Shortstop Ryan Wilkes' RBI single in the bottom of the 12th inning Friday completed Kentucky's rally and gave the Wildcats a hard-fought 8-7 victory against Georgia at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The win was UK's first last-at bat victory this season.
Kentucky (29-12-1, 8-10-1 Southeastern Conference) proved its resilience throughout the night as the Wildcats rallied from deficits in both the eighth, 10th and 12th innings to post a series-opening victory against the Bulldogs (16-27, 6-13). Georgia was denied an extra-inning victory for the sixth time in as many tries in the 2007 campaign.
Starting pitcher Chris Rusin tossed 8 1/3 strong innings, allowing four runs and striking out five, while tying his career high with 123 pitches thrown. It marked his second consecutive eight-plus inning starting performance. Brock Baber (2-1) earned the win, pitching the final 1/3 of an inning for the Wildcats. Trevor Holder (0-3) was credited with the loss for Georgia, allowing two runs and walking five batters in two innings of relief work to close the game.
The Wildcats trailed 7-6 heading into the bottom of the 12th inning after a leadoff home run by Georgia's Gordon Beckham. In Kentucky's half of the frame, catcher Sean Coughlin walked with one out to begin a series of four consecutive walks given up by Holder, part of 13 straight balls thrown from the right hander. Brian Spear, Tyler Howe and Jason Kipnis each drew a base on balls, with Kipnis' walk serving as the game-tying RBI to set up Wilkes' heroics.
Spear led the Kentucky offense, going 3-for-6 at the plate with three RBI and three runs scored. His three hits and three runs both tied his career-highs in those categories. Wilkes charted his 10th and 11th multi-hit and multi-RBI contests of the year, respectively.
After entering the 10th inning in a 4-4 tie, the Bulldogs were able to score a pair of runs in the top of the 10th frame to give Georgia a 6-4 advantage. The Bulldogs were sparked by a two-run single from catcher Joey Lewis and a catcher's interference call against Coughlin.
The Wildcats answered in their half of the 10th as Coughlin walked with one out and Spear launched his fourth home run of the season to quickly knot the score at 6-all.
Kentucky had just eight hits in the game, giving the Wildcats their first win with fewer than 10 hits since defeating Vanderbilt on April 15.
The two teams continue the series at 6:30 p.m. EDT Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Wildcats send junior left-hander Andrew Albers (5-2, 4.70 ERA) to the mound against Georgia lefty Nathan Moreau (2-2, 5.55 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network - WLAP 630-AM, locally - with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price.
After two and a half scoreless frames to begin the game, UK got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead in the third. Antone DeJesus ripped a one-out triple, his third of the year, and came around to score on an RBI ground out by Mike Brown.
UK stretched its lead to three runs in the fourth, courtesy of three hits. Sawyer Carroll led off with his league leading 19th double of the season and after a Coughlin ground out, Spear scored Carroll with an RBI single up the middle. A walk and a foul out set the stage for Wilkes to drive in Spear, which he did with a hard-hit single to right field.
Georgia took the lead in the fifth with a four run, four-hit outburst. After Rusin retired the leadoff man with a quick groundout, Travis Parrott reached on a bunt single. Mike Freeman scored Parrott from first with an RBI double down the left field line for UGA's first run. Ryan Peisel walked and Jonathan Wyatt hit a high-hoping ground ball behind the second base bag, fielded by Wilkes. The junior made the dangerous throw, attempting to get Wyatt out at first, but the ball sailed into the UK dugout, allowing two runs to score. Rusin induced a ground-ball out from the next batter, Beckham, before surrendering an RBI single off the bat of Rich Poythress, giving UGA a 4-3 lead after five frames.
The Wildcats tied the score at 4-all in the bottom of the eighth inning when Keenan Wiley was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Georgia issued back-to-back walks to bring Wiley to third and he crossed the plate thanks to a sacrifice fly by Howe.