Thursday, May 3, 2012
UK baseball loses third consecutive game
as comeback falls short in opener vs. Florida
For the first time this season, the UK baseball team has lost three games in a row.
Playing on Thursday as part of the ESPNU Southeastern Conference game of the week the No. 3 Wildcats struggled offensively for much of the game and could not finish a late comeback attempt in a 5-3 loss to No. 7 Florida.
The loss marked UK’s fourth defeat in five games and dropped the Wildcats out of first place in the SEC for the first time this season.
“We’ve had a couple of bumps and bruises,” said UK head coach Gary Henderson. “We’re still competing really well. We’re not performing quite as well, but we’re competing and we’ll get out of it.”
Florida started the scoring in the first inning when right fielder Preston Tucker’s SEC-leading 12th home run of the season barely cleared the right field fence, a few feet to the left of the foul pole.
Tucker extended the Gators’ lead with a RBI bloop single in the third inning, and Florida added a second run on the play when Zellers’ throw home sailed to the backstop, allowing Florida third baseman Josh Tobias to score. Two batters later, Gators first baseman Brian Johnson plated Florida’s third run of the inning with a single that scored Tucker.
Each of the three Florida scoring plays were just inches from being outs, but UK players didn’t make any excuses after the game.
“It’s tough breaks, but you’re always taught at an early age that stuff evens out,” said UK junior starting pitcher Taylor Rogers. “It kind of did (later).”
Florida right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall had no problem with the Wildcats lineup through four innings, surrendering just two base runners.
UK junior left fielder Zac Zellers led off the fifth inning with a single and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore second baseman J. T. Riddle, giving the Wildcats their first runner in scoring position of the game. Junior right fielder Cameron Flynn then plated the Wildcats’ first run with a double off the center field wall.
Senior catcher Michael Williams pulled UK within one run with a two-run home run in the seventh inning that chased Randall from the game.
The Wildcats brought the tying run to third base in the bottom of the eighth inning when freshman center fielder Austin Cousino singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt a stole third base, but sophomore pinch hitter Lucas Witt and Zellers struck out to end the threat.
Rogers was charged with the loss after surrendering four runs, three of which were earned, on seven hits in six innings while striking out five batters and walking two.
Randall surrendered three runs on six hits in six and two-third innings while striking out four batters and walking one to earn the win.
Along with the rest of campus, UK players spent the week taking their spring final exams, and several Wildcats noted after the game that distraction may have played a role in their performance.
“I could feel some tension in the locker room and stuff with finals on the mind,” Rogers said. “Not having a midweek (game) this week, I think everybody kind of had it in the back of their heads the whole time.”
“Finals week was tough, regardless of how many finals you have,” Cousino said. “You could tell we were a little lethargic. That showed coming out today.”
Henderson applauded his team effort following the loss and said the opportunity to play in the ESPNU spotlight game should prove valuable in the coming weeks.
“It’s a little different environment out there,” he said. “It’s a little more postseason environment with the TV crew and the cameras and all that. That’s good for us. We need to learn how to perform in that environment if we’re going to do well in the postseason.”