LEXINGTON, KY. — A pitching duel for nine innings Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium ended with a bases-loaded walk in the 10th to lift eighth-ranked Kentucky past Georgia 3-2.
Kentucky (20-5, 5-2 SEC) scored the winning run when Max Kuhn drew a walk to force in Austin Cousino as Bulldogs sophomore closer Jared Walsh struggled with his control. In the inning, he faced four batters, walking three and hitting another as Georgia recorded an out at home on a wild pitch. The Bulldogs (9-18, 0-7 SEC) walked the leadoff batter in the first and then did not walk another batter until the final frame. In the 10th, sophomore Jarrett Brown, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, got the first out and then walked Matt Reida. At that point, Georgia looked to Walsh.
The loss spoiled a fine pitching performance by Georgia freshman Sean McLaughlin, who tossed a career-high eight innings with seven strikeouts. He allowed two runs on eight hits while Kentucky starter A.J. Reed went 8 1/3 innings and gave up one run with no walks and four strikeouts. The Bulldogs (9-18) even scored an earned run off closer Trevor Gott, the first he’s allowed in 19 career save chances, but they remain winless in the SEC after this latest setback.
“It’s not going to happen just because we’re due, you have to produce, and we didn’t,” Georgia coach David Perno said in a news release. “We created the problem in the 10th. It was a great pitching battle for nine innings and then it ends like that. We are not performing and that’s ultimately my fault. We fought hard, had our chances and didn’t execute in some situations when we didn’t even need a hit to get a run. Those are going to come back to bite you. It’s not the try-hard league, it’s the SEC.”
Georgia took a 1-0 lead in the fifth thanks to a two-out RBI-single from redshirt freshman DJ Smith. Senior Brett DeLoach (3-for-3) started the inning with his second hit of the night. He made his way to third on a groundout and flyout. Smith worked the count to 3-1 and then lined a single to right to bring DeLoach home.
Kentucky responded in its half of the inning with a leadoff single from Paul McConkey. Micheal Thomas followed with a bunt single in front of the mound as McLaughlin slipped while fielding it. Matt Reida put a sacrifice bunt down to move both runners up. Cousino made it 2-1 with a two-run double. The inning continued with a miscue from Kyle Farmer as Cousino raced to third. However, McLaughlin got Reed to bounce into inning-ending double play to keep it a one-run contest.
“I’m sick to my stomach for Sean as he has nothing to show for it tonight,” Perno said. “He did an excellent job again, and we missed a chance to get him a big SEC win.”
Georgia missed an opportunity to tie it or take a lead in the seventh. Walsh led off with a double. DeLoach was hit by a pitch. Freshman J.T. Phillips moved both in to scoring position with his first sacrifice bunt. However, Reed battled back to get Zack Bowers to pop out and Smith to groundout. In the third, Bowers had a leadoff double, Smith bunted him over to third. However, Reed got Nelson Ward to ground out and struck out Hunter Cole.
In the ninth, Kentucky turned it over to Trevor Gott. DeLoach greeted him with a base hit. Georgia was down to its last strike when pinch-hitter Jess Posey lined an RBI-single to left to tie the contest. DeLoach scored after moving in to scoring position with a stolen base. It marked the first earned run allowed by Gott in 19 career save chances. He was 7-for-7 coming in to Friday’s game. After Kentucky rallied in the 10th, he earned the win to move to 3-0 while Walsh dropped to 1-3.
The series continues at 2 p.m. today. Georgia will start junior left-hander Patrick Boling (1-3, 3.93 ERA) while the Wildcats counter with senior left-hander Jerad Grundy (5-1, 1.99 ERA).