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Kentucky Baseball wakes up the bats in crunch time to win UGA series

Article written by:On3 imageHunter Shelton

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Photo by Grace Bradley | UK Athletics

Two things have become clear about Kentucky Baseball: If you put your ace out on the mound against the ‘Cats, you’ll likely be satisfied with your results. On the other hand, you can’t run your backend arms out on the rubber and expect to win.

UK can light up the scoreboard when given the opportunity, and that’s just what the Georgia pitching staff did on Saturday and Sunday, allowing the Cats (17-8, 2-4 SEC) to earn their first intraconference series win of the season against the No. 14 Bulldogs (18-6, 3-3 SEC).

After getting swept by Arkansas to open conference play, the ‘Cats swallowed their hard dose of reality. No matter how many non-conference wins you can pile up, when the SEC foes come rolling in, things are different, and not in a good way.

Cannon shuts down Kentucky in game one

This was once again prevalent in game one of the three-game set against the Bulldogs. Sure, it was just a 4-2 loss, but UGA brought out the big guns on the mound and the ‘Cats couldn’t hang.

Georgia ace Jonathan Cannon diced up Kentucky, throwing seven innings of four-hit, two-run ball. He improved to 5-1 on the season while striking out six. Cole Stupp was up to the challenge on the other side, as he was en route to arguably his best start of the season before a forearm injury derailed his game and now his season, as he’s out for the rest of the year.

In 5.1 innings, Stupp gave up five hits and three runs while striking out six. A quartet of relievers would hold the Bulldog offense, but the Wildcat bats would continue to get shut down, finishing the game with just five hits. Friday night was a sour reminder that some games you won’t be able to compile double-digit runs and outscore your opponent.

Five-run comeback leads to first SEC win

As it turns out, “some games” did not apply to Saturday or Sunday, as the bats woke up in a big way.

After UGA turned in a six-spot in the second inning, Kentucky would plate nine runs before the Dawgs could score again, ending in a 10-8 slugfest victory for UK, evening the series at 1-1.

Eight different ‘Cats would earn an RBI, while right fielder Adam Fogel led the way at the plate with three hits. He and catcher Alonzo Rubalcaba would each rope a double, while Daniel Harris IV belted a home run, accounting for the only three extra-base hits that UK could muster. UGA would outhit the Cats 14-9, but clutch pitching allowed the UK staff to avoid serious damage late.

Darren Williams made his first career start, taking the Saturday spot from South Carolina transfer Magdiel Cotto. Williams, who has been stellar out of the bullpen, lasted four innings, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks. In relief, Sean Harney would toss four innings of his own, and while he allowed eight knocks, just two UGA runs crossed the plate. Lexington native Tyler Guilfoil closed the door in the ninth for his second save of the season and UK’s first SEC win.

Sunday batting practice for a series victory

In the crucial rubber match on Sunday, the Bulldogs would roll out the bullpen in full force, having seven pitchers take the mound. Kentucky wasn’t having it, as they tagged five of the seven UGA arms for at least one run. No Bulldog would pitch more than 2.1 innings as Kentucky mashed its way to an 18-5 victory.

Rubalcaba got the party started in the first, crushing a grand slam over the left-field wall. He would be one of four ‘Cats who earned three or more RBI on Sunday. Second baseman Jase Felker was a base hit machine, as he earned five hits, four of which were singles.

Shortstop Ryan Ritter’s lone hit was a bases-clearing triple, while Fogel and Estep each accumulated three hits of their own.

On a day where they didn’t need it, the Wildcats were gifted with a tidy start from lefty Tyler Bosma. The 6-foot-6 Miami (OH) transfer dealt six innings of four-hit, zero-run ball. He moves to 3-1 on the season and made a terrific case to take over the Friday night role with Stupp on the shelf for the remainder of the year.

In pummeling fashion, Kentucky made a statement for its first SEC series win of the year. The Cats will continue the home-stand on Tuesday, March 29, as the Eastern Kentucky Colonels will make the short trip to KPP for one matchup.

UK will need the tune-up, as another big boy awaits on deck, with the current No. 1 Ole Miss Rebels set to head to Lexington for a three-game set, beginning on Friday, April 1.

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2023-01-27