LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind a strong start from Corey Littrell and home runs from Brian Adams, Austin Cousino and Michael Williams, No. 7 Kentucky completed a three-game series sweep with an 8-1 win over Alabama to conclude the regular-season home schedule and vault back into first place in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, on Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (41-11, 18-9 SEC) swept the Crimson Tide to move back into a tie atop the division standings with South Carolina, with the Gamecocks suffering a walk-off loss to Georgia on Saturday. With LSU and Vanderbilt underway in Baton Rouge, La., the Wildcats could move back into a first-place tie if the Commodores post a win on Saturday night. Having already clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., on May 22-27, UK will conclude the regular season at Mississippi State (12-13) with a three-game series.
The Wildcats completed an unprecedented season at home, posting a school-record 29-5 record at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK became the first team in the NCAA to win 40 games, with UK’s 41 total wins returning to the nation’s lead. The Wildcats have now won the second-most games in the 107-year history of the program, with its 18 SEC wins ranking second-best in UK’s history in the league.
UK entered the weekend a game back in the standings, needing a series sweep to vault back into title contention. The Wildcats posted a 4-2 win in the opener on Friday night and, with rain forecast for Sunday in Central Kentucky, the series was rescheduled for a doubleheader on Saturday. In the first game of the twinbill, UK used go-ahead runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings to secure a 7-6 win to clinch the series. The Wildcats then rode the arm of Littrell and the three homers to the second series sweep of the year, as UK also swept two-time defending NCAA Champion South Carolina.
Littrell (8-0) worked 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking two and striking out seven. Freshman Sam Mahar replaced him with one on in the seventh inning, getting the final out of the inning and working the final 2.1 innings for his second save of the year.
UK totaled 14 hits in the game, plating eight runs for its third-highest scoring output in conference play in 2012. UK got three-hit games from Adams and J.T. Riddle, with Riddle equaling a career-high with his three knocks. Williams, Paul McConkey and Thomas McCarthy each added two hits, with Williams launching his third homer of the year and McConkey tying his career-best with two hits. Freshman Austin Cousino set new UK records for hits and runs scored by a freshman in program history, launching his ninth homer of the year – the second-most by a freshman in UK history. UK also got a hit from Cameron Flynn and Luke Maile drew a walk.
Alabama (18-33, 7-20 SEC) starter Charley Sullivan (2-3) suffered the loss, tossing six innings, allowing 11 hits and four runs – three earned – walking one. Chazz Otwell worked 0.2 innings, allowing two hits and three runs. Taylor Guilbeau worked 1.1 innings, allowing one hit and one run, walking two and striking out two.
The game concludes the home regular season for the Wildcats in 2012, with UK returning to action in the final week of the regular season. UK will travel to face Murray State in Paducah, Ky., on Tuesday, before embarking on a trip to Starkville, Miss., to face Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field, starting on Thursday night.
UK got on the board in the bottom of the first inning, as Cousino was hit by a two-strike pitch and McCarthy singled through the right side, with Cousino taking third on an error on the single by the rightfielder. Flynn then chopped into a ground-ball double play, with Cousino scoring from third base.
Alabama rallied to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the second, as Brett Booth singled through the right side and Kelton followed with a single to push Booth to scoring position. James Tullidge then singled up the middle on a 1-0 count to score Booth.
UK regained the lead with some two-out hitting, as McConkey singled to rightfield with two down and Riddle followed with a knock of his own to bring up Adams. Adams smashed a full-count offering into centerfield to give UK a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Wildcats stretched its lead on the strength of Williams’ solo homer to lead off the frame. Riddle then laid down a bunt single and Adams doubled down the leftfield line, with Riddle out at the plate on an attempted sacrifice bunt. McCarthy then singled to shortstop, with Adams scoring on the play.
UK got three runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 7-1 lead. Maile led off the frame by getting hit by a two-strike pitch, taking third on Williams’ double into the right-centerfield gap. McConkey then hung his first sacrifice fly of the year to score Maile. After Riddle made out, Adams launched a no-doubt blast that hit the top of the videoboard in left-centerfield, giving UK a 7-1 lead.
Cousino launched his ninth homer of the year in the eighth inning for the final margin, a blast over the right-centerfield fence.