HOOVER, Ala. — Ninth-seeded Kentucky, getting a strong offensive push from the top of its lineup, led from start to finish in a 4-2 upset of top-seeded Florida on Wednesday in the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Kentucky (34-22) advances to face the winner between Mississippi State and South Carolina in Thursday's final game. Florida falls to the losers' bracket, where Thursday it will face the loser between Mississippi State and South Carolina.
Kentucky and Mississippi State did not meet in the regular season. The Wildcats took two of three against South Carolina in Lexington in late March.
Kentucky (34-22) jumped out to an early lead with two runs in the first and third innings. A two-run homer in the third inning by Max Kuhn — his eighth of the year — provided the difference, with Kuhn going 2-for-5 at the plate with two RBI. Kuhn's homer was the second of the SEC Tournament and the first given up by standout Florida freshman ace Logan Shore (7-3).
"Beyond the fact that was a really good win for our kids, I was proud of their effort," said UK head coach Gary Henderson, who is now 4-2 in his UK career in the SEC Tournament. "I was really, really pleased with Kyle Cody. He is back to doing what we thought he was going to do at the beginning of the year. It was a shot of adrenaline for the kids. That's the type of outing Kyle is capable of having against that type of team. It was a good win. Now we have to find a couple of more games of pitching."
Cody (4-0) worked 51⁄3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs, walking one and striking out four.
Chandler Shepherd, a Louisa native, came on with one out in the sixth inning, getting out of the jam with just one run counted against Cody. Shepherd worked the final 32⁄3 shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks, striking out three. He picked up his first save of the year and his first since a three-inning save in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The win gives UK three victories in four meetings against the SEC regular-season champion Gators. UK posted a series win over Florida in early April, besting the Gators 17-1 in the opener, falling 11-10 in the middle game after an eight-run eighth, before winning the rubber match 9-8.
Kuhn's two hits led the Wildcats along with a two-hit game from fifth-year senior catcher Micheal Thomas. A.J. Reed, the NCAA leader in homers, slugging and OPS, belted a double off the top of the wall in right-center, his 16th of the year. UK also got an RBI double from Ka'ai Tom, an RBI from Thomas Bernal and a single, walk and steal from Storm Wilson.
Center fielder Austin Cousino set the tone for UK's offense at the top of the order, opening the game with a 10-pitch walk and finishing 1-for-3 with two runs and a hit by pitch, increasing his school-record total to 47.