LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind a career-high 12 strikeouts in seven shutout innings from Corey Littrell and a three-hit game from Austin Cousino, No. 8 Kentucky posted a 5-0 win over Georgia to win the three-game series, on Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (21-6, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) rode the dominating arm of Littrell, a junior southpaw, and the hot bat of Cousino to its third consecutive SEC series win to open 2013. UK plated a single run in the first, got two runs in the third and a two-run homer from catcher Micheal Thomas in the fifth for the 5-0 win.
Littrell (4-0) worked seven dominating frames, scattering just three singles and walking two, striking out a career-high 12. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound native of Louisville, Ky., has now started 11 series-deciding games in the last two years – all UK wins – posting an 8-0 record and a 1.68 ERA in those 11 starts.
A preseason All-America selection, Littrell allowed only three singles in the game – with one hit bouncing off him on the mound. He worked into the eighth inning and with 12 strikeouts became the third UK pitcher to record double-digit strikeouts in 2013. Littrell toppled his previous career high of nine strikeouts with his 10th strikeout of the game, coming as an inning-ending punchout of All-America UGA shortstop Kyle Farmer in the sixth.
On the year, Littrell has a 4-0 record and a 2.17 ERA in seven starts, tossing 45.2 innings and striking out 47. In his three SEC starts to open 2013, Littrell has a 3-0 record and a 0.82 ERA, striking out 23 and allowing only 15 hits in 22 innings. Without one rocky outing at USC Upstate in his season debut, Littrell has a 4-0 record and a 1.28 ERA in 2013.
Cousino paced the Wildcats at the dish, including starting the game with a triple off the centerfield wall. The All-America centerfielder went 3-for-4 with a triple, double and an RBI, as his attempt at hitting for the cycle ended in a warning-track fly out in the right-centerfield gap in the eighth inning.
UK also got the two-run homer from Thomas, his second of the year, and hits from freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett, Matt Reida and Zac Zellers. Barrett, who moved into the team lead with a .364 average, extended his hitting streak to a club-high eight games with a single into centerfield in the fourth inning.
Georgia (10-19, 1-8 SEC) starter Bryan Benzor (1-1) worked four innings, allowing six hits and five runs, walking one and striking out two. Ross Ripple took over in the fifth, working three shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three. Jarrett Brown worked a scoreless eighth, allowing just a walk and a hit batter.
UK will return to action on Tuesday, traveling to No. 10 Louisville for a 6 p.m. ET matchup at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kentucky got on the board in the bottom of the first inning as Cousino tripled to deep centerfield to leadoff the game, with the ball bouncing out of DJ Smith’s glove as he collided with the wall. Zellers then hung a sacrifice fly to rightfield to score Cousino.
In the bottom of the third, UK added to its lead with two runs on two hits. Matt Reida led off the frame with a full-count walk, taking second on Thomas’ sacrifice bunt. Cousino then smashed a double off the wall in left-centerfield, scoring Reida from second base. Zellers followed with a single off the diving glove of Smith in centerfield, allowing Cousino to motor home with UK’s third run.
Kentucky plated two runs in the fifth inning as Reida smacked a single to leadoff the frame and scored when Thomas belted a two-run homer down the leftfield line. It was Thomas’ second homer of the year and the third of his career.