It looked like yet another feel-good ending in the making for the University of Kentucky baseball team.
Starting pitcher Justin Lewis struck out the side in the top of the seventh inning, pumping his fist and shouting toward the hyped-up Kentucky dugout after preserving a 1-1 tie.
In the bottom of the seventh, Riley Mahan blasted a first-pitch home run to left-center field to give the Cats a 2-1 lead and put Lewis in line for the win.
But Georgia struck for five runs off UK closer Logan Salow in the eighth inning — culminating in Mitchell Webb’s grand slam — and the Bulldogs knocked off UK 6-3 at Cliff Hagan Stadium on Sunday, clinching the three-game series.
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It was the Cats’ first series loss at home and their second Southeastern Conference series loss of the season.
After a couple of early hiccups, Lewis was dialed in on the mound. He hung a change-up that L.J. Talley belted over the right-field wall for a 1-0 Georgia lead in the second inning, then gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out in the third. But Lewis got a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat, then allowed just one Georgia hit over his final four innings, striking out seven.
“Man, he was awesome,” UK Coach Nick Mingione said. “He did about everything right, and I hate it for him that we couldn’t close that out for him because he deserved that win, there’s no question.”
Salow’s rough relief outing ended a tough weekend for the senior lefty. He was on the mound on Friday night when the Bulldogs scored four unearned runs on three hits in the ninth inning to stun the Cats 5-3. Salow entered Sunday’s game with a 0.43 ERA. It was up to 1.50 after Sunday’s game.
But the Cats still believe in their veteran closer.
“When you see Logan Salow come in the game, you’re pretty confident,” said UK first baseman Evan White, who went 3-for-4 and had his 19th multi-hit game of the year on Sunday. “Even though it didn’t work out for him today we still think he’s the best closer in the country, so we can win any game with him.”
Salow showed no signs of being shaken after the game, confidently telling reporters that his struggles would be forgotten by the morning.
“You almost have to have amnesia out there, pitch-by-pitch, hit-by-hit, inning-by-inning,” he said. “Whatever it is you have to get the last pitch out of your head … that’s kind of how our pitching staff likes to work and it’s a really good mentality to have.”
Salow insisted UK’s goal of a Southeastern Conference title is still within reach despite falling a game behind Florida and Mississippi State in the SEC standings.
“We’re a veteran team and we have a lot of older guys that don’t like losing, and it starts tomorrow,” he said. “This one hurts a lot, but we want a ring and that’s what we’re here for.”
UK will host Indiana on Tuesday night before Tennessee comes to Lexington for a three-game series beginning on Friday. The Cats will wrap up SEC play on the road at Florida the following weekend.
Indiana at Kentucky
7 p.m. Tuesday