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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Gators begin road series against Kentucky Wildcats

No. 10 Florida looks to stretch win streak to four games

Junior Franco Aleman delivers a pitch against Jacksonville on March 14.
Junior Franco Aleman delivers a pitch against Jacksonville on March 14.

When the bus doors opened, Florida climbed aboard to hit the road on the way to the Bluegrass state.

The Gators arrived set to begin their one and only series against SEC rival Kentucky in the midst of a three-game win streak.

The No. 10 Gators currently stand at a steady 31-13 record after having won 11 of their past 13 games. 

But the momentum risks coming to a screeching halt if Florida can’t improve upon its 5-7 road record against the Wildcats, who successfully defended their home turf in five of their last eight games.

Florida Gators catcher Nathan Hickey feels the team is ready to take on the fresh competition. 

"They're good this year,” Hickey said. “I don't know where they are in the rankings. I don't pay attention to that. But I know they're pretty good. I have friends on the team, they're excited. We're excited. We want to go up there and win."

The freshman from Jacksonville looks to continue his own success as well. Hickey finished the game against Stetson Tuesday with a pair of hits and two RBIs in four plate appearances, and he leads the team with a .354 batting average and 45 RBIs

Designated hitter Kris Armstrong also has a chance to continue a run of form all his own after he powered a ball beyond the fences against the Hatters. 

Right fielder Sterlin Thompson made his plate presence felt when he nailed three hits in four at-bats. Not only did the freshman round the bases twice, but he also batted in a score off a double to right-center field.

The Wildcats’ pitching staff hasn’t seen much consistency in 2021 with a 4.40 ERA, and they’ve watched 37 balls fly beyond the fences. 

Sophomore Cole Stupp splits ace duties with fellow sophomore Zack Lee, but they’re stuck at an 8-8 record and a combined ERA above 4.00.

If Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan sticks to the rotation he seems to have found comfort in, right-handed junior Franco Aleman (11-7) should start on the mound for the Gators. Aleman opened the past three weekend series. 

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It’s been surprisingly long since the two SEC teams dueled on a baseball field. In a previous series two seasons ago, Florida toppled the Wildcats in two of the three games. However,  the rosters look almost entirely different now since the COVID-19 pandemic slammed the brakes on the 2020 season. 

The first pitch will be thrown after pre-game ceremonies at 7 p.m. from Kentucky Proud Park. All the action will be live on the SEC Network and 98.1 FM/850 AM.

Contact Jesse Richardson at jrichardson@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352

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