one. Tommy Mace came on in relief in the 8th. He gave up 2 hits and no runs and the game ended with the Gators soundly defeating UK, 9-2.
Before the game ended, Kentucky had used 7 different pitchers, essentially allowing Florida to preview their entire bullpen…except for the “big guns”, Carson Coleman and Chris Machamer. At least we know they will be well rested should their services be required.
Friday night’s game starts at 7:30 pm with Sean Hjelle (5-2, 3.09 ERA) set to face off against Florida’s Jackson Kowar (6-1, 2.70 ERA). This game will also be televised on the SEC Network.
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