Mahan's Walk-off Grand Slam Lifts No. 13 Baseball to Series Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Shortstop Riley Mahan – nursing a bloody nose from a collision on the bases in the early innings – belted a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to lift No. 13 Kentucky to a 6-2 win over Alabama to clinch the series, on a cold Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mahan came to the plate for a lefty-lefty matchup vs. Alabama senior Jon Keller. Kentucky had just surrendered its 2-1 lead with a two-out home run from Will Haynie in the top of the ninth inning and after UK loaded the bases with no outs, Keller responded with a strikeout for the first out.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Mahan took a first-pitch ball to open the at-bat, before turning on a no-doubt home run, giving UK its first walk-off grand slam since Marcus Nidiffer turned the trick vs. Purdue in 2008, besting Boilermaker closer Josh Lindblom. It was Mahan’s fourth homer of the year and the second walk-off hit for the Wildcats in 2016. Mahan set up UK’s previous walk-off win, in the finale vs. No. 1 Florida, with a two-out, game-tying homer to force an extra-inning comeback.
Kentucky (22-8, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) and Alabama traded unearned runs in the second and third innings, with the game cruising into the bottom of the eighth in a 1-1 tie. UK mounted a rally with a run in the bottom of the eighth to take a 2-1 lead. Down to its last out, Haynie pulled the game-tying homer over the leftfield fence to force the bottom of the ninth inning.
Preseason All-America third baseman JaVon Shelby led off with inning with a hard-hit single to leftfield, immediately stealing second base on a first-pitch breaking ball to Gunnar McNeill. McNeill then forced Shelby to third with an infield hit, with Alabama elected to load the bases with an intentional walk to Zach Reks. Keller then came on to get a swinging strikeout of Luke Becker for the first out, bringing Mahan to the plate with a heroic opportunity.
Kentucky finished with 13 hits in the game, with Mahan driving in the big four runs with his fourth blast of the year. Mahan laid down two sacrifice bunts, and three bunt attempts in the game, including suffering a collision with sturdy Bama second baseman Cobie Vance, leading to a bloody nose in the second inning.
UK also got two-hit games from Reks, Storm Wilson and Evan White, with Mahan, Shelby, McNeill, Becker Troy Squires, Tristan Pompey and Kole Cottam each collecting hits. Cottam gave UK the lead with a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The only pitcher in Kentucky history to win his first seven starts to a season, UK starter Dustin Beggs has his historic streak snapped despite not allowing an earned run in seven innings. A native of Roswell, Ga., Beggs worked seven innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run, walking one and equaling his career high with 10 strikeouts.
Freshmen Justin Lewis worked a shutout eighth inning and Sean Hjelle (2-0) took over in the ninth, allowing the solo homer to head into the bottom of the frame.
The Wildcats have now won their first four SEC weekends for the first time since a school-record 45 win season in 2012. UK has series wins over No. 1 Florida, at Georgia, at Tennessee and vs. Alabama.
Alabama (18-13, 5-6 SEC) starter Jake Walters worked 5.1 innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking three and striking out five. With two runners on and one out in the sixth, lefty Dylan Duarte came on in relief. Ray Castillo (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing three runs in the ninth.
The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network +, and on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Kentucky opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning, as Reks led off with an infield single, stealing second base. Luke Becker then drew a walk and Riley Mahan pushed a pair into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. With Marcus Carson at the plate, Walters balked home Reks to allow UK to score its first run.
Alabama answered in the top of the third inning, as Hunter Webb led off with a single up the middle, taking second on a failed pick-off attempt. With one out, a passed ball pushed Webb to third, scoring on a grounder from Cobie Vance.
Kentucky took the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Becker led off with a single to rightfield, taking second on Mahan’s second sacrifice bunt on the game. Pompey then grounded out to advance Becker to third for Cottam. The freshman catcher pulled an infield single into the hole, allowing Becker to score the go-ahead run from third base.
The Tide evened up the game in the ninth inning as Haynie connected on a two-out pitch from Hjelle, sending it over the leftfield fence for his fourth home run of the year.