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2021 SEC baseball tournament thoughts and takeaways: Florida vs. Kentucky

 Chris Lee   in Baseball

HOOVER, Ala.--Here's what we saw of interest in Tuesday's Southeastern Conference tournament opener between Kentucky and Florida.

FINAL: Florida 4, Kentucky 1

Kentucky out-hits Florida, 11-5, but loses by three runs... not something you see often.

The Wildcats (29-22, 12-18 SEC) are almost certainly done playing this season. 

T9: It's the swings you don't take... (Florida 4, Kentucky 1)

Kentucky's Jake Plastiak just stared at a 1-2 pitch that appeared to hit the outer part of the plate. 'Cats down to their final out.

T9: Kentucky's making this interesting (Florida 4, Kentucky 1)

Jack Leftwich just allowed a pair of one-out singles to Coltyn Kessler and John Rhodes and then fired a wild pitch. 

B8: Cam Hill keeps Kentucky alive (Florida 4, Kentucky 1)

Kentucky center fielder Cam Hill (not to be confused with Auburn's Cam Hill) just made a running, leaping grab of a Kendrick Calilao fly ball to deep center, crashing into the wall but hanging onto the ball. That's the play of the day so far; had Hill not made that play, three runs score on the play and Kentucky's down six.

Instead, the 'Cats have their No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters to face Jack Leftwich

T8: Leftwich gets Gators out of the eighth (Florida 4, Kentucky 1)

Florida closer Jack Leftwich just fanned Kentucky's leadoff hitter, Austin Schultz, with a nasty slider away to end the top of the eighth. He'll get UK's best shot in the ninth (T.J. Collett, Coltyn Kessler, John Rhodes). 

Kentucky's sticking with reliever Daniel Harper for the bottom of the inning. 

T8: Florida goes to closer Jack Leftwich

The Gators need four outs to advance to a Wednesday morning game with Mississippi State, and Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan isn't taking any chances, going to Leftwich with a man on first and two outs in the eighth.

UF got a boost from lefty reliever Trey Van Der Weide, who threw 43 pitches to get the Gators from starter Tommy Mace to here. 

B6: Lewis gets a little redemption (Florida 4, Kentucky 1)

Kentucky second baseman Zeke Lewis just robbed Florida's Nathan Hickey of a single, ranging to his right for a diving grab of a bouncer up the middle before springing to his feet to register the out at first.

Florida lefty Trey Van Der Weide got through the top of the inning with a scoreless frame. 

T6: Mace out, Van Der Weid on (Florida 4, Kentucky 1)

Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan has pulled starter Tommy Mace for lefty Trey Van Der Weide, who's thrown 15.1 innings this year with a 4.11 ERA.

B5: Gators add another (Florida 4, Kentucky 1)

The Wildcats missed a chance to turn another play, getting one at second when Mac Guscette grounded to Zeke Lewis at second. Kentucky got the out there and got out of the inning a batter later, but the damage has been done and Florida leads by three.

B5: Acton delivers, chases Harney (Florida 3, Kentucky 1)

As noted below, Kentucky's Sean Harney should have been out of the fifth, and now he is, but not the way he deserved. Florida second baseman Cory Acton just lined a single to right, putting the Gators up 3-1. 

Kentucky's pulled Harney and gone to righty Daniel Harper. Harney threw 82 pitches--51 for strikes--but the righty, who loves to pitch inside, also hit four batters.

B5: Kentucky's defense implodes again (Florida 2, Kentucky 1)

On his 74th pitch, Kentucky's Sean Harney got the ground ball he needs to get out of the fifth with another shutout frame. But second baseman Zeke Lewis dropped it momentarily and in his haste to throw to short, tossed it past Ryan Ritter.

So the Gators have men at first and second instead.

T5: Kentucky finally cashes in, but leaves bases loaded (Florida 2, Kentucky 1)

On a 2-2 pitch, Kentucky's John Rhodes ripped a double to left, scoring Austin Schultz and putting T.J. Collett on third. Mace then walked Jake Plastiak on a full-count pitch to load the bases before Ryan Ritter popped foul to first. 

The Wildcats had men on second and third with nobody out in the first and failed to capitalize. They did it again in the second--this time, with one out--and again didn't score. 

Florida's Tommy Mace has thrown 94 pitches, with eight strikeouts, no walks and two hit batsmen. Earlier, the Gators ran eight pitchers to the bullpen, but Mace has had games with 117 and 118 pitches this year, so he may have another inning in the tank. 

B3Kentucky having fielding troubles

Kentucky left fielder Austin Schultz dropped a foul pop up in the first, an unearned run that came around to score. The 'Cats later whiffed on a foul pop-up in which third baseman Chase Estep missed a ball he should have had by two feet. That one didn't hurt as Sean Harney got out of the inning anyway, but it took a couple more pitches to do so on a hot day where every one's going to matter.  

B1: Florida's Jacob Young homered on the first pitch the Gators saw.

And after all that, Florida leads 1-0. 

T1: The top of Kentucky's lineup is tougher than you think

It took Florida starter Tommy Mace 16 pitches before he recorded his first out on Tuesday as he hit Austin Schultz before T.J. Collett ripped a double to right. He retired Coltyn Kessler, but not before Kessler made him take nine pitches to do so. Mace got out of the first with no runs allowed but it took 26 pitches--not the recipe for success on a hot day of tournament play. 

I got a good look at those guys in Nashville the past weekend as the Vanderbilt staff struggled with those guys, too. The Wildcats get overshadowed by the league's top programs, and Collett and Kessler may be the league's most underrated hitters.