Offense Erupts in 14-1 Win at No. 4 Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Kentucky offense exploded for 14 runs on 18 hits, paced by a career-outing from senior Neiko Johnson and four hits from a blistering-hot Thomas McCarthy, posting a series-evening 14-1 win over No. 4 Florida, on a steamy Friday night in front of 3,990 at McKethan Stadium.
Kentucky (25-29, 8-21 Southeastern Conference) had its offense explode for a SEC season-high 14 runs on 18 hits, including a four-hit game from McCarthy and three-hit games from Johnson, Taylor Black and Chad Wright. Johnson collected a career-high four RBI and four runs scored on a 3-for-5 game. Black finished 3-for-5 with an RBI, with Wright batting 3-for-5 with three RBI. Braden Kapteyn totaled a 2-for-5 game, with J.T. Riddle, Lucas Witt and Matt Reida also collecting hits.
McCarthy, the reigning Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week, owns a career-high tying nine-game hitting streak and has a staggering seven consecutive games with at least three hits. Over the seven-game span, McCarthy has hit .697 (23-for-33) with three doubles, one triple, two homers and 14 RBI. During his nine-game hitting streak, McCarthy has hit .658 (25-for-38) with three doubles, one triple, three homers and 15 RBI. On the year, McCarthy has hit a staggering .376 (77-for-205) with 19 doubles, two triples, seven homers and 38 RBI, stealing eight bases. In SEC play alone, McCarthy has hit .421 (45-for-107) with eight doubles, two triples, five homers and 23 RBI.
The 14 runs and 18 hits are the most allowed by the high-powered Gators this season, as UK plated a single run in the first, three runs in the third, seven runs in the fifth, adding two runs in the seventh and a tally in the eighth. UK's 13-run win was the largest margin of victory over Florida in program annals. Florida, the defending SEC Champion, entered the series in a three-way tie for the regular-season championship.
UK starter Alex Meyer (7-5) went seven strong innings, allowing only five hits and one run, walking three and striking out nine. Meyer allowed only one run, coming in the fifth inning. A native of Greensburg, Ind., Meyer tossed his 10th quality start of the year in his 14th start. In his three-year career, Meyer owns 253 strikeouts, good for fifth in UK history, coming in 211.2 career innings. On the year, Meyer has struck out 110 in 101 innings, passing Chris Rusin’s 109 strikeouts during the 2009 season and moving into eighth-best in UK single-season history. UK junior lefty Alex Phillips tossed the final two innings without allowing a run.
Florida (40-15, 21-8 SEC) starter Hudson Randall (8-2) went over four innings, allowing seven hits and five runs, walking one and striking out three. The standout ace righty entered the game in the conversation for SEC Pitcher of the Year accolades, owning a 2.14 ERA.
After allowing a leadoff hit in the top of the fifth, UF turned to lefty Daniel Gibson, who allowed two runs without recording an out, before Matt Campbell got two outs in the fifth, allowing three hits, four runs and two walks. Justin Poovey got UF out of the inning, and went 3.1 innings, allowing four hits and two runs, striking out one, before Keenan Kish pitched the ninth inning.
The season will conclude on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET at McKethan Stadium. UK will send sophomore righty Jordan Cooper (3-2, 4.61 ERA) to face off with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, standout freshman Karsten Whitson. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. The game will be televised on Fox Sports South (Insight-Channel 52), with Dave Neal, Nick Belmonte on the call.
Kentucky took an early lead in the top of the first inning, as Johnson drew a full-count walk and advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt from Randall that sailed into rightfield. Wright then hit a grounder to Austin Maddox at first base, allowing Johnson to score the first run of the game.
UK added three runs to its lead with two outs in the top of the third inning, as Black connected on the first pitch from Randall, sending it soaring over the leftfield fence for his fourth home run of the season and a 2-0 UK lead. Wright then smacked an opposite-field double down the line, his 14th of the year, and McCarthy singled to leftfield to score Wright, who slide just under the tag. After McCarthy took third on the throw to the plate to try and get Wright, Kapteyn singled with two strikes to centerfield, allowing McCarthy to score from second base without a throw.
Kentucky broke the game open in the top of the fifth inning, batting around and totaling seven runs on five hits to take an 11-0 lead. Black led off the inning with an infield hit and Wright got hit by a pitch. McCarthy then loaded the bases with a single to centerfield and UK got back-to-back sacrifice fly from Kapteyn and Williams to score a pair. Riddle then drew a walk and Witt smacked an RBI single into centerfield, with Riddle taking third and Witt moving to second on a bobble in centerfield. Reida then drew a walk to load the bases for Johnson. Johnson doubled down the leftfield line to clear the bases with three RBI. Black then got hit by a pitch and Wright notched a RBI single down the leftfield line to score the 11th UK run of the game.
The Gators rallied to get on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Daniel Pigott doubled down the line with one out and Nolan Fontana drew a walk. Bryson Smith singled to load the bases and Preston Tucker got hit by a pitch to score the first run of the game for UF.
UK added two runs in the top of the seventh inning, as Reida singled to leftfield to leadoff, scoring on Johnson’s second double of the game. After Black’s third hit of the game, Wright scored Johnson on an RBI fielder’s choice.
GAME NOTES: UK senior shortstop Taylor Black made his team-leading 94th consecutive start at shortstop, Chad Wright his 61st consecutive start and Braden Kapteyn his 49th straight start …Black launched his fourth homer of the year in the third … Wright connected on his 14th double of the season in the third frame … Thomas McCarthy extended his hitting streak to a career-high equaling nine games … J.T. Riddle connected on his ninth double of the year to lead off the top of the fourth … Neiko Johnson notched his fifth double of the year … McCarthy now owns seven consecutive games with at least three hits … Kapteyn recorded his third sacrifice fly and Williams his first sacrifice fly of the year … Johnson notched his sixth double of the year … With four RBI and four runs scored, Johnson set a new career high and three hits equal his career high … McCarthy’s four hits tied a career high.