LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior Michael Williams drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning to drive in the go-ahead run to complete No. 7 Kentucky’s comeback rally, with UK posting its seventh series weekend with a 7-6 win over Alabama, on an overcast Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (39-11, 17-9 Southeastern Conference) won its seventh SEC series of the year, posting a 4-2 win on Friday night in the series opener and riding furious seventh and eighth-inning rallies in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday to clinch the series with a 7-6 win. UK will seek to sweep its second series of the year in the finale of the series and the home regular-season schedule vs. Alabama on Saturday, with first pitch slated for 6:11 p.m. ET.
The Wildcats opened up with a run in the first inning and nursed its one-run lead entering the sixth inning. Alabama took advantage of a pair of errors and a botched inning-ending double play in the sixth and seventh innings to plate four unearned runs and five total runs tallied over the sixth and seventh innings. UK rallied with five runs in the seventh inning to erase an Alabama 5-1 lead and take a 6-5 lead into the seventh inning. After Alabama score a run in the top of the eighth inning to even the game at 6-6, Williams forced in the go-ahead run with a full-count walk in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded. UK then used Trevor Gott to secure the win with the final three outs of the game.
The win gives UK its fifth all-time 40-win season, as the Wildcats boast a 40-11 overall record and a 17-9 mark in conference play. With the win, UK has moved into a tie with South Carolina for the SEC Eastern Division lead, as Georgia posted an extra-inning win over the Gamecocks on Saturday. UK has won the third-most games in single-season history and its 17 wins in conference play marks the second-most wins in UK’s history in conference play, behind the record 20 wins UK won in 2006 in claiming the league title.
UK starter Jerad Grundy turned in a strong outing, taking the shutout into the sixth inning before getting hit by a line-drive to start the sixth that ended his game and eventually allowed the game-tying run to score. Grundy worked five innings, allowing eight hits and one run, walking one and striking out two. He was relieved by Alex Phillips who worked two innings, allowing five hits, five runs – one earned – walking one and striking out two. Sam Mahar replaced him with one runner on and no outs in the eighth getting two outs before Tim Peterson came on to face a right-handed hitter, allowing one single to bring Gott. Gott got the final four outs to pick up the win, striking out three and walking one.
Alabama (18-32, 7-19 SEC) starter Jon Keller worked six innings, allowing eight hits and four runs - one unearned – walking two and striking out three. Keller was relieved in a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by closer Jake Hubbard, who worked one inning, allowing three hits and two runs – one earned – striking out two. Josh Rosecrans (0-2) worked one inning, allowing one run on three walks and one strikeout.
The series will conclude in the second game of the doubleheader, underway at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Fans can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky, on WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville and on UKathletics.com. UK will send sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (7-0, 2.30 ERA) to the mound to face Alabama junior righty Charley Sullivan (2-2, 5.03 ERA).
The Wildcats got on the board in the bottom of the first inning as Zellers drew a one-out walk on a 3-1 offering, taking third on Flynn’s hard-hit single through the right side with two outs. Williams then grounded up the middle with the ball going as an error that allowed Zellers to score from third.
Alabama took the lead in the top of the sixth inning plating two runs on three hits and one UK error. Austen Smith led off the inning with a hard-hit ball up the middle, bouncing off Grundy’s left wrist and ending his game. After a steal from Smith and a couple of outs, Kelton singled through the left side, with Zellers readying a throw to home for what would be a close play, with the ball skidding under his glove for an error, allowing Kelton to take second. James Tullidge then doubled down the line to score Kelton with the go-ahead unearned run.
The Tide appeared to break the game open in the seventh, plating three unearned runs for a 5-1 lead. Dugas drew a walk to lead off and Reaves singled on a bunt down the foul chalk on the first base line. Moore then laid down a sacrifice bunt but the throw to first base bounced out of UK’s second baseman’s glove for an error to load the bases. Smith then reached first on a fielder’s choice, with Dugas forced out at the plate. Booth then followed and ripped another single off the UK pitcher, bouncing into rightfield for a two-out, two-RBI error.
UK rallied in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with no outs and getting a one-out sacrifice fly from Flynn for a 5-2 hole, scoring Reida. Williams then singled to leftfield to score Cousino, who singled to follow Reida in the order. Riddle then poked a two-strike, two-out double down the leftfield line to score Zellers and Williams and even the game at 5-5. McCarthy then singled to short to bring up Adams, who grounded to second base but the ball was misplayed with Adams’ speed running down the line for an error, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Alabama evened up the game in the top of the eighth inning as Tullidge led off the inning with a single, ending Phillips’ outing. After a pair of outs and a wild pitch moved him into scoring position, Reaves singled up the middle with two strikes to score the game-tying run.
UK plated the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Cousino led off the inning with a two-strike hit by pitch. Maile then drew an intentional walk and Flynn loaded the bases with a walk to bring up Williams. Williams forced a full count walk to drive in Cousino with the game-winning run.