In a stark contrast to Thursday’s series opener against the #1 Florida Gators, Kentucky returned to a more normal pitching strategy. While the Cats used 7 different pitchers on Thursday, and none for longer than 2 innings, usual Friday night starter Sean Hjelle lasted 7 innings before being relieved by Jimmy Ramsey. While Hjelle had a respectable 3 hits and 5 strikeouts, it was the 4 hits and 4 earned runs that dug a hole for the Cats.
Ramsey’s outing was short-lived as he gave up 2 walks and 3 hits including a 3-run homer for Wil Dalton that stretched the Gators’ lead to 7-0 with only 1 out. Carson Coleman then entered the game and, while things got interesting as Florida loaded the bases again, he managed to escape without allowing Florida to extend their lead any further.
Once again, the temperatures were unseasonably cool for late April and unfortunately, the Cats’ bats were about as cold as the air. It did get mildly interesting in the 8th inning when Ben Aklinski drove in one run. Kentucky managed to load the bases with 2 outs, but pinch-hitter Ryan Johnson flied out to end the inning and the threat of any more runs for the Cats.
As the game moved to the 9th inning, the Cats made yet another pitching change bringing in Brad Schaenzer. He promptly gave up a single to Maldonado and then a 2-run homer to Jonathan India, extending the Florida lead to 9-1. Schaenzer retired the side after that, but again, too much damage was already done.
The Cats staged a mini-rally in the 9th inning when a wild pitch by Florida allowed Brayden Combs to score, and then Kole Cottam hammered a pitch well over the left field wall for a 2-run homer. But that was the end of the Cats’ scoring and the final was Florida 9, Kentucky 4 with the Gators assured of the series win.
Credit must be given to Florida, however. They are the number 1 team in the country for a reason and that is an incredible pitching staff. Even when Kentucky was able to get hits, it was more than a daunting task to advance the runners. Hjelle picked up the loss, dropping his record to 5-3. The series will conclude tomorrow with the game starting at 1 pm. No television coverage is available but the game can be seen online on the SEC Network+.
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