Shortstop Riley Mahan – nursing a bloody nose from a collision on the bases early in the game – belted a walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning to lift No. 13 Kentucky to a 6-2 win over Alabama, clinching the series on a cold Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
“It was my first grand slam, actually,” Mahan said. “Feels great.”
With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, Mahan came to the plate against Alabama senior Jon Keller. Kentucky had just surrendered its 2-1 lead on Will Haynie’s two-out home run in the top of the ninth.
A native of Cincinnati, Mahan took a first-pitch ball before turning on a no-doubter, giving UK its first walk-off slam since Marcus Nidiffer beat Purdue in 2008. It was Mahan’s fourth homer of the year.
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“It was a great at-bat for Riley, and a great at-bat for our club,” Kentucky Coach Gary Henderson said. “I’m really happy for Riley and his ability to square one up there in the bottom of the ninth.”
Mahan’s game didn’t start as well. While running out a sacrifice bunt, he collided with Alabama second baseman Codie Vance, who was covering first base.
“The throw took him across the bag, and I wasn’t really expecting him, and I ran into a brick wall. That’s a big boy,” Mahan said of Vance. “I rebounded, felt all right and came back in. I had a little bloody nose. My lip was bleeding, too.”
Kentucky (22-8, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) and Alabama traded unearned runs in the second and third innings, with the game going into the bottom of the eighth tied at 1. UK took a 2-1 lead when Luke Becker led off with a single and came around to score.
JaVon Shelby led off with the ninth with a single to left and stole second. Gunnar McNeill’s infield hit sent Shelby to third, and Alabama elected to walk Zach Reks and load the bases. Becker then struck out, setting the stage for Mahan.
Kentucky finished with 13 hits, getting games from Reks, Storm Wilson and Evan White.
UK starter Dustin Beggs, the only pitcher in Kentucky history to win his first seven starts to a season, had his streak snapped despite not allowing an earned run in seven innings. Beggs allowed four hits and one unearned run, walking one and equaling his career high with 10 strikeouts.
Freshmen Justin Lewis worked a shutout eighth and Sean Hjelle (2-0) got the win despite allowing the solo homer in the ninth.
The Wildcats have won their first four SEC weekends for the first time since getting a school-record 45 win season in 2012. They’ll go for a sweep of the Tide on Sunday.
“It’s hard to sweep in this league, and that’s a really good team,” Henderson said.
Alabama fell to 18-13, 5-6 SEC.
Alabama at Kentucky
1 p.m. Sunday (SEC Network Plus and WLAP 630)