ATHENS, Ga. -- Trailing by eight runs in the eighth inning, Kentucky got the school-record tying 23rd homer of the year from A.J. Reed – the NCAA leader – and a grand slam from senior Matt Reida but its late rally fell narrowly short in an 11-10 loss at Georgia, keeping UK from its first sweep in Athens in 38 years during the regular-season finale, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Foley Field.
Kentucky (32-22, 14-16 Southeastern Conference) entered the series finale looking for its first sweep in Athens since 1976. UK posted a 13-0 win in the opener and a 10-0 win in the middle game of the series to clinch its fourth straight series win over the Bulldogs.
Georgia (26-28-1, 11-18-1 SEC) jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, plating three runs on four hits, before adding a single tally in the second inning and exploding to get seven runs in the fourth. The Bulldogs then stretched their lead to 11-3 entering the top of the eighth inning, before the Wildcats scored six on six hits to tighten the game, including a grand slam from Reida and a leadoff homer from Reed. UK plated a run in the ninth inning and had the game-tying run on second base with one out and Reida at the plate. Reida worked an 11-pitch at-bat, including a would-be game-tying double just inches foul down the leftfield line, before flying out to centerfield to end the game.
Reed, a native of Terre Haute, Ind., belted his UK record tying 23rd homer of the year, which leads college baseball. Reed went 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and two RBI. Over the weekend, Reed hit two homers, worked eight shutout innings on the mound, and collected eight hits in three games. In 2014, Reed finished the regular season with a .359 average, 14 doubles, one triple, 23 homers and 70 RBI, leading the NCAA in slugging (.788).
Reida finished 2-for-5 with four RBI and his fourth homer of the year, with Storm Wilson, Max Kuhn and Micheal Thomas also notching two hits. UK also got hits from Austin Cousino, Ka’ai Tom, Thomas Bernal and Zack Arnold, with JaVon Shelby driving in one run.
UK freshman starter Zack Brown (0-1) earned his first career SEC start, suffering his first career loss. Brown, a native of Seymour, Ind., worked three innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, walking one and striking out two. Dylan Dwyer took over to start the fourth inning, allowing four hits and three runs – two earned – in one inning. Ryne Combs started the fifth, working 1.2 innings, allowing four hits and four runs – three earned – walking two and striking out two. Zach Strecker came on to attempt to escape the sixth, allowing an infield single and a walk.
UK junior Chandler Shepherd cleaned up the sixth inning, working 2.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Over two relief outings this week, Shepherd worked 5.2 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out seven.
Tyler worked seven innings, allowing eight hits and three runs, not issuing a walk and striking out three. He lowered his ERA in 81.2 innings to 2.68 with his seventh quality start in 12 starting assignments. Dylan Cole took over to start the eighth inning, allowing four hits and five runs while getting one out. Jared Cheek came on in relief in the eighth picked up his third save of the year, allowing two runs and three hits, walking one and striking out three, getting five outs.
UK will return to action on Tuesday in the SEC Tournament, in Hoover, Ala., at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The Bulldogs took an early lead in the first inning, as Stephen Wrenn led off the game with a hit by pitch, taking second on a groundout to the right side. With Wrenn on the move at second base, Cole smacked a single up the middle, scoring Wrenn. The next hitter, Nelson Ward tripled into the right-centerfield gap, scoring Cole. Daniel Nichols then pulled a ground ball to the right side, allowing Ward to score.
UGA added a run in the bottom of the second inning, as Mike Bell led off with a single, taking second on a comebacker to the mound for the second out. Cole then singled up the middle with two outs, scoring Bell from second base.
The Bulldogs took a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Conor Welton reached on a one-out fielder’s choice. Cole then smashed his third homer of the year over the leftfield fence, scoring Welton. Ward then single on a bunt to the right side and Daniel Nichols singled through the right side. Sean McLaughlin then hit a grounder up the middle, with the bases getting loaded on an error. Brandon Steophens then scored Ward with a sac fly to leftfield.
Kentucky dented the scoreboard with three runs in the top of the fifth inning. Wilson led off the frame with a bunt single, taking second on Thomas’ single to rightfield. The throw in to the infield got away, allowing Wilson to score and Thomas to take second base. Reida then singled to the shortstop and Shelby followed with a sacrifice fly to leftfield. After a fly out and a Kuhn single, Reed lofted a single into leftfield, scoring Reida and making it 7-3.
Georgia got two runs back in the fifth inning off Combs, as No. 9 hitter Bell led off with a four-pitch walk and Wrenn laid down a bunt on the chalk on the first-base line. After a sacrifice bunt, Cole loaded the bases with a five-pitch walk. Ward then singled to leftfield, scoring Bell and Wrenn for a 9-3 lead.
The Bulldogs added two more runs off Combs in the sixth inning, as Stephens and Skyler Weber each singled to start the inning, with Bell replacing Weber at first on a fielder’s choice. After a walk, Stephens scored on a passed ball. Welton then hit a chopper to the left side, scoring Bell on the infield single.
Reed led off the eighth inning with a no-doubt blast over the right-centerfield fence, cutting the lead to 11-4. Tom then singled and Wilson drew a walk. Arnold came up and singled into centerfield to load the bases for Reida. Reida smashed his fourth homer of the year, a grand slam, to cut the Georgia lead to 11-8. Cousino then tripled down the rightfield line, scoring on Kuhn’s two-out RBI single up the middle.
UK rallied in the ninth inning, as Tom drew a walk to leadoff the frame, taking second and third on a wild pitch during Bernal’s at-bat. Bernal then smashed a single up the middle to score Tom. After a Wilson sac bunt pushed pinch runner Marcus Carson to second base, Zach Arnold battled at the plate but struck out, bringing up Reida. Reida worked an 11-pitch at-bat, before flying out to the left-centerfield gap.