The top-ranked Florida baseball team won the series against the number nine Kentucky Wildcats Friday night in Lexington, Kentucky by beating the Wildcats 9-4. This was the first time since 2012 that the Gators have won the series against the Wildcats while in Lexington. Florida starting pitcher Jackson Kowar pitched seven shutout innings to improve his record to 7-1 on the season. Florida has now advanced to a 34-7 overall record and to 14-3 in the SEC. So far, Florida has won all six conference series. Meanwhile, Kentucky has moved to 25-14 and 7-10 in the conference.
Wil Dalton proved to be the force behind the Gators offense. Out of the nine runs scored six came from Dalton’s six RBI’s on the night.
The third inning was vital for the Gators’ momentum. Nick Horvath, Nelson Maldonado, and Jonathan India were all walked and with the bases loaded Wil Dalton came up to the plate and hit his first triple of the season to clear the bases making it 4-0 Gators.
The score didn’t move until the eighth inning when Kentucky decided to make a pitching change to put in reliever Jimmy Ramsey. To get things going Nelson Maldonado earned a walk. Then Jonathan India hit a double. With Maldonado and India in scoring position, Wil Dalton hit his 15th homer of the season over the left field wall. This made the score 7-0 Gators. Dalton now leads the league in home runs.
In the ninth inning, Maldonado single to center and then India hit his 13th home run of the season to make the score 9-1 Gators.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Wildcats got an extra burst of energy as they scored three runs off Gator closer Michael Byrne, who came into the game in the eighth inning.
Coaches Thoughts on the Two Standouts
During the game, Jackson Kowar only gave up five hits and no runs to go along with five strikeouts. Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan said that he thought Kowar had a nice game and kept his focus.
“I thought Jackson had a really good fastball tonight. I think [Kentucky] left eight runners stranded in the first four innings and Jackson made some big pitches when he needed to. He pitched seven innings like Brady did yesterday and gave us a chance to win.” Over his last four starts, he has allowed just four earned runs through 26.1 innings. Kowar was replaced by Jordan Butler in the eighth inning.
Butler didn’t have a ton of control of his pitches Friday night, walking one while giving up a run.
Jackson Kowar works a 1-2-3 seventh inning and he's been really good for the #Gators.
7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 5 K (104 pitches) pic.twitter.com/XnsTbbWMeE
— Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) April 21, 2018
Another standout in this game was outfielder Wil Dalton. After earning a triple and three-run homer Dalton now has 48 hits on the season (13 doubles, 1 triple and 15 homers). O’Sullivan was very impressed with Dalton’s performance against such a good team.
“Offensively, Wil had six RBI on two swings with the bases-clearing triple and the three-run homer late. I’ve been up here enough over the years and this is a really tough place to win. To get a series win against a Top 10 Kentucky team is not easy to do. I’m really pleased with how we’ve played the first two games and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
The Gators will be going for the sweep Saturday at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network+ (stream only).