LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Evan White (pictured, above) went 3-for-3 with a home run and Dustin Beggs won his sixth straight start to open the season, leading No. 29 Kentucky to a 7-4 win over No. 1 Florida to even the three-game series and snap the Gators 17-game winning streak, on a perfect Saturday afternoon, March 26, in front of a season-best 3,071 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (16-6, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) snapped Florida’s 17-game winning streak -- the second longest streak in UF history -- with the series-evening win, after UF opened the set with a 12-5 result on Friday night. Saturday’s 7-4 win marked UK’s ninth win over a top-ranked team since 2002 and is the 62nd win over a ranked foe in the UK Coach Gary Henderson era. Under Henderson, UK has won a series against the nation’s top-ranked team in 2014 (South Carolina) and 2015 (LSU).
UK jumped out to a one-run lead in the first inning on the strength of White’s second home run of the year and Beggs cruised into the fourth inning before surrendering a game-tying homer. UK’s offense then responded with consecutive three-run innings to take a six-run lead, with the Gators mounting a sixth-inning rally that resulted in three runs for the final margin, 7-4.
A native of Roswell, Ga., Beggs (6-0) worked 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, walking four and striking out four. He allowed a solo homer in the fourth, before Florida chased him with three, two-out runs in the sixth inning.
Beggs (pictured, right) won his sixth consecutive game to open the season, marking the first pitcher in program history win his first six starts. On the year, Beggs has a 2.40 ERA in 41.1 innings, allowing only 28 hits and seven walks, striking out 35. In his two-year career, Beggs has a 13-4 record, ranking seventh in UK history in ERA (3.27). He has won 76 percent of his career decisions, ranking fourth in program history.
Kentucky freshman righty Justin Lewis took over in the sixth inning to face the tying run with a pair of runners on base and two outs. The 6-foot-6 righty escaped the jam to strand the runner, working the final 3.1 innings, allowing only two hits, not issuing a walk and striking out three. He earned his team-leading fourth save of the year and has a 2-0 record and a 0.50 ERA in 18 innings, allowing only seven hits.
The Wildcats collected seven runs on nine hits and three walks, with White going 3-for-3 to lead the UK attack. White extended his hitting streak to 15 games, belting his second home run of the year and adding a walk and his team-high eighth steal of the year. White is hitting .389 on the year with 25 runs, nine extra-base hits and 25 RBI.
UK also got a three-run blast from Dorian Hairston – belted to the opposite-field gap – for his second homer of the year. Junior DH Gunnar McNeill extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a two-RBI double in the fifth. UK also got hits from Storm Wilson, JaVon Shelby, Zach Reks and Troy Squires.
Florida (23-2, 4-1 SEC) starter A.J. Puk (1-2) -- a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft -- worked 4.1 innings, allowing four hits and six runs, walking two and striking out five. Florida also used Frank Rubio, Scott Moss and Brady Singer in relief.
The series will resume on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will start senior righty Kyle Cody (2-1, 6.95 ERA) vs. Florida sophomore right-hander Alex Faedo (5-0, 2.61 ERA).
The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network +, available on the ESPN app, and on the UK Radio Network, available in Lexington on WLAP 630-AM.
Photos by UK Athletics