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Late-game rally falls short as Georgia evens series

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Eighth-ranked Kentucky rallied with three runs in the eighth inning and got a four-hit game from junior second baseman J.T. Riddle but Georgia utilized seven runs over the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to post a 7-6 series-evening win, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (20-6, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) and Georgia were locked in a scoreless pitching duel through the top of the fourth, before UK got a two-out run in the bottom of the frame for a 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs rallied with two runs in the fifth inning, highlights by Farmer’s go-ahead, two-out RBI into the right-centerfield gap. Georgia added two runs in the sixth and four in the seventh for the final margin.

UK collected 12 hits in the game, including multiple-hit performances from Riddle, Kyle Barrett and A.J. Reed. Riddle led UK with a 4-for-5 game at the dish, with Reed going 3-for-4 and Barrett adding a 2-for-4 game to extend his hitting streak to a club-high seven games. Riddle appeared to nearly tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, launching a laser that hit just a foot to the right of sailing over the fence in rightfield, instead bouncing off the top of the wall for a double.

UK also got doubles from Matt Reida, Austin Cousino and Paul McConkey, with catcher Micheal Thomas driving in two RBI and Zac Zellers recording a two-out RBI knock.

UK twice found itself in great scoring chances early in the tilt, loading the bases with no outs in the second inning without scoring, and loading the bases with one out in the fourth and scrapping out a run on a two-out hit by pitch from Thomas. UK got two runs in the sixth and three runs in the eighth inning, with all three runs in the eighth coming with clutch two-out hitting.

Georgia (10-18, 1-7 SEC) got a solid start from left-hander Patrick Boling (2-3), who worked 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs – two earned – walking three and striking out four. Blake Dieterich took over in the sixth, working 1.1 shutout innings. Heath Holder got two outs in the eighth with Dylan Cole picking up his first save of the year with the final 1.1 innings.

UK senior Jerad Grundy (5-2) suffered the loss in the start, working 5.1 innings, allowing five hits and four runs – two earned – walking a career-high five and striking out four. Sophomore right-hander Chandler Shepherd took over in a one-out jam in the sixth, allowing both of the runners to score on the Grundy pitching line. Shepherd worked one inning, allowing three hits and two runs.

UK then used four freshmen in their SEC debuts to work into the ninth. Southpaw Dylan Dwyer took over in the seventh, hitting the one batter he faced with it scoring, with Zach Strecker then got an out and allowing a hit and a walk. Kyle Cody tossed one inning, allowing a hit and striking out two, with Ryne Combs getting the first out in the ninth. Senior Walter Wijas got the final two outs in the ninth.

The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel 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. UK will start junior southpaw Corey Littrell (3-2, 2.56 ERA) vs. Georgia senior right-hander Bryan Benzor (1-1, 5.57 ERA).

After three and a half scoreless innings to open the game, Kentucky scored one run in the bottom of the fourth to take its first lead of the afternoon. Reed led off the inning with a line-drive single into right centerfield. With one out, Riddle knocked a single into leftfield and Barrett worked a 3-2 count to draw a walk and load the bases. With the bases loaded and two outs, Thomas stood in and was hit by a pitch, bringing Reed across to give UK a 1-0 lead.

Georgia responded in the next half inning with two runs to take the lead from Kentucky. Grundy couldn’t find the zone to start the fifth, walking the first two batters, both on five pitches. A lack of communication while fielding a bunt to the left side allowed the Bulldogs to load the bases. Grundy forced a 6-3 double play but Georgia was able to score one in the process to tie the game at 1-1. With a runner on third, All-America UGA shortstop Kyle Farmer followed with a double into right-centerfield to give Georgia the 2-1 lead.

The Bulldogs added on in the top of the sixth, with a two-run, two-out single up the middle. Daniel Nichols was able to reach first on a fielding error caused by a short hop. J.T. Phillips singled up the middle to put runners on first and second. The two moved up a base on a ground out to the pitcher and Curt Powell brought them both home with a two-RBI single up the middle.

Trailing 4-1, Kentucky matched Georgia with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Riddle and Barrett led the Wildcats off with consecutive singles up the middle. The two moved into scoring position on a Thomas Bernal sacrifice bunt. Thomas hit a dribbler back to the pitcher and Boling attempted to glove flip the ball to the plate to nab Riddle. The attempted glove flip went awry as the ball sailed over the catcher, allowed Riddle to slide in safely and Barrett to come around from second and score on the error. The two runs decreased Georgia’s lead and brought the score to 4-3.

With Kentucky just trailing by one, Georgia opened the game up in the seventh, scoring three to take a 7-3 lead. Nelson Ward led off the inning with a double into right-centerfield and came around to score on a line-drive single through the left side from Hunter Cole, who moved to second on the throw attempt to the plate. Following a ground out, UK brought Dwyer in for Shepherd on the mound and then after a hit by pitch, Strecker was called upon. DeLoach reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing Cole to score. Nichols walked and a single through the left side brought DeLoach home from second, increasing Georgia’s lead to 7-3.

The Wildcats still had life in them, putting up three runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, McConkey pinch hit for Bernal and started the Kentucky rally with a double down the rightfield line. McConkey advanced to third on a wild pitch with two outs and Reida delivered with a double into the left-centerfield gap. Cousino matched Reida with a double into right-centerfield, scoring Reida. Zellers capped off the inning with a single into leftfield to bring Cousino home and bring the game to one run.

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