No. 11 Gators Post Series-Opening Win

May 14, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With the game tied 2-2, No. 11 Florida struck for three runs in the bottom of the fifth and five runs in the bottom of the sixth, to break open the game and secure a 10-3 win in the Southeastern Conference series opener, in front of 2,312 fans Thursday at McKethan Stadium.

Kentucky (27-25, 11-17 SEC) still sits 1.5 games back of Vanderbilt for the final spot in the SEC Tournament, held May 20-24 in Hoover, Ala. Tennessee posted an 8-6 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville Thursday night. The SEC takes the top eight teams – based on winning percentage – to the tournament, with UK currently in ninth place. The Wildcats own the tie breaker with Vanderbilt thanks to winning two of three games in Lexington in 2009, but thanks to a Vandy-Arkansas rain out earlier in the year, the Commodores own the half-game advantage that could prove to be the difference in UK’s season. A Vanderbilt win and a UK loss, or a Vanderbilt win and a UK win Friday would eliminate the Wildcats from contention.

The Wildcats only got 5.1 innings out of junior starter James Paxton (5-3), who struck out six, allowing 11 hits and nine runs. Paxton’s outing equaled the worst of his career, as the lefty allowed nine runs in two innings against No. 28 South Carolina earlier in the year.

Florida (37-17, 18-10 SEC) got a four-RBI and three hit game from clean-up man Josh Adams and a four-hit game from lead-off man Avery Barnes. Stephen Locke (4-1) got the win, going 7.1 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs.

Offensively for UK, freshman Chad Wright totaled the lone multi-hit game for the Wildcats, going 3-for-4. Catcher Marcus Nidiffer belted his eighth homer of the year, notching two RBI in a 1-for-3 game.

The series will resume Friday, with a 6:30 p.m. ET first pitch at McKethan Stadium. UK will send senior southpaw Chris Rusin (6-4, 3.96 ERA) to the mound to face Florida freshman lefty Alex Panteliodis (5-5, 4.11 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio). Fans in Lexington can catch the action live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.

UK mounted a rally in the top of the first, as Wright and Andy Burns led off with singles, advancing to second on Chris Bisson’s high-hoping grounder to second. Gunner Glad followed and lined a hard-hit ball to third base, snagged by Brandon McArthur, who wheeled and fired to second to get Burns on the double play line out.

Florida struck first with a run in the bottom of the first inning, as Barnes led off with a single, fielded by Bisson behind the first base bag, but with Glad out of position after attempting to field the grounder, UK had no play on Barnes. After a sacrifice bunt and a groundout moved Barnes to third, Paxton worked a two-strike count on Adams, burying a ball in the dirt. Adams checked his swing and catcher Marcus Nidiffer and the home plate umpire Jeff Head appealed to first base. While the appeal was in progress, Barnes took advantage in a UK defensive breakdown, scampering home before any Wildcats realized he was running from third base, scoring on a wild pitch.

Kentucky mounted a rally with two hits in the top of the second. Shortstop Chris Wade led off with a single hit to the opposite field, moving to second on Keenan Wiley’s sacrifice bunt. Nidiffer followed and ripped a low inside pitch over the right-field line, his eighth homer of the year.

Florida immediately answered with a two-out run in the bottom of the second. After Paxton struck out Matt den Dekker and Brandon McArthur grounded out, Teddy Foster lifted a 1-2 offering from Paxton over the right-field fence for his sixth homer of the year.

The Gators took the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, securing a 5-2 advantage. After Paxton got Mike Mooney to groundout to lead off, Barnes hit a slow roller to Glad at first base. Glad, thinking Paxton was going to cover the bag, did not rush to step on the base, with the speedy Barnes beating both UK defenders – with plenty of time to spare – to first base for an infield hit. After a wild pitch moved Barnes to second, Jonathan Pigott put runners on the corners with a single to center field. With Barnes at third, Preston Tucker hit a roller to Glad at first, who attempted to get the lead runner at the plate. Glad’s throw was high, forcing Nidiffer to make a catch that took him out of position for a tag, with Barnes sliding head first under the late tag.

Florida added to its lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, getting three consecutive hits to lead off the inning, loading the bags. Paxton responded with a looking strikeout of Pigott but hit Tucker with the first pitch of the at bat, driving in Daniel Pigott and ending the game for Paxton.  UK called on Tilford, who immediately allowed a bases-loaded single to Adams. The Adams’ single got under the glove of Chad Wright in left field for his first error of the year, allowing all three runners to score and Adams to move to third. Matt den Dekker scored Adams with a sacrifice fly, making it 10-2.

Kentucky narrowed the lead in the top of the eighth, as Cory Farris led off with a single and Wright notched his third hit of the game. Pinch hitter Chris McClendon drew a walk to load the bags and Chris Bisson lobbed a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Farris.