LEXINGTON, Ky. - Behind a six run second inning and a strong start from Chris Ellis, No. 12 Ole Miss posted a 12-4 series-opening win over No. 17 Kentucky – despite A.J. Reed’s NCAA-leading 17th homer of the year.
Kentucky (27-15, 9-10 Southeastern Conference) fell behind early to the high-octane Rebels, allowing a homer to Sikes Orvis in the second inning, before the Rebels took advantage of a leadoff error in the third inning to plate six runs – five unearned – in the frame for a seven-run lead. The Rebels then added three runs in the top of the sixth inning to stretch its lead to double digits. UK got a pair of two-run homers in the sixth and ninth inning to cut the margin.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed (7-2) suffered the loss in his 25th consecutive weekend opening start, allowing eight hits and seven runs – two earned – in three innings, walking one and striking out three. It lowered his ERA to 2.31 in 74 innings pitched and marked the second shortest start of Reed’s decorated three-year career. It was Reed’s shortest start since working under two innings vs. Louisville on April 10, 2012.
Reed hit his nation-leading 17th homer of the year, a two-run shot in the sixth inning, which marked the second time in 2014 that he has hit homers in three consecutive SEC games. Reed now has 34 career homers, passing John Shelby (2004-06) for 11th in UK history, with his 152 career RBI passing Darin Rieman (1988-90) for eighth in school annals.
The Wildcats were led at the plate by a three-hit day from Thomas Bernal, who extended his team-leading hitting streak to 14 games, the third longest current streak in the SEC, adding a double. UK also got the 11th double of the year from Austin Cousino, a pinch-hit single from Zach Arnold and a pair of walks from freshman JaVon Shelby. Freshman Storm Wilson hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning, his second homer of the year, also getting hit by a pitch.
Facing a seven-run hole after three innings, the Wildcats turned to Sam Mahar in an effort to eat up innings to save the bullpen for Saturday and Sunday. Mahar, who sat out 2013 due to injury and is working his way back into his 2012 form, turned in the best outing of his season. Mahar worked 2.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking one and striking out a season-high four. Taylor Martin, who also missed 2013 due to injury and is working his way back to health, replaced Mahar in the sixth. Martin, a native of Lexington, Ky., worked a career-long 2.1 innings, allowing a hit and a run, not issuing and walk and striking out two. Matt Snyder came on to get the final three outs in the top of the ninth inning.
Entering the start having just allowed an earned run in half of his 10 starts, Ellis (6-0) turned in a strong outing for the Rebels, a week after working eight two-run innings in a Rebels win over No. 7 LSU. Ellis worked seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs, walking three and striking out five. Lefty Matt Denny took over to start the eighth inning, working two frames, allowing three hits and two runs, striking out two.
The series will resume on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be televised live on CSS and ESPN3.com, with Mike Morgan and Gabe Gross calling the action. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. Kentucky will send sophomore southpaw Dylan Dwyer (5-1, 3.40 ERA) to the mound to face Ole Miss redshirt junior righty Christian Trent (5-0, 2.18 ERA).
Ole Miss (31-12, 11-8 SEC) got on the board first in the top of the second inning, as Orvis connected on a 0-1 pitch from Reed, sending it into the videoboard in left-centerfield for his 10th homer of the year.
The Rebels blew the game open in the top of the third inning as Reed got Braxton Lee to grounder a routine ball up the middle, with it sliding under the glove of a UK defender for an error. Auston Bousfield then scored Lee with a double into the left-centerfield gap, his 11th double of the year. After Austin Anderson moved Bousfield over to third base with one out, Will Allen singled to centerfield. After a strikeout, Errol Robinson singled into shallow left-centerfield, scoring Allen and giving the Rebels a 4-0 lead. Preston Overbey then doubled off the wall in centerfield, scoring two and Will Jamison singled to leftfield to score Overbey.
Ole Miss stretched its lead in the top of the sixth inning, as Bousfield singled to leftfield with one out and Anderson drew a walk. Allen then hung a pop up into shallow centerfield, with the UK middle infield leaving it for the UK outfielders, who couldn’t get to the ball in time as it dropped on the grass for an RBI single. Orvis then lined a single off the 30-foot wall in rightfield, scoring two more runs.
Kentucky got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Max Kuhn was hit by a two-out pitch and Reed smashed his 17th homer of the year over the rightfield fence, cutting the lead to 10-2.
The Rebels rallied in the top of the ninth inning, as J.B. Woodman hit a line drive to leftfield, with a diving attempt to catch the line drive allowing Woodman to take second with a double. Snyder then came on in relief and walked Orvis on five pitches, before allowing an RBI single to Robinson. Orvis then came around to score on a wild pitch.
UK got two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Bernal doubled down the line and Wilson knocked him in with his second homer of the year.