Acton’s RBI single and Calilao’s three-run home run lifted UF to victory
No. 10 Florida baseball evened the series with an 8-5 win at Kentucky on Friday at Kentucky Proud Park. With the Gators down to their final strike and trailing by a run, Cory Acton’s pinch-hit RBI single tied the game, and Kendrick Calilao followed up with a three-run home run to cap a four-run ninth.
Kentucky (27-16, 11-12 SEC) took a 2-0 lead in the second on Cam Hill’s two-RBI single, but Florida (32-14, 14-9 SEC) answered back in the top of the third as Jud Fabian drove a two-run blast through the rain and over the left-center fence to tie the game. Fabian added a solo home run to left in the fifth to give Florida a 3-2 lead, but Kentucky replied with a pair of RBI singles in the bottom of the frame to take a 4-3 lead.
After a 15-minute rain delay following the seventh inning, Kirby McMullen led off the eighth with a double, and Calilao sent an RBI single into right to drive in pinch-runner Jordan Carrion and tie the score, 4-4. Kentucky re-took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, plating one on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice.
Jacob Young led off the Florida ninth with a walk, but Kentucky retired Nathan Hickey and Fabian to put the Gators’ backs to the wall. Kris Armstrong extended the game with a single to right to set the table for Acton and Calilao’s decisive at-bats.
Florida starter Tommy Mace struck out nine in 7.0 innings, and Christian Scott picked up the win out of the bullpen. Jack Leftwich shut Kentucky down in the ninth to earn his third save of the season.
* All four of Florida’s ninth-inning runs came with two outs. * Kirby McMullen extended his career-best hitting streak to 13, also the longest by a Gator in 2021. * Fabian hit his 17th and 18th home run, moving into the SEC lead. It marked Fabian’s second straight weekend with a multi-homer game. He has four career two-home run games, three of those coming this season. * Calilao’s four RBIs marked his personal best in SEC action.
FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN On showing fight and getting big at-bats from the bench… “The at-bat that Kris (Armstrong) had to extend the game, and then Cory (Acton) gets down to his last strike and hits the ball back up the middle, and Kendrick (Calilao) had two outstanding at-bats, I’m really, really happy for those guys. It’s one of those games that comes down to the last strike, and we kept hanging in there.”
On Calilao’s eighth-inning pinch-hit RBI and the overall offense… “Yeah, that was a really big at-bat, and obviously Jud (Fabian) starting to see the ball like he is right now, our offense looks totally different. We made a bunch of mistakes again, but hopefully we’re going to get through this. I keep saying it, but hopefully a win like this can help us play a little bit better on the road.”
On bouncing back from last night’s loss… “Nine of our fourteen losses this year, they’ve basically been gift-wrapped. We’ve just beaten ourselves, and that’s the frustrating part. I’m hoping, we’ll see if a win like this can get this team moving even more in the positive direction, but we’ve just got to learn to play cleaner on the road. It’s as simple as that.”
UP NEXT: Florida wraps the series at Kentucky on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will stream on SEC Network + and will be available on radio on WRUF 850 AM/98.1 FM in Gainesville, 1010XL in Jacksonville and on any mobile device via the TuneIn app (search for the “Florida Baseball” station).