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BASEBALL

Florida baseball drops another SEC series, what Gators learned against UK

Kevin Brockway
Gainesville Sun

Florida baseball could have solidified its postseason position over the weekend against No. 5 Kentucky,

But the Florida Gators (26-25, 11-16 SEC) failed to come through with big hits and big pitches in key spots in losing two of three games against the Wildcats.

Both losses came in extra innings, as Florida dropped a 12-11 game in 10 innings on Friday and a 7-5 game in 10 innings on Sunday. In between, Florida beat the Wildcats 10-1 on Saturday afternoon.

Florida has now dropped six straight SEC series and will need to win two of three games over the weekend at No. 12 Georgia to reach the NCAA Tournament for the 17th straight time under head coach Kevin O'Sullivan.

"It feels like a gut punch, every time," Florida two-way star Jac Caglianone said. "But that's just going to add more fuel to the fire going into Athens this weekend."

Here are three things learned from UF's series loss to the Wildcats:

Florida baseball is still searching for answers in the bullpen

The Gators were unable to close out a key game on Friday, as righty Brandon Neely failed to protect a 6-3 lead in the 8th inning and righty Luke McNeillie surrendered three runs with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. In the 10th inning, lefty Cade Fisher gave up three runs.

On Sunday, Neely pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief before running into trouble in the 10th inning. giving up four runs, including three on a bases-loaded clearing double by Kentucky third baseman Patrick Herrera that sailed over the head of Florida left fielder Tyler Shelnut. There was some tough luck in the inning, as Shelnut was playing in against the light hitting Herrera. Kentucky scored the first run in the 10th on an infield single with the bases loaded when first baseman Luke Heyman was charging in to defend a potential drag bunt.

"It was just one of those things, sitting in the wrong spot at the wrong time," O'Sullivan said. "It is what it is."ֱ

Freshman Florida baseball pitcher Liam Peterson is starting to emerge as a starter

Peterson (2-4) picked up his second win of the season, allowing just a run on five hits and two walks over 6 innings. He's delivered two straight strong starts for UF, allowing just one run while striking out 13 over his last 10 innings.

Peterson worked out of a fifth inning jam with the help of second baseman Cade Kurland, who made a leaping catch on a line drive to help UF get out of the inning.

"A lot of good plays were made behind me which comes from not walking people," Peterson said. "I trusted my defense."

Florida baseball needs to find protection in lineup behind Jac Caglianone

With right fielder Ty Evans out for the season with a broken wrist, Florida needs to find a consistent three-hole hitter to protect Caglianone in the lineup. Luke Heyman went 0 for 5 batting behind Caglianone on Sunday, including a strikeout in the third inning after Kentucky intentionally walked Caglianone to load the bases. The Gators left nine runners on base against the Wildcats on Sunday, including six in scoring position.