COLUMBIA, Mo. - Missouri jumped out to an early lead and held off Kentucky to post a 4-2 series-opening win over the Wildcats, on Thursday night at Taylor Stadium.
Kentucky (29-23, 10-18 Southeastern Conference) fell behind in an early hole after the Tigers got two runs in the third, adding single runs in the fourth and fifth to chase UK preseason All-America southpaw A.J. Reed.
Reed (2-8) worked 4.1 innings, allowing nine hits and four runs, walking two without recording a strikeout. Sophomore Chandler Shepherd turned in a dominating performance in relief of Reed, retiring all 11 hitters he faced, working 3.2 perfect innings, striking out two and hurling just four balls in 31 total pitches.
UK collected five hits in the game, led by a two-hit performance from Kyle Barrett to extend his hitting streak to a club-high 16 games. UK also got hits from Austin Cousino, Matt Reida and Paul McConkey, with J.T. Riddle driving in a run with a groundout.
Missouri (17-30, 9-19 SEC) starter Brett Graves (2-5) worked five innings, allowing three hits and two runs – one earned – walking five and striking out three. Redshirt junior lefty Jake Walsh, who led the team in saves in 2012 with a challenging delivery style, worked two shutout innings, allowing just one UK hit. Keaton Steele took over to start the eighth, picking up his first save of the year with two shutout innings.
The series will resume on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Taylor Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans can hear the game live in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, on WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville and online at UKathletics.com.
Missouri took the lead in the third inning, as Josh Lester led off with a perfect bunt single down the third-base line. After a wild pitch allowed Lester to motor to second, a pair of groundouts to the right side scored Lester, with Opel notching the RBI. Scott Summerfield followed with a single into centerfield and Dylan Kelly chopped an infield single off the glove of Kuhn at third base. Shane Segouia then doubled into the gap in left-centerfield, with the ball skidding out of the glove of a stretched out Cousino in the gap.
UK answered with a run in the top of the fourth, as Cousino singled to centerfield with two outs, taking second on a wild pitch and scoring on McConkey’s RBI single with two outs.
Missouri immediately answered in the bottom of the fourth, as Brandon Champagne, hitting No. 9 in the order and batting .091 entering the game, was plunked by the first pitch of the inning. After a groundout pushed him to scoring position, Steele singled to centerfield with two outs to give Missouri a 3-1 lead.
The Wildcats got a run back in the top of the fifth inning, as Barrett led off with a perfect bunt single down the third-base line. After a Zellers sacrifice and a passed ball pushed Barrett to third base, Riddle scored him with a grounder to the right side.