UK baseball rallies for first walk-off win of season

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMay 11, 2014 

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It took until the final home game of the season, but Kentucky finally scored a walk-off victory Sunday.

Ka'ai Tom's run-scoring single in the 10th inning gave the Wildcats a 6-5 victory over Auburn in the rubber game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series.

This after the Wildcats were all but left for dead, trailing 5-0 through five innings at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

"A really good win," UK Coach Gary Henderson said. "I'm really proud of the kids. To be able to be down five going into the bottom of the sixth and chip away, and then leave (three) base runners on in the seventh, that showed some real resilience for our kids. I'm really proud of them.

"Really kind of a complete team effort if you look around ... defense, several guys pitched in on the mound, key hits at crucial times. A really, really good team win."

UK (30-20, 12-15 SEC) got an infield single by JaVon Shelby to open the 10th. He moved up on Austin Cousino's sacrifice bunt and Max Kuhn's fly to center.

A.J. Reed was then issued his fourth walk, and second intentional, of the game to bring up Tom.

"Everyone in the stadium knew that A.J. was going to get walked," Tom said. "So I just kept taking deep breaths and know (to) stick to what I do, and don't try to do too much. Don't let the situation get to you. Just fortunate that the ball got through the infield."

Tom's hit scooted through to right field, between diving first and second basemen.

Auburn (27-25, 10-17) had the upper hand early as freshman right-hander Keegan Thompson blanked UK on a pair of infield singles through five innings. He did load the bases in the first inning via two walks and a hit batsman, but a groundout ended the threat.

The Tigers backed Thompson with a four-run second inning, highlighted by Anfernee Grier's two-run single down the third-base line.

That inning finished UK starter Dylan Dwyer, but the Wildcats bullpen was ready.

Dan Glevenyak doubled in another Auburn run in the fourth, the only run the Tigers would get the rest of the way.

Kyle Cody, Sam Mahar, Andrew Nelson, Logan Salow and Spencer Jack (3-1) kept UK in the game.

And the Cats got their offense going in the sixth.

Tom was hit by a pitch and Thomas Bernal doubled to knock out Thompson.

Reliever Jay Wade beaned Storm Wilson to load the bases, and Micheal Thomas walked to force in a run.

Another Auburn reliever, Trey Cochran-Gill, came in and was victimized by an infield fielding error that forced in a second run.

A third run scored when Shelby grounded into a double play. Cousino added an RBI double to cut the Tigers' lead to 5-4.

The Cats loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh.

Ryan Tella (0-1), coming in from center field to make only his second career pitching appearance, struck out the next three batters.

UK tied it in the eighth, though, when Cousino poked a home run that hit the right-field foul pole.

"(Coach Brad) Bohannon actually talked to me before and said 'why don't you get to slapping some stuff up the middle?'" Cousino said. "I was like, 'no, we're going to get one out of here. I haven't hit one in a while.' I told A.J. I was going to get one today.

"I looked for something straight but I kind of had curveball in the back of my mind just because he's a two-pitch guy and I'd seen what he'd done with the other guys. ... I just let it fly, and good things happen."

It was Auburn's turn to fill the bases in the ninth, getting two singles and a walk with one out. Jack escaped with a punchout and a force play.

Tom took it from there.

"We took pretty much the whole season to get a walk-off win," he said, "so it feels great."

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

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