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No. 4 Kentucky baseball comes up clutch, defeats Florida 12-11 in extras

Sydney Yonker
Kentucky infielder Nick Lopez scores at home during the Kentucky vs Lipscomb baseball game on Friday, Mar. 1, 2024, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky, Kentucky won 7-4. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff

No. 4 Kentucky baseball (35-10 18-6 SEC) outlasted Florida (25-24 10-15 SEC) in an extra-inning thriller by a score of 12-11 on Friday.

Ryan Nicholson and Nick Lopez led the Wildcat offense in the game one victory with five RBIs each. Nicholson had two massive home runs and Lopez delivered what turned out to be the game-winning swing. 

Kentucky infielder Nick Lopez scores at home during the Kentucky vs Tennessee baseball game on Saturday, April 20, 2024 at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky lost 9-4. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff (Sydney Yonker)

The Wildcats got on the scoreboard in the first after Devin Burkes was hit by a pitch with two outs and advanced to third on a botched pickoff attempt and an interference call.

This brought Lopez to the plate for his first at-bat and he battled for six pitches before taking the seventh into right center for a double that scored Burkes and gave the Cats a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom half of the inning, Jac Caglianone singled and advanced to third on a botched pickoff attempt by Wildcat starter Trey Pooser. Ty Evans took advantage of the error by hitting a single that tied the game.

Both offenses were held scoreless in the second before Pooser surrendered a three-run home run to Colby Shelton in the third that gave the Gators the lead.

The Gators continued to click offensively in the fourth when Brody Donay homered to extend the Gator lead to 5-1.

Kentucky responded offensively in the top of the fifth when Lopez hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Ryan Waldschmidt and Mitchell Daly doubled to bring home Burkes, which cut the deficit to two runs.

After a scoreless sixth, the Gators added to their lead in the seventh as a Wildcat error kept the inning alive and, with the bases loaded, reliever Robert Hogan spiked a pitch, allowing Caglianone to score.

In the top of the eighth, Lopez led off with a walk before Daly struck out to bring Nicholson to the plate. He worked a full count before hitting a home run over the right field wall that made the score 6-5.

The Wildcats plated the tying run after freshman Eli Small pinch hit and doubled to score James McCoy.

Kentucky infielder Ryan Nicholson swings during the Kentucky vs Louisville baseball game on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 17-13. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff (Isaiah Pinto)

The tie was short lived as Donay led off with a single and scored quickly on a Tyler Shelnut double. Later in the inning, Dale Thomas plated Shelnut on a sacrifice fly which gave the Gators an 8-6 lead.

After two quick outs in the ninth, Lopez and Daly drew walks to keep the game alive and bring up Nicholson.

The lefty slugger took a hanging breaking ball and deposited it over the right field wall, dropping his bat and admiring the blast before shrugging his shoulders towards the Wildcat dugout as Lopez, Daly and Nicholson all touched the plate for a lead.

Things didn’t end there, though, as Johnny Hummel came on to try to close out the game and got two quick outs before surrendering three straight singles that tied the game again.

In extra innings, Lopez stepped up with the bases loaded and took a called strike before lining a double inside the right field line that scored pinch runner Ty Crittenberger, Émilien Pitre and Burkes and gave the Bat Cats a 12-9 lead.

Hummel stayed on for the 10th inning and immediately gave up a home run to Caglianone. After getting one out, Hummel gave up another home run to Shelton, which slimmed the Cats’ lead to 12-11 and ended Hummel’s day.

Ryan Hagenow came on last and gave up a single to Luke Heyman, but with the tying run aboard, Donay hit a ground ball to Daly, who fired it over to Pitre for one out before the latter threw it to Nicholson to turn a game-winning double play. 

The Wildcats will play for the series victory in game two against the Gators on Saturday, May 11, with first pitch scheduled for Noon ET.

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Jonathon Bruner, Assistant Sports Editor

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