Seventh-Inning Defense Dooms Wildcats to Opening Loss to Gators
March 15, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After Kentucky rallied to tie the game in the sixth, Florida took advantage of three UK errors at third base in the bottom of the seventh, plating three unearned runs to secure a 4-1 win over the No. 9 Wildcats in the Southeastern Conference opener, on a pleasant Friday evening at in front of 3,540 at McKethan Stadium.
Kentucky (14-3) rallied with a two-out double from A.J. Reed in the top of the sixth to even the game at 1-1. Florida’s Zach Powers led off the fateful seventh inning with a slow roller to third base, running down the line with his bat in his hand thinking it was foul, but the throw from Paul McConkey sailed into rightfield for a two-base leadoff error. Brady Roberson then tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt but it was bobbled by McConkey for an error. Connor Mitchell, Casey Turgeon and Harrison Bader then delivered RBI to force in the decisive runs, with UK working around a third error that loaded the bases with two outs.
The three-error inning for UK in the seventh snapped a streak of defensive prowess early in the year, as the Wildcats had committed just two errors in its last eight games entering the series. UK set the school-record for fielding percentage in 2012 with a .976 clip and was fielding .986 in its last 10 games.
Reed (2-2) suffered the hard-luck loss in his quality start, working 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and four runs – with only one run earned – striking out five. The start for Reed was his third quality start of the year and the fourth of his two-year career. Senior Walter Wijas replaced him in the seventh, working 1.2 perfect innings and using just 15 pitches.
The Wildcats collected four hits in the game, getting two each from All Americans Austin Cousino and Reed. Cousino also stole his sixth base of the year and was hit by a pitch. Sophomore Max Kuhn drew a walk to extend his streak of reaching base to 17 games – each contest of 2013.
Florida (9-10) starter Jay Carmichael worked 5.2 strong innings, allowing only three hits and one run, walking two and striking out two. Bobby Poyner came on for a left-on-left matchup in the sixth, getting an out to escape the jam. Ryan Harris (3-1) picked up the win with two shutout innings in relief. Johnny Magliozzi picked up his fourth save of the year in the ninth.
The series will resume on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET at McKethan Stadium. The game will be televised live on Fox SportsSouth and will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WWTF 1580-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send senior southpaw Jerad Grundy (3-1, 1.35 ERA) to the mound to face off with Florida ace right-hander Jonathon Crawford (0-2, 4.22 ERA), a member of the USA Collegiate National Team during the summer.
The Gators took a lead in the bottom of the third as Josh Tobias drilled his first career homer as an opposite-field shot over the rightfield fence.
UK rallied to even the game in the top of the sixth. Cousino led off with a single to leftfield, stealing second after a failed bunt attempt. With a 3-2 count on Reed, the sophomore smashed a double over the centerfielder’s head to score Cousino and even the game.
Reed continued to shine in the bottom of the sixth, as the Gators ripped a leadoff triple to centerfield. Reed then got a foul fly out and consecutive strikeouts of the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters to escape the jam with the game tied 1-1 through six frames.
GAME NOTES: Junior J.T. Riddle made his team-leading 83rd consecutive start … With a first-inning single, Austin Cousino has now reached base as the leadoff hitter in 10-of-24 chances … Riddle was hit by his fourth pitch of the year in the fourth … Max Kuhn’s fourth-inning walk extended his streak of reaching base safely to all 17 games of 2013 … Cousino stole his sixth base of the year and the 21st of his career in the sixth … A.J. Reed hit his third double of the year to score the tying run in the sixth … It was Reed’s fourth two-strike hit of 2013 and the eighth two-out hit and ninth two-out RBI … UK’s three-error frame was its first three-error game since committing three against EKU on Feb. 27 … Cousino was hit by his fifth pitch of the year in the eighth … Reed turned in his third quality start of the year and the fourth of his career … Thomas Bernal was hit by his fourth pitch of the year in the ninth.