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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Hunter Barco strikes out Wildcats, Gators win series

No. 10 Florida shut out Kentucky Saturday to close the weekend

Southpaw Hunter Barco pitches against Jacksonville on March 14
Southpaw Hunter Barco pitches against Jacksonville on March 14

A four-seam fastball raced out of the fiery hand of southpaw Hunter Barco and flashed across home plate. At 97 mph, the pitch whizzed by the delayed swing of Kentucky’s Oraj Anu, who became just another victim of a strikeout massacre.

The left-handed Florida pitcher went Super Saiyan mode on Saturday afternoon and tossed 10 strikeouts while shutting out the Kentucky Wildcats in 6.2 innings pitched.

The Wildcats would eventually attempt to take advantage when Florida called upon sophomore reliever Christian Scott with back-to-back home runs, but the effort was futile and the Gators walked out of Lexington, Kentucky with a series-clinching 9-2 victory.

The Gators played from behind for most of the series, but the team found its groove early on Saturday afternoon.

A sacrifice fly from center fielder Jud Fabian in the first inning sent sophomore Kris Armstrong home from third base to draw first blood. Armstrong sent a bullet just short of center field to place himself in the scoring position.

The RBI was Fabian’s 44th of the season, second most on the team behind freshman Nathan Hickey’s 45.

After his heroic three-run home run Friday night, right fielder Kendrick Calilao quickly became the Wildcats kryptonite Saturday. The sophomore found his way on base with a pair of hits and an RBI, bringing his RBI total to five for the series.

Left fielder Jacob Young stepped up to the plate to tally four hits and record a sacrifice fly in five at-bats, with two RBI doubles and even rounded the bases to add another run on the final score.

Young instilled fear amongst opposing aces all season as he recorded a steady .399 on-base percentage and a .455 slugging percentage.

Closing pitcher Jack Leftwich took the mound near the end of the eighth inning to clean up shop. He forced Kentucky outfielder Cam Hill to pop out for the final out of the eighth and then struck out two batters in a row to mop up the floor and gain his third save of the season.

Leftwich finished the day with one hit allowed and four strikeouts. The junior from Orlando, Florida improved his ERA to 3.51.

The Gators improve to 33-14 for the season and return home to Florida to prepare for a third and final meeting with the Stetson Hatters in Deland on Tuesday. 

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

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