It’s hard to find many teams that have produced at the same level offensively as Florida in 2018. Sixth ranked Kentucky is one of those teams. Entering Thursday night’s matchup against the Gators, the Wildcats had a .307 team batting average, 59 home runs, and 200 walks. That’s what made Florida ace Brady Singer’s outing in Game 1 of this critical SEC series so impressive. It wasn’t the fact that he dazzled as usual, but rather the fact that he dazzled against such a potent lineup. With a win on Thursday, Florida improves to 11-2 in the SEC and are a win away from clinching their sixth conference series win in a row as the Gators down the Wildcats 11-3.
Kentucky’s big offensive bats were silenced for the first three innings as Singer retired nine of the first 10 Wildcats he faced. He found similar success in innings five through seven when he again retired nine of the 10 hitters he faced. Singer, now 8-1 on the season, struck out 10 and issued one free pass; his elite control has helped him build a 4.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season. Thursday’s win also marked the seventh time in 10 starts that Singer finished seven innings of work.
Brady Singer has been locked in tonight:
7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 10 K (104 pitches, 74 strikes)
— Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) April 20, 2018
Kentucky broke their offensive seal in the fourth inning when senior Luke Becker doubled down the left field line to score senior Luke Heyer. Becker would later score when junior Ben Aklinski singled through the left side. However, at this point, Kentucky’s two runs weren’t going to matter too much.
By the time Kentucky pushed across their first run of the game, Florida had already provided Singer with plenty of run support. The Gator offense exploded with a six-run effort in the third inning. Deacon Liput began the onslaught when he doubled with the bases loaded to plate Keenan Bell and Blake Reese. Brady Smith advanced to third on the play and then scored on a sacrifice fly via Nelson Maldonado in the following at-bat.
After a Jonathan India one-out walk, Wil Dalton was presented with a prime opportunity to break the game open. He capitalized. Dalton homered to left field to give the Gators a 6-0 lead. He now leads the SEC with 14 home runs.
In the fourth, Florida made it 7-0 when Reese scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Liput. The three RBIs from Liput gives him 23 RBIs in just 26 games this season.
In the fifth, the Gators responded to Kentucky’s two runs when Reese singled to center scoring JJ Schwarz. That made it 8-2. A Smith home run, his second of the season, in the eighth put Florida up 9-2. The offensive outpour was capped in the ninth when Dalton scored on an error and Smith singled home Schwarz for the second time making it 11-2 Florida, the eventual final score.
Jonathan India walked twice but failed to record a hit bringing his hitting streak to a halt at 24 games.
Jonathan India's 24-game hitting streak has come to an end.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 20, 2018
Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan turned to Tommy Mace in relief and the freshman pitched well in the final two innings of the game. He gave up one hit and one walk while striking out two.
Florida and Kentucky square off again for the second game of the series tonight. You can listen to the action on ESPN 98.1 FM 850 AM WRUF beginning at 7:25 p.m. Jackson Kowar (6-1, 2.70 ERA) is expected to get the start for the Gators against Sean Hjelle (5-2, 3.09 ERA) for the Wildcats.