Wildcats blank Bulldogs for rubber-match victory

LEXINGTON, KY. — Eighth-ranked Kentucky posted a 5-0 victory over Georgia to win the rubber match of a Southeastern Confernece series Sunday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (21-6, 6-3 SEC) went up 1-0 in the first inning off of a leadoff triple by Austin Cousino and a sacrifice fly by Zac Zellers. Bulldogs centerfielder DJ Smith looked to have tracked Cousino’s smash down as he gloved it at the wall, but it popped out when he made contact with the fence.

Georgia (10-19, 1-8 SEC) missed its best scoring opportunity of the day in the second. Senior Kyle Farmer led off with a single and right fielder Jared Walsh reached on a Kentucky error. Senior Brett DeLoach fell behind 0-2 and worked the count full before striking out. On the play, Farmer was thrown out trying to steal third.

Junior Corey Littrell (4-0) struck out a career-high 12 in seven innings to lead the Wildcats who improved to 11-0 in rubber games started by him in his career. Senior Bryan Benzor made his second career start for the Bulldogs and fell to 1-2. He went four innings and allowed five runs on six hits.

Kentucky extended its lead to 3-0 in the third as Cousino added an RBI-double and Zellers collected his second RBI on a base hit. In the fifth, catcher Micheal Thomas made it 5-0 with a two-run blast.

“We didn’t make a couple of plays in the outfield, and then we didn’t take advantage of our shot in the second inning,” Georgia coach David Perno said in a news release. “We had a chance for potentially bases loaded situation and we came up empty. Our seniors made some mistakes today, and while they’ve done a lot for our program over the years, they didn’t follow the plan today. We can change the results we’re getting, but we’ve got to execute better. I was pleased with how Ross (Ripple) performed today, he’s had a great week.”

A bright spot for the Bulldogs was the relief pitching by sophomore Ross Ripple. He tossed three scoreless innings with three strikeouts Sunday after going 3.1 innings and picking up a win this past Wednesday at Clemson.

Georgia wraps up this latest five-game road trip on Tuesday when it faces Kennesaw State (17-11) at 6 p.m.

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Georgia’s odds to win the national championship are now 8/1, according to Bovada. They were 14/1 a week ago.

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