Just the way Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan drew it up, one strong mound performance followed another for the Gators as they clinched the series at No. 6 Kentucky.
Junior right-hander Jackson Kowar threw 7 scoreless innings to lead the top-ranked Gators to an eventual 9-4 win over the host Wildcats on Friday night in the second game of the series in Lexington, Ky.
Kowar walked 4 and allowed 5 hits, but he added 5 strikeouts and got big outs when he needed them on the way to improving to 7-1 for the season.
Meanwhile, Wil Dalton drove in 6 runs for Florida (34-7, 14-3 SEC)) with a triple and home run, and Jonathan India finished 2 for 4 with 2 RBI and 3 runs after having his 24-game hit streak snapped in the series opener
“I thought Jackson had a really good fastball tonight. I think [Kentucky] left eight runners stranded in the first four innings and Jackson made some big pitches when he needed to. He pitched seven innings like Brady [Singer] did yesterday and gave us a chance to win,” O’Sullivan said. “… I’ve been up here enough over the years and this is a really tough place to win. To get a series win against a top-10 Kentucky team is not easy to do. I’m really pleased with how we’ve played the first two games and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
In the bottom of the first inning Friday night, Kentucky (25-14, 7-10) had runners on first and third with one out when Kowar got Kole Cottam to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The next inning, the Wildcats put runners on second and third with two outs before Kowar bounced back to strike out Alex Rodriguez and induce a groundout from Trey Dawson.
Again, Kentucky had runners on second and third in the third inning, but Kowar got the final out on a grounder from Luke Heyer to escape once again.
Kowar settled down from there while pitching with a 4-0 lead.
JJ Schwarz had scored for Florida in the top of the second after a leadoff double, coming home on a sacrifice fly from Brady Smith.
And in the third, Dalton smacked a 3-run bases-loaded triple to center to make it 4-0.
Dalton tacked on his SEC-leading 15th home run, a 3-run shot, in the eighth inning, and India clubbed his 13th homer in the ninth.
In addition to the big games from Dalton and India, Nelson Maldonado went 2 for 3 with 3 runs scored and Austin Langworthy was 2 for 4.
After taking the first two games of the series, the Gators will go for the sweep on Saturday with the finale set for 1 p.m. ET. It can be streamed via SEC Network+.