Maldonado's Two Homers Power No. 1 Florida to Opener
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Top-ranked Florida got a pair of home runs from freshman leftfielder Nelson Maldonado and a five-inning start from All-America junior Logan Shore, posting a 12-4 win over Kentucky to open the series and extend its winning streak to 17 games, on an overcast Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (15-6, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) opened the scoring but fell behind immediately after taking the lead, as the Gators plated three in the third and two in the fourth, behind Maldonado’s homers in each frame.
Offensively, UK saw junior DH Gunnar McNeill extend his hitting streak to 16 games with a 2-for-4 game, adding a pair of RBI. McNeill, an Orlando, Fla., native has reached base safely in all 21 games of his career. Sophomore Evan White extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a sixth-inning single and UK also got RBI hits from freshman Tristan Pompey and Luke Becker.
UK starter Zack Brown (1-4) suffered the loss, allowing four hits and five runs in 3.2 innings, walking six and striking out three. After walking three in the top of the fourth inning, Brown was pulled from the game due to injury and Logan Salow escaped the inning in relief. Salow worked two innings, allowing a pair of unearned runs, walking two and striking out two. Sophomore Zach Pop started the seventh inning, working two innings, allowing one hit, one run and two walks, striking out four. Freshman Daniel Tillo worked in the ninth, before McNeill came on to pitch the final inning in his first UK pitching appearance.
Florida (23-1, 4-0 SEC) won its 17th consecutive game, with Shore improving to 5-0 through his first six starts to the season. Shore worked five innings, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks, striking out six. Kirby Snead came on in relief with two runners on in the sixth inning, working a shutout inning with two strikeouts. Dane Dunning then worked the eighth and Michael Byrne worked the ninth.
The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network +, available on the ESPN app, and on the UK Radio Network, available in Lexington on WLAP 630-AM. UK will start senior righty Dustin Beggs (5-0, 1.77 ERA) vs. the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Florida junior southpaw A.J. Puk (1-1, 1.88 ERA).
The Wildcats got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning. McNeill started the frame with a single to left-centerfield and Reks drew a walk. After a bunt attempt and strikeout, Pompey pulled a two-out RBI single through the right side, scoring Reks with a feet-first slide to take a 1-0 lead.
The Gators immediately answered with a Nelson Maldonado leadoff homer in the top of the third inning, his third homer of the year. Jonathan India followed with a double into the gap, taking third on a passed ball, and Dalton Guthrie was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners without an out. Buddy Reed then smashed a single up the middle, scoring India and putting runners on the corners for JJ Schwarz. Schwarz grounded out up the middle, scoring Guthrie from third base.
In the top of the fourth inning, Florida broke open the game with two runs to take a four-run lead. Jeremy Vasquez led off with a walk and Maldonado smashed a two-run homer over the rightfield fence.
Florida stretched its lead in the sixth inning, as Guthrie and Reed singled and Schwarz loaded the bases with a walk. Alonso then chopped a ground ball to the left side that went as an error, allowing Guthrie to score from third. Reed then scored on a wild pitch from third to take a 7-1 lead.
Kentucky mounted a rally in the bottom of the sixth, as Storm Wilson was hit by a pitch and White singled through the right side. JaVon Shelby then drew a walk to load the bases for McNeill, who promptly scored a pair with a two-RBI single through the left side. After Shelby was picked off second base and Kole Cottam drew a walk, Becker singled through the left side to score McNeill.
Florida added five runs in the ninth inning, as Vasquez singled through the left side to score Deacon Liput. India then had a three-RBI triple to score Mike Rivera and Vasquez. India scored on a fly ball for the 12th UF run.