Florida Baseball Wins Series At Kentucky, Two Back In SEC Race

(Andy Hutchins/SB Nation)

Florida baseball's penultimate regular season series put the Gators on inhospitable turf against the college baseball world's upstart story of the year (other than Baylor, anyway), and all the Gators did was take two of three against Kentucky on the weekend and nearly rally back to sweep in the ninth inning of the third game.

We covered Thursday's 5-3 win, but not Friday's 5-1 win or Saturday's 2-1 loss, so here's what you need to know in bullet point form.

  • Karsten Whitson may be close to all the way back. He didn't have a perfect inning in his 4.2-inning start on Saturday, and allowed one run and six hits, walking three while striking out two and firing two wild pitches, but his stuff was apparently closer to back, and he recovered after allowing a run in the first inning and was only lifted in the fifth because of a two-out double. The Whitson that can go six or seven innings and dominate is an important part of Florida's postseason success; the Whitson the Gators currently have might be that guy soon.
  • Mike Zunino is strugg-a-ling. In this series: 1-for-11, one run, one walk. That's it. Big Z is far better than that, and there's every hope that he'll rebound, but he's hurting Florida in the cleanup spot right now.
  • My God, the Florida bullpen. Steven Rodriguez threw 4.2 scoreless innings over Thursday and Friday, striking out five and allowing just three baserunners. Greg Larson worked 1.1 hitless innings on Friday. Bobby Poyner got through an inning without allowing a run on Friday. Jonathon Crawford allowed just an unearned run thanks to a Josh Tobias error in three innings on Saturday. All of that is tremendous work, and none of it involved Austin Maddox, which is pretty much incredible.
  • Florida's got to hit. In the 16 games since the wild LSU series, Florida's given up more than three runs just three times. And yet the Gators are "just" 10-6 in those games, having been held to three runs or fewer in half of them. Florida's offense is not as good as its pitching staff, especially not since Tyler Thompson's injury dashed what looked like a College World Series-winning lineup, and the Gators don't have to do a lot to back up those hurlers. But they have to do something.
  • Florida's chances of winning the SEC title outright are very slim, and likely went out the window with Saturday's loss. The Gators are 14-10 in conference, two games behind 16-8 LSU and South Carolina and one behind 15-9 Kentucky. Florida won series with both of those East teams, and could win the division on a tiebreaker, but the Gators must sweep their series with Mississippi State and hope LSU gets swept by Vanderbilt at home.

    That's not going to happen.

    But Florida can still give itself the second seed in the SEC Tournament by winning the East, which only takes making up two games on the South Carolina team that heads to Georgia this weekend. That would be a good idea: As affairs currently stand, Florida would be the No. 4 seed ... and playing a game at 9:30 a.m. local time in Hoover, Alabama on Tuesday, May 22.

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