UK Baseball

Senior Day sweep puts Bat Cats in first

Kentucky's Zac Zellers (2) was congratulated after scoring on a single by Michael Williams.
Kentucky's Zac Zellers (2) was congratulated after scoring on a single by Michael Williams. ©2012 Herald-Leader

First, Kentucky figured out a way to beat the weather.

Then, the Wildcats went out and beat Alabama twice Saturday, completing a three-game sweep of a Southeastern Conference series.

UK's 7-6 and 8-1 Senior Day victories at Cliff Hagan Stadium added up to this: the Cats are back atop the SEC East with an 18-9 record.

South Carolina, which began the day with a one-game lead, lost to Georgia.

UK and Alabama agreed to play a Saturday doubleheader, rather than a single game, because of the forecast for foul weather on Sunday.

As it was, much of Saturday's second game was played in light rain.

Even if South Carolina (17-9) beats Georgia on Sunday, UK will enter the final weekend of SEC play (at Mississippi State) holding the tie-breaker. The Cats swept South Carolina in March.

"That's the place to be," Coach Gary Henderson said of his team's lead. "We're really happy to be in that position."

Saturday marked the Cats' seventh SEC series win and second sweep.

Kentucky (41-11) is the first team in the nation to reach 40 wins, only the fifth time the Wildcats have hit the 40-win mark.

J.T. Riddle had five of UK's 25 hits Saturday. Thomas McCarthy and little-used Brian Adams had four each.

Adams, making his second and third starts of the season, began the day with five hits this season, all singles.

He added two singles, a double and a home run Saturday. The latter hit off the top of the scoreboard in left-center and gave UK a 7-1 lead in the second game.

Michael Williams and Austin Cousino also hit second-game homers.

Adams played it cool and didn't see his bomb land.

"I didn't want to watch it. I knew that ball was hit pretty good," he said. "Williams, he was all hyped about his, so I just kind of jogged around the bases and headed to the dugout. But I heard it hit off the scoreboard, so I was pretty pumped about that."

Center fielder Cousino was 2-for-7 for the two games, setting UK freshman records for hits (73) and runs (54) in a season.

"It's something to tell my kids," Cousino said. "That's all it is. ... More importantly, we came out here and got a sweep."

It was a grand send-off for seniors McCarthy, Williams and Alex Phillips.

Could Williams, who had a homer among his three hits, imagine a better finale?

"Josh Hamilton style," he said with a smile. "No, it's just a blessing to be here four years and be a part of this team this year. I'm just honored and blessed."

In the opener, UK lefty Jerad Grundy scattered seven hits while nursing a 1-0 lead through five innings.

Austen Smith led off the sixth, though, with a line drive off of Grundy's arm. The ball caromed into foul territory and Grundy, nailed just above his left (throwing) wrist, exited.

Smith eventually scored on Jon Kelton's two-out single, and James Tullidge followed with an RBI double.

The Tide added three runs in the seventh, two coming on a liner off the leg of UK pitcher Phillips.

UK, which scored a run in the first on Cameron Flynn's two-out single, exploded for five runs in the seventh.

The Cats sent 10 batters to the plate, rapping five hits, to go with a hit batsman and a fielding error.

One scored on Flynn's sacrifice fly. Williams' two-out single plated another.

Riddle smacked a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for a two-run double. He moved to third on McCarthy's single, then scored when second baseman Kelton booted Adams' grounder.

Alabama tied the game at 6 on Jared Reaves' two-out, run-scoring single in the eighth.

UK scored the game-winner in the bottom of the inning without getting a hit.

Cousino was hit by a pitch, advanced on a passed ball and wild pitch. Back-to-back walks — one intentional and one not — loaded the bases.

Williams walked on a 3-2 pitch to force Cousino home.

Trevor Gott (3-0) gave up a leadoff walk in the top of the ninth, but struck out the next three to get the win.

In the nightcap, three two-out singles in the second gave Alabama its only run.

UK lefty Corey Littrell (8-0) struck out seven, walked two and gave up six hits over 62⁄3 innings. He threw a career-high 115 pitches, 67 for strikes. He also notched his SEC-best sixth pickoff.

The Cats will meet Murray State, Tuesday at Paducah, before heading to Mississippi State.

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