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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Florida unable to clinch series against Kentucky

The Gators’ offense struck out fourteen times in the loss Friday

<p>Brandon Sproat pitching against Miami Feb. 21, 2021. Courtesy of the SEC Media Portal. Sproat will start on the mound for Florida&#x27;s first-round matchup with Central Michigan.</p>

Brandon Sproat pitching against Miami Feb. 21, 2021. Courtesy of the SEC Media Portal. Sproat will start on the mound for Florida's first-round matchup with Central Michigan.

Florida junior right-handed starting pitcher Brandon Sproat had a down night in Friday’s outing against Kentucky.

Sproat entered the contest with a 4.44 earned run average and a 7-2 record. The junior had just come off a performance against then-No. 4 Vanderbilt in which he pitched six innings and failed to let up a run.

Friday was characterized by few highs and many lows.

Sproat surrendered six runs across five innings as the No. 4 Florida Gators (41-13, 19-10 SEC) were defeated by the No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats (36-16, 16-13 SEC) 6-4 Friday at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. The Gators mustered only five hits to Kentucky’s pitching staff, which was able to strike out Florida fourteen times. 

Sproat quickly entered into some trouble and surrendered a leadoff single to Wildcats senior outfielder Jackson Gray. After earning outs against Kentucky’s next two batters, Sproat allowed a walk and run-batted-in single for the Wildcats first run of the game. 

The first inning looked like a complete fluke after the right-hander rebounded with an impressive second frame. Sproat was a pitch away from an immaculate inning and struck out the side in only ten pitches.

The Gators were able to get on the scoreboard in the first inning off of a solo home run from junior outfielder Wyatt Langford.

The score was evened to one run apiece when Kentucky redshirt sophomore catcher Devin Burkes hit a single to drive in a run in the bottom half of the inning. 

UF took back its lead when  sophomore hitter Jac Caglianone blasted a shot greater than 400 feet to left-center field for a two-run home run. 

The lead didn’t hold for long. The Wildcats returned the favor with two home runs an inning later.

Junior infielder Reuben Church cracked a no-doubter off the batter’s eye and senior infielder Grant Smith extended his home run streak to four games two batters later with a shot to left-center field. 

The 3-3 stalemate marked the final time the Gators didn’t trail.

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Church solidified his night with a two-out single up the middle to score two runners. Sproat surrendered three runs total in the frame and was taken out the next inning for UF freshman reliever Cade Fisher.

The lefty tossed three scoreless innings and forfeited only two walks and two hits. His efforts were to no avail as the Gators’ offensive woes continued down the stretch. 

Florida earned two singles in the top half of the seventh inning from junior infielders Tyler Shelnut and Dale Thomas but struck out three times to enforce zero damage upon the scoreboard.

Kentucky right-handed sophomore reliever Mason Moore navigated through three innings of control. The sophomore tossed five strikeouts and surrendered one run to set up right-handed graduate student Darren Williams for the save. 

Williams put a lid on the Gators’ late-game chances and struck out three consecutive batters for the 6-4 Kentucky victory. 

Florida finished its night with five hits and impactful offensive production from two players — Langford and Caglianone — who scored the offense’s only four runs. The Gators look to rebound from Friday’s loss in the series finale Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will stream on SEC Network+. 

Contact Luke Adragna at ladragna@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @lukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.


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