Florida hangs on for 5-3 win in series opener

Cameron Flynn was headed towards the right field wall, tracking a fly ball headed towards the corner of Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Florida outfielder Preston Tucker, down 1-2 with two outs in the top of the first, poked a home run underneath the foul pole in right field. Flynn said the ball passed over the wall at the far right corner, in a tiny area underneath the fencing of the foul pole.
Less than a foot to the right and the ball would have gone foul. Less than a foot lower and it would have bounced off the wall.
"It was just a couple inches," Flynn said. "It just didn't go our way tonight. Hopefully tomorrow it will go our way."
Tucker's solo homer put Florida on top early. The No. 7 Gators (34-12, 13-9 Southeastern Conference) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning and never trailed, beating No. 3 Kentucky (36-10, 14-8 SEC) 5-3 on Thursday night in the series opener.
That wasn't the only close play that didn't go the Wildcats' way. Florida's Nick Fontana and Tucker hit two bloop singles to left field in the third inning. Both eventually scored. UK outfielder Austin Cousino
"They were close enough to where I was about to dive, but I had to hold up," Cousino said. "I think the situation called for it."
Meanwhile, Florida starter Hudson Randall kept the Wildcats off the board early. UK managed just one hit through the first four innings until Flynn doubled in the fifth to drive Cousino in. But the Wildcats couldn't capitalize, stranding Flynn on second.
UK finally showed signs of life in the seventh, when Flynn singled off Randall for his second hit of the night. Then senior Michael Williams launched his second home run of the year over the left field wall to pull UK within 4-3. Wallace was pulled after.
"(Randall) threw well. He threw a lot of strikes," Cousino said. "We knew that coming in, he likes to fill up the strike zone. He kept it low, he kept us off-balance. It took us a little bit for our hitting staff to see it. Their offense started hot and we started a little slow. I think that might have changed a little bit."
The Wildcats struggled before a crowd of 2,457 and a national broadcast on ESPNU. Friday also marks the end of finals week at UK.
It was Kentucky's third loss in a row, the Cats' worst losing streak of the season. They've now lost four of five games and have dropped out of first place in the SEC for the first time this season.
"I think we were a little lethargic coming out," Cousino said. "Finals week has been tough. No matter how many finals you may have, just being around campus and being around the team, you could tell we were a little lethargic. I think that showed coming out today. I don't know if it was ESPN or a little bit of jitters with the slow start, but I thought we warmed up to it."
Florida tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth when outfielder Justin Shafer drove Connor Mitchell home to push the lead to 5-3. But it wasn't needed; the Wildcats managed just a single in the bottom of the ninth.
UK starter Taylor Rogers gave up four runs, including three earned runs, in six innings. Williams paced the offense, going 2-4 with two RBI. Flynn went 2-4 with an RBI.
"You rarely go unscathed. You get a few bumps and bruises along the way," Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson said. "We're still competing really well. We're not performing well, but we're competing well. We'll get out of it."
Friday, May 4, 7 p.m.
Jr., LHP Jerad Grundy (4-1, 4.29 ERA) vs. So., RHP Karsten Whitson (3-0, 3.86 ERA)
Radio: 630 AM Lexington, 1080 AM Louisville
Saturday, May 5, 2 p.m.
So., LHP Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.44 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Brian Johnson (5-3, 4.50 ERA)
TV: Fox Sports Florida/Sun Sports
Radio: 630 AM Lexington, 1080 AM Louisville