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Thursday, February 02, 2023

Florida baseball has to watch out for the Friday night hangover in Game 2 against Kentucky and not the kind that comes with a night out in Lexington, Ky., either. Instead, it’s the one that results from a 17-1 drubbing from No. 22 Kentucky (21-9, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

The No. 13 Gators (19-11, 6-4 SEC) fall a game behind in the win column of No. 2 South Carolina, who moved to 7-4 in the Eastern Division by splitting a doubleheader against Arkansas.

Right-hander Eric Hanhold allowed 10 runs, nine of them earned, in the largest margin of victory for Kentucky in a SEC game. The Wildcats had eight of their 20 hits go for extra bases, including a three-run home run by Michael Kuhn off the scoreboard in left field and four home runs for the game. Kentucky scored its first run in the second inning on a wild pitch and added four more in the third on a grand slam by Austin Cousino.

“It was unfortunate. We obviously got off to a tough start there. They put up a bunch of crooked numbers up. I think it was four innings in a row,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan told the IMG Gator Sports Network. “It was uncharacteristic of us. We’ve been pitching really well here.”

All-American left-hander A.J. Reed tossed seven shutout innings for the Wildcats in addition to going 3 for 4 at the plate with a solo home run to center field to lead off the fourth inning. Florida couldn’t take advantage of uncharacteristic command issues from Reed who was selected by Perfect Game as the Midseason Player of the Year. He’s the SEC leader in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.

With a 10-run deficit by the time O’Sullivan went to the bullpen, the Gators used just two relievers the rest of the way, Dane Dunning and Frank Rubio, to preserve the pitching staff for Game 2 on Saturday at 1 p.m. Freshman right-hander Logan Shore (2-1, 1.35) starts for Florida against junior right-hander Chandler Shepherd (5-1, 3.26).

Until Friday, pitching has been reliable for UF. It’s been the hitting that comes and goes. Since scoring three runs in the first inning against Florida Atlantic on Tuesday, Florida has driven in two runs in its last 19 innings. Freshman Buddy Reed doubled in Zack Powers in the ninth for Florida’s only run on Friday.

“We’ve just got to do a better job taking care of our at-bats and doing a better job of putting the ball in play when we need too. I can’t tell you how many times we swung through or mishit a bunch of balls on 3-1 counts,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re fouling them off. We’re late. We’ve got to do some damage in those counts. It’s just that simple.”

A UF radio broadcast contributed to this story.

Follow Adam Pincus on Twitter @adamDpincus

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