UK Baseball

Baseball: Cats rally in eighth to edge Tennessee by one

A.J. Reed, 2013 University of Kentucky Baseball. Credit: UK Athletics
A.J. Reed, 2013 University of Kentucky Baseball. Credit: UK Athletics UK Athletics

Freshman leadoff man Kyle Barrett continued to make it easy to appreciate the intangibles he contributes to Kentucky's baseball team Friday night. It was even easier for the fans gathered at chilly Cliff Hagan Stadium to see tangibles, too.

In his second game as leadoff man, Barrett singled and doubled in runs to help Kentucky come from behind to beat Tennessee 5-4.

That gave him three hits for the night, and five in 10 at-bats batting first in Kentucky's lineup the last two games.

"But the thing I like the most is his presence," UK Coach Gary Henderson said. "He looks like a winner when he plays, and you noticed it. (Pause) Didn't you?"

Apparently, Barrett's can-do assertiveness can escape attention. As a high school star in Douglasville, Ga., Barrett did not get on Georgia's recruiting radar.

Surely that made it all the sweeter when he got five hits in 10 at-bats against Georgia two weekends ago. After that series, the Georgia coaches acknowledged not knowing who Barrett was.

When reminded of that confession, Barrett smiled slightly and said, "They know who I am now."

Barrett is Kentucky's leading hitter with a .343 batting average. "I'm just seeing it and hitting it," he said when reporters probed to discover the secret to his success.

He did not instantly become the team leader à la John Wall, Anthony Davis and assorted other freshman stars for UK's basketball team. Aside from one start as a designated hitter, he did not appear in UK's starting lineup the first 14 games.

"Honestly, I was just glad to be out here and cheering on the team," he said. "I'm still a cheerleader."

Henderson saw Barrett's go-get-'em approach in the recruiting process. But the UK coach conceded the freshman outfielder has exceeded expectations.

"I'm not going to say I saw it coming in the middle of the first year," he said. "In recruiting, you don't know exactly what you're getting. You have an idea. You're hope you're right. You hope you hit more than you miss."

Kentucky, which improved to 24-9 overall and 7-6 in the Southeastern Conference, fell behind early.

Tennessee took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. Catcher David Houser, a .188 hitter, drove in the second run with a single.

Otherwise, UK starter A.J. Reed blanked the Vols into the seventh inning.

Barrett's run-scoring single in the sixth got Kentucky on the scoreboard.

The score stayed that way until the eighth.

Barrett tied it with a double off the right-field fence. Later in the inning, Zac Zellers and Austin Cousino (the star freshman lead-off man last season) delivered run-scoring hits.

"He gives us a lot of tough at-bats," Zellers said of Barrett. "He's a hard out. He always seems to manufacture a hit or somehow get on base. That's what you need in a leadoff guy."

The victory did not come easy. Tennessee, which lost an eighth straight SEC game, scored twice in the top of the ninth against UK closer Trevor Gott. Both runs came when a single got past Zellers in left field.

With the tying run at third with one out, Gott got the next two hitters on a pop to shortstop and a strikeout.

"I was really, really impressed with Trevor Gott's poise," Henderson said. "That's doing it. That's a lot of adversity in a short period of time."


Tennessee at Kentucky

When: 2 p.m.