Stokes, Joiner Homer as Florida Wins Series Behind Six-Run 4th
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Junior shortstop Christian Stokes and senior catcher Griffin Joiner each blasted their team-best seventh home runs of the season, but with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning No. 3 Florida rallied for six runs on four hits, three walks and an error, powering the Gators to a series-clinching 6-3 victory Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Monday's finale will start at 7 p.m. ET and be televised nationally on the SEC Network with Adam Amin and former Texas A&M All-American Amanda Scarborough calling the action. Kentucky (27-13, 4-10 Southeastern Conference) will look to avoid the sweep in the finale after Florida (39-4, 10-4 SEC) has claimed each of the first two games of the series. The Gators posted a 1-0 victory in the opener Saturday.
Kentucky scored first in the game, getting two runs in the third inning on a two-run homer by Stokes. The inning started when junior infielder Ansley Smith drew a leadoff walk, setting the scene for Stokes to crank her seventh homer of the season over the wall in centerfield.
The two-run lead for UK looked to be secure with sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince in the circle, before a furious two-out rally in the fourth inning by the high-powered Florida offense blew open the game. After two harmless ground outs to start the fourth inning, Prince allowed back-to-back walks to bring up the top of the Florida order in Kelsey Stewart, who singled to load the bases for outfielder Nicole DeWitt, who slapped a single to leftfield to cut the UK lead to 2-1. Outfielder Kirsti Merrit gave the Gators the lead when she hit an infield single to Stokes before senior designated player Lauren Haeger gave the Gators their biggest lead of the series with a three-run home run to leftfield.
True freshman pitcher Erin Rethlake came on in relief of Prince to get the final out of the fourth inning and end the game with 2.1 scoreless and hitless innings. Prince went 3.2 innings in the game, allowing six earned runs on eight hits with three strikeouts. The loss moves Prince to 11-5 on the season, while Florida's Aleshia Ocasio tossed six innings with three earned runs allowed on three hits with two strikeouts and four walks. Delaine Gourley finished the game for her first save of the season, tossing a perfect seventh inning.
Joiner cut the Florida lead to three runs in the sixth inning with a leadoff home run to leftfield, tying Stokes for the team lead with seven roundtrippers this season. The Wildcats other hit came from true freshman infielder Rachael Metzger, who singled to centerfield. Kentucky is only the second team this season to hit two or more home runs in a game against Florida.
Florida is the third consecutive top-five conference foe for the Wildcats, who started this tough run by taking two of three games over No. 1 LSU before a win last weekend over No. 5 Alabama. Kentucky is the only team in the conference so far this season to face three straight top-five ranked conference foes. UK's final three SEC series after Florida are against South Carolina, who is receiving votes, No. 11/14 Tennessee and No. 12/12 Georgia.
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Kentucky 27-13, 4-10 SEC
Florida 39-4, 10-4 SEC
Kentucky -- No. 13 USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 15 ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Florida -- No. 3 USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 3 ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Saturday, April 11
Florida def. Kentucky 1-0
Sunday, April 12
Florida def. Kentucky 6-3
Monday, April 13
Kentucky at Florida -- 7 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network