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Patrick Herrra’s big day sees No. 4 Kentucky baseball outlast Florida

Sydney Yonker
Kentucky infielder Patrick Herrera rounds third 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

Patrick Herrera’s big day at the plate propelled No. 4 Kentucky baseball (37-11, 20-7 SEC) to a 7-5 win over Florida (26-25, 11-16 SEC) in extra innings Sunday. 

The win marked the Bat Cats’ first series win over Florida since 2016 and tied their record for most conference wins in program history at 20.

Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Patrick Herrera makes a catch during the Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky baseball game on Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 10-0. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff (Isaiah Pinto)

Herrera finished the day 2-3 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch and led the offense with four huge RBIs.

The Wildcats grabbed a lead in the top of the second when Ryan Nicholson hit a fly ball to right center that fell after two Gators collided into each other, allowing Mitchell Daly to score.

After Nolan McCarthy drew a walk and James McCoy advanced both base runners into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt, Herrera came to the plate for his first at-bat.

After taking two balls and fouling a pitch off, Herrera hit an infield single that the shortstop knocked down, but not before Nicholson came home to score easily.

Ryan Waldschmidt then brought home McCarthy on a groundout which gave the Cats a 3-0 lead after two.

Herrera stepped back up to the plate in the fifth and was hit by pitch, but ultimately left stranded at second.

Pitching prevailed in the middle innings as Mason Moore shut down the Gator offense through six innings before running into trouble in the seventh.

Moore gave up a one-out single to Tyler Shelnut before bouncing back and striking out Brody Donay for the second out. Hayden Yost doubled down the left field line to bring home Shelnut and Yost, which cut the Wildcat lead to 3-2.

Robert Hogan relieved Moore and finished out the seventh before pitching a scoreless eighth.

Hogan returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and got one out before hanging an off-speed pitch, which Shelnut hit over the left field wall to tie the game.

The Wildcats were able to fend off the Gators’ walk-off attempt to move the game into extra innings and Devin Burkes led off the tenth inning with a double, followed up by a Nick Lopez single.

Ty Crittenberger came in to pinch run for Lopez and advanced to second before Daly drew a walk to load the bases. After Nicholson struck out, Nolan McCarthy hit an infield single to score Burkes and give the Cats a one-run lead.

James McCoy struck out for the second out to bring Herrera up with the bases still loaded.

After taking a strike from Florida’s Brandon Neely, Herrera lined a ball over the head of Shelnut in left and it rolled all the way to the wall, which scored Crittenberger, Daly and McCarthy as Herrera cruised into second with the Wildcats boasting a 7-3 lead.

Kentucky Wildcats infielder Patrick Herrera (22) leads off from second base during the No. 18 Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky baseball game on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Kentucky won 10-8. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Ryan Hagenow closed out the ninth and stayed on the mound in the tenth and gave up a leadoff single to Jac Caglianone. After striking out Luke Heyman, Hagenow hit Colby Shelton and walked Shelnut to load the bases.

McCoy was called in from right field to try and close out the game and struck out Donay for the second out before giving up a double to Yost, which scored Caglianone and Shelton.

With the score now 7-5 and the tying run on second, Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione called upon Ben Cleaver to try and get the final out.

Landon Russell pinch-hit for Michael Robinson and worked a 2-2 count before Cleaver fired a fastball up in the zone past a swinging Russell for the series-clinching final out.

Kentucky returns home to Kentucky Proud Park on Tuesday, May 14, for its final mid-week game of the year against Murray State, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Jonathon Bruner, Assistant Sports Editor

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