GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As soon as the ball left Tristan Pompey’s bat, Florida pitcher Alex Faedo knew what he had just done.
He pinned his 88 mph slider low and in the zone, but the pitch sat just high enough for Pompey to hit a 2-out, 2-strike grand slam over McKethan Stadium’s right-field fence in the fourth inning. As Pompey rounded the bases and the Wildcats cleared the dugout to greet him at home plate, all Faedo could do is put his right hand in the air and watch Kentucky celebrate off his mistake.
The blast eliminated Florida’s 3-run lead and Faedo’s shutout. Five innings later, the fifth-ranked Gators’ lost 12-4 to No. 6 Kentucky and their solo show at the top of the SEC leaderboard became a 3-way tie with Wildcats and LSU at 19-9 with 2 games to go. LSU defeated Mississippi State 3-1 in Starkville, Miss., on Thursday night.
“We just got beat,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Simple as that.”
GRAND SLAM in Gainesville!!!!
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 19, 2017
Faedo, Florida’s ace who is expected to be a first-round pick in next month’s MLB Draft, was picked apart by Kentucky’s hot-hitting offense on Thursday. After being taken out after just 5 1/3 innings — Faedo’s shortest start since Florida’s SEC opener against Auburn (4 1/3 innings) — Faedo had given up a season-high 7 runs (all earned) and a career-high 13 hits that included 3 doubles and the grand slam. His ERA jumped from 2.33 to 2.89 and he fell to 7-2 on the year.
Overall, Florida pitchers gave up a season-high-tying 20 hits — 11 of which came with 2 outs. The Wildcats (38-16 overall) scored at least 1 run in each of the next 4 innings after the grand slam.
“We knew they were a good hitting team,” Faedo said. “They battled in the fourth inning with 2 outs and they kind of broke the game open from there.”
Florida’s offense didn’t do much to help, either, even though it had its opportunities. The Gators (38-15 overall) left 13 runners on base and were just 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position. After scoring 3 runs in the first 2 innings on an Austin Langworthy sacrifice fly, a Jonathan India single and a Dalton Guthrie groundout, Florida mustered just 5 hits in the next 6 innings while being retired in order 3 times.
“It’s just one of those nights,” O’Sullivan said. “No one’s perfect. … [Kentucky] played really good tonight. We just need to come back tomorrow ready to play.
The Gators found a blip of life in the ninth when India brought home Maldonado on a single through the left side. Christian Hicks lined out to first base and Mark Kolozsvary grounded out over the next 2 at-bats to end the game. India finished with a team-high 3 hits and 2 RBI, while junior JJ Schwarz went 2-for-3 at the plate.
The series continues Friday at 7 p.m. with Florida’s Brady Singer (6-3, 2.58 ERA) facing Kentucky’s Zach Logue (6-4, 4.50 ERA).
If the Gators lose either of their final two games against Kentucky, they will be eliminated from contention for the regular-season conference title.
“The next 2 games are must-win games if we want to get the rings,” Schwarz said. “The pressure is going to be on and hopefully we’re going to play better the next couple of games.”