LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Outfielder Cameron Flynn launched a grand slam in the sixth inning to erase a one-run lead and lift No. 1 Kentucky to a series-clinching 8-3 win over No. 10 Ole Miss, UK’s fourth consecutive league series victory, on a pleasant Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (30-3, 9-3 Southeastern Conference) continued its season of firsts with the series win, as the Wildcats won their first series over Ole Miss since the 2008 season, extended their school-record start to a season, achieved 30 wins quicker than any team in UK school history and have opened up its conference schedule with the best start in UK’s 79-year history in the league.
UK has started the season with four consecutive series wins in conference play, sweeping No. 2 South Carolina to open league play, winning road series tilts at No. 18 Georgia and at Tennessee and claiming the series victory over No. 10 Ole Miss for the first time five years.
With the Rebels owning a 2-1 lead after plating a run in the top of the sixth inning, the Wildcats began a furious rally to take the lead and secure the series. UK plated five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning – highlighted by the grand slam from Flynn.
UK starter Corey Littrell (5-0) worked his fifth quality start of the year and the ninth of his two-year career. The Louisville, Ky., native worked six innings, allowing nine hits and two runs, walking two and striking out four in his third consecutive Sunday rubber-match start. Senior Alex Phillips turned in a winning effort in his second save of the year, tossing three innings to close out the game, allowing two hits and one run, striking out three. In his two games this weekend – winning Friday night and saving Sunday’s clincher – Phillips worked 6.1 innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking one and striking out six.
The Wildcats plated eight runs on eight hits, drawing four walks and getting hit by two pitches. UK was led by Austin Cousino at the top of the order, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Flynn delivered the big blow, adding a double and a walk with his four RBI, hitting his eighth homer of the year. Luke Maile also homered for the team-leading ninth time in 2012, batting 2-for-4 with two RBI. UK also got a hit from A.J. Reed, an RBI single late in the game. Michael Williams drew two walks, with Reed adding a walk and Thomas McCarthy and Brian Adams scoring runs.
Ole Miss (21-10, 6-6 SEC) starter R.J. Hively (3-2) worked five innings, allowing five hits and six runs, walking two and striking out eight, with the senior righty entering the game owning a 1.71 ERA. Aaron Greenwood worked 1.1 innings, allowing one hit and one run, walking one and striking out one. Dylan Chavez, Hatwin Buchanan and Tanner Bailey worked in relief for the Rebels.
UK will return to action with a non-conference showdown with rival, No. 18 Louisville on Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium, with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised by the UK IMG Network, with Dick Gabriel, Ryan Lemond and MLB Gold Glove winner Doug Flynn on the call. Fans can see the game live on Fox Sports South and on C-WKYT locally. It will also be broadcast on the UK IMG Radio Network, with fans in Central Kentucky able to listen to the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Ole Miss got going quick as leadoff batter Tanner Mathis led the Rebels off with a two-strike single up the middle. Auston Bousfield followed Mathis with a single to the left before Mathis advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by Yarbrough. Matt Snyder stepped up for the Rebels with a single through the right side to score Mathis and give the Rebels an early 1-0 lead. Littrell came back and got out of the first with minimal damage after forcing Allen into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.
Maile put the Wildcats on the scoreboard with a lead-off, solo home run over the leftfield wall to tie the game at 1-1. Flynn followed Maile’s solo shot with a double off the rightfield wall and after a fly out to center, Flynn advanced to third on a ground ball back to the pitcher. Ole Miss stranded Flynn on a diving play up the middle by second basemen Alex Yarbrough.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Ole Miss threatened with a double to left center from Mathis. Littrell fielded a ground ball back to him to retire the second out. Yarbrough walked to put runners on first and second with two outs but Littrell got out of the jam with a strike out on a nine pitch at bat by Snyder.
Will Allen led off the Rebels in the top of the sixth with a double down the leftfield line and advanced to third with one out after a sacrifice bunt by Overbey. Andrew Mistone knocked in Allen with a single to left and advanced to second on the throw to the plate. Littrell got out of the inning by forcing two straight groundouts but not before Ole Miss took a 2-1 lead.
Kentucky’s offense came alive in the bottom of the sixth after Cousino led off with a line-drive single to left. McCarthy was hit by a pitch and Reed walked to load the bases with no outs. Maile singled through the left side to score Cousino but Flynn cleared the bases with a grand slam over the rightfield wall, giving the Wildcats a 6-2 lead after a five-run sixth.
Phillips took the hill for the Wildcats to start the top of the seventh and Mathis led off the Rebels with a single through the left side. After a strike out, Yarbrough doubled off the leftfield wall to give Ole Miss baserunners on second and third. Phillips forced a Snyder ground out to second that allowed Mathis to score from third but Phillips stranded Yarbrough and closed out the inning with just one earned run allowed.
For a second consecutive inning, Cousino led off the Wildcats with a single in the bottom of the seventh before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by McCarthy. Reed earned his first RBI of the game with a single to rightfield, scoring Cousino from second and giving the Wildcats a 7-3 lead.
The Wildcats looked for insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth when Michael Williams walked with one out for Kentucky before Adams coming in to pinch run. A well-executed sacrifice bunt by Reida advanced Adams to second and Cousino tallied his third hit of the game with a double to left center that would score Adams and increase Kentucky’s lead to 8-3 entering the ninth.