KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee starting pitcher Zack Godley worked eight innings and allowed only one run on four hits to lead the Volunteers to a 4-1 win over No. 2 Kentucky in the series opener, snapping UK’s school-record 22-game winning streak to open the season and hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season, on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Kentucky (22-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) suffered its first loss of the 2012 season in the Friday-night tilt. UK was one win shy of equaling the longest winning streak in the storied history of the SEC, with its 22-game winning streak tied with South Carolina’s 2000 stretch of 22 straight wins. LSU owns the SEC record with a 23-game winning streak that ended in the opener of the NCAA Super Regional against UC Irvine in 2008.
The 22-game winning streak to open the season in a new school record for the Wildcats, eclipsing the previous school mark of 19-0 starts in both 2007 and 2008. UK entered the series as the lone undefeated team in college baseball, leading the NCAA in winning streak and wins. Last weekend, UK vaulted to No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball top-30 poll after sweeping two-time defending NCAA Champions, then-No. 2 South Carolina.
UK starter Taylor Rogers (4-1) worked a season-high 6.1 innings, allowing only three hits and two runs, no issuing a walk and striking out five. The quality start for Rogers was his third of the season and the 14th of his three-year career. He was relieved in the seventh by A.J. Reed, who got a strike out-throw out double play to end the frame. Reed worked 1.2 innings, allowing one hit and two runs, walking a leadoff hitter and striking out two.
The Wildcats mustered four hits in the contest, as Austin Cousino, Zac Zellers, Thomas McCarthy and Reed collected knocks, with Cousino doubling to leadoff the game, Zellers recording a single down the line and Reed a first-inning RBI single. McCarthy added a single in the ninth off UT’s reliever Nick Blount Reed extended his hitting streak to a club-best 14 games, while Zellers bumped his streak to seven games.
Tennessee’s (13-8, 2-2 SEC) Godley (4-1) turned in the best start of his career, tossing eight innings, allowing only four UK hits with one run, walking two and striking out four. Blount came on to record his first save of the year, allowing one hit and striking out one in the ninth.
The series will resume on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send junior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-0, 2.73 ERA) to the mound. Tennessee’s projected starter for Saturday, senior lefty T.J. Thornton (0-0, 6.75 ERA), was warming in the bullpen late in the game on Friday, putting his start tomorrow in jeopardy with the Vols to announce their starter Saturday.
The Wildcats got on the board in the top of the first, as Cousino doubled to deep leftfield, his 10th double of the year. After an unproductive out left Cousino at second, Luke Maile grounded out to the right side to push Cousino to third with two outs and Reed up. Reed delivered, smacking a 1-2 offering to leftfield to score Cousino and give UK an early 1-0 lead.
The Vols immediately answered in the bottom of the first inning, as Will Maddox was hit by the first pitch of the game from Rogers, with Maddox showing bunt. After a looking strikeout on Chris Pierce, Rogers was called for his first balk of the year to push Maddox to second base. After Rogers struck out Wes Walker, Davis Morgan pounded a single through the left side to score Maddox from second and even up the game at 1-1.
Tennessee took a 2-1 lead with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Drew Steckenrider led off the inning with a single through the left side, just after Rogers narrowly missed the called third strike decision. A high chopping groundout from Ethan Bennett pushed Steckenrider to second base. With Zach Osborne at the plate, Steckenrider timed a steal attempt perfectly, taking off from second base before Rogers delivered the pitch, stealing third without a throw. Osborne then gave UK the lead with a RBI groundout, hit up the middle to Reida.
The Vols got some insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Reed issued a leadoff walk to Ethan Bennett, with Osborne sacrificing him to second base. Maddox then chopped a grounder up the middle to Reed on the mound, who tried to get the lead runner at third base, with the tag missing and putting runners on the corners with one out. Pierce then laid down a bunt single, with Maile fielding the ball and looking at Bennett charging home before throwing to try and get the runner at first, with the ball plunking Pierce in the back. After getting a fly out to push Maddox to third base, Reed struck out Morgan, but a passed ball allowed Maddox to score and Morgan to reach first to extend the frame.