UK baseball: Littrell works his Sunday magic again

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 31, 2013 

  • Next Game

    Kentucky at Louisville

    When: Tuesday, April 2 at 6 p.m.

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

When Corey Littrell goes to the mound for a Sunday rubber game, the outcome is nearly a foregone conclusion.

Kentucky wins.

Littrell did his thing again Easter Sunday, striking out a career-high 12 as eighth-ranked UK scored a 5-0 victory over visiting Georgia.

"Sundays are fun for me," said the junior left-hander, who is 8-0 with a 1.68 ERA in 11 rubber-game starts over the last two seasons. "Going into Sunday 1-1, it's exciting for me because I know it's up to me to go out there and show up every single Sunday for my team. They have the utmost confidence in me, and I have confidence in myself."

Littrell (4-0) gave up three singles and walked two over seven innings. His previous high strikeout total was nine.

"I thought he competed extremely well," Coach Gary Henderson said. "Plus, secondary command. Really, really rose to the occasion several times when baserunners were in scoring position, got in a little bit of a jam there. Not a lot of them, but a couple of them — and as soon as he did, the stuff got better, and that's been kind of how he is so far this year."

After the leadoff batter in the eighth reached on an error, Walt Wijas finished the inning. Trevor Gott worked a perfect ninth.

Combined, UK pitchers fanned 15 and walked two.

The Cats (22-6, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) have won two of three in each of their first three SEC series.

Georgia (10-19, 1-8) finished with four hits, all singles.

Austin Cousino finished a home run shy of the cycle Sunday, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs. Micheal Thomas had a two-run homer and Zac Zellers drove in two.

UK did have bad news, though.

First baseman (and Friday starting pitcher) A.J. Reed suffered a sprained ankle. He reached on a first-inning error, rolling the ankle as he left the batter's box.

After six innings, Thomas Bernal replaced Reed.

In an eighth-inning collision at first, Bernal suffered a dislocated elbow.

Cousino led off the UK first with a triple, the ball jarred free from the glove of D.J. Smith when he crashed into the center-field wall.

Zellers brought Cousino home with a sacrifice fly.

"Getting runs early is huge for a starting pitcher," Littrell said. "It gives you confidence knowing that they came to play today, so now it's your turn to show up out on the mound."

Littrell was on his game from the get-go.

"The first two times (through the order), I was keeping them off (with) the changeup," Littrell said. "Then they came around the third time and I was able to throw my cutter because they weren't expecting it. They were expecting changeup, and it was going the other way."

UK's lead grew to 3-0 in the third.

Cousino doubled in a run, then scored on Zellers' single.

"I just feel good with my rhythm and timing," Cousino said. "It was nice to finally see some right-handed arms. I've seen a lot of lefties with Mississippi State. It just feels good to be (hitting) and get the mojo going again."

Matt Reida led off the UK fifth with a single.

After failing to get a bunt down, Thomas lined an 0-2 pitch over the wall, just inside the left-field foul pole.

Cousino, who singled in the fifth, just missed the cycle when he flied deep to center field in the eighth inning.

"He's a good competitor who's really skilled," Henderson said. "Seeing it much better now than he did two or three weekends ago. Really happy to see that happen. Three hits, hitting it hard even when he's not getting base hits."

Notes

An eighth-inning error by second baseman J.T. Riddle was his first since last May, a span of 3552⁄3 innings.


Next Game

Kentucky at Louisville

When: Tuesday, April 2 at 6 p.m.

Radio: WLAP-AM 630

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229.Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL.Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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