Kentucky drubbed 9-1 by Florida in rainy onslaught in Gainesville


Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Adam Fogel (55) catches a fly ball during the UK vs. Bellarmine baseball game on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-2. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Scott Clarke

Kentucky dropped the second game of its series 9-1 against Florida in Gainesville on Saturday, dropping the Cats to a 23-20 overall record and a 6-14 record in SEC play.

The game, originally supposed to start at 6 p.m. EST, was delayed 56 minutes due to inclement weather.

Zack Lee took the hill for Kentucky while Brandon Neely started on the mound for the Gators.

Neely made quick work of Kentucky in the top half of the first inning, shaking off a leadoff walk to Chase Estep and retiring the next three batters.

In the bottom half, Florida’s Wyatt Langford led off with a triple. Sterlin Thompson was able to score Langford in part to a throwing error from Kentucky’s Daniel Harris IV, giving the Gators a 1-0 lead early.

Jud Fabian drove home Thompson with an RBI double, pushing the lead to 2-0. BT Riopelle singled to drive home Fabian and in a blink of an eye it was 3-0 before Lee recorded an out.

However, Lee got two outs quickly with a double play and then a flyout to the next batter to limit the damage.

After Jase Felker struck out to start the second inning, Oraj Anu and Ryan Ritter were both hit by pitches consecutively to put runners on first and second with one out. 

Devin Burkes grounded out, moving Anu to third and Ritter to second. Unfortunately for Kentucky, Adam Fogel grounded out to third to end the inning, missing a prime opportunity to get some runs back.

Florida would continue the onslaught in the second inning.

Josh Rivera led off with a solo home run, extending the lead to four. After striking out the next batter, Lee hit Deric Fabian with a pitch. Thompson doubled to left center to score Fabian, making it a 5-0 ballgame.

A Lee wild pitch allowed Thompson to advance to third and UK manager Nick Mingione had seen enough, bringing in Ryan Hagenow to try and stop the bleeding.

Kentucky intentionally walked Fabian, who stole second, putting runners on second and third for the Gators.

Riopelle singled both runners home, giving him three RBI in just two innings. More importantly, he stretched the lead to seven.

Hagenow recovered nicely, striking out the next batter to end the inning.

The Cats, now down seven, needed to come up with something quick to try and get momentum on their side. With the top of the order up, the time was now.

They were sat down in order by Neely.

In the bottom of the fourth, Mother Nature put her imprint on the game. After Langford grounded out, the skies really started to open up. As the grounds crew hustled to get the tarp on the field, rain poured down as lightning struck in the background.

The delay began at 8:13 p.m. and lasted until 10:21 p.m., a long two hours and 18 minutes.

Now at a mostly empty Condron Ballpark, it was time to play ball again.

Magdiel Cotto took over for Hagenow, who put in a pretty solid performance out of the bullpen.

Cotto got the final two outs of the inning via strikeout. Tyler Nesbitt took over for Neely, who did a good job of keeping the Kentucky bats cold.

Ritter greeted Nesbitt with a leadoff double to left field. Burkes followed with a walk. 

Fogel, Estep, and Jacob Plastiak were all unable to keep the short-lived momentum going, producing outs. The score remained at 7-0..

Harris IV started off the sixth with a single. Kentucky needed to come up with answers quickly. Hunter Jump and Felker followed up with strikeouts. 

After Harris IV advanced to second from a wild pitch, Anu was plunked again with a pitch.

That would be it for Nesbitt as Blake Purnell took over pitching duties.

Ritter, just as he did when he greeted Nesbitt two innings earlier, greeted Purnell with a double, this time scoring Harris IV. The Cats were on the board with the score now 8-1.

Florida added an insurance run in the bottom half from a solo homer from Caglianone, making the score 9-1.

The final inning was a microcosm of the whole game.

Now midnight, Kentucky had runners on second and third with two outs after a Harris IV single and a Jump double. Despite being down eight, some clutch hitting could provide a spark and give Kentucky some juice heading into Sunday’s game.

Felker struck out to end the game.

It was a six-hour, wet and humid, dominant beatdown by the Gators, who took advantage of the runners they were able to get on base. For Kentucky, it was the opposite.

Kentucky’s pitching struggled, just as they had in game one of the series on Friday. 18 runs in two games is not a formula for success by any means, and Kentucky will look to improve on that aspect Sunday, May 1, in the final game of their series against UF. 

First pitch is at 12:00 p.m. EST.