Baseball Walk-off with Win, Series Sweep

Feb. 26, 2012

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After allowing the two game-tying runs to score with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Kentucky mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the frame, capped by freshman Thomas Bernal's bases-loaded walk to force home Zac Zellers as the walk-off run, with UK posting a 7-6 win over Buffalo to sweep the series, on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (6-0) rallied from an early hole for the third consecutive game in its home-opening series, as UK fell behind 3-0 after the top of the third inning. UK mounted a rally with a run in the third and three runs in the sixth inning to take the lead on Zellers' two-out, three-RBI triple. Buffalo forced the bottom of the ninth inning with a two-out, two-run rally. Zellers continued his splashing UK debut by leading off the bottom of the ninth inning with a full-count walk.

After a failed sacrifice bunt attempt left Zellers at first base, Luke Maile ripped a line drive down the leftfield line to push the game-winning run to third base. Freshman A.J. Reed drew a walk to load the bases for Bernal, a freshman infielder/catcher who had been inserted in the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning at first base. In his second career home at bat and having onlyappeared at the dish once since the season lidlifter on Feb. 17, Bernal worked a quality at bat and forced ball four on a 3-2 count for the walk-off tally.

A native of St. Louis, Zellers had a breakout weekend for the Wildcats, including his Sunday heroics, where he went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and three RBI at the top of the order. On the weekend - his first three career UK home games - Zellers batted 6-for-9 with five runs, a double, triple, two homers and five RBI, getting hit by two pitches and walking once. He launched his first career homers in wins over Buffalo on Friday and Saturday, batting 3-for-3 on Saturday with two runs.

Zellers led UK offensively on Sunday, but the Wildcats collected nine total hits and six walks, also getting a multi-hit game from Michael Williams. Senior Thomas McCarthy totaled two RBI with a hit and a sacrifice fly, with outfielder Cameron Flynn batting 2-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt. Freshman rightfielder Jeff Boehm made his first career start and collected a hit, going 1-for-3 with two runs scored. Shortstop Matt Reida drew his second career two-walk game, scoring two runs while playing excellent defense up the middle.

UK didn't commit an error for the fifth time in its first six games of the year, with the Wildcats leading the Southeastern Conference in fielding with only one error on the season, coming from Friday's starting pitcher Taylor Rogers' attempted pickoff move.   

UK reliever Trevor Gott (1-0) picked up the win, as the righty came on in relief in the ninth to try and record his first save of the year. After the two-out rally against Gott, the sophomore picked up the win with UK's walk-off win in the ninth. UK starter Corey Littrell worked six innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, walking one and striking out five with the Bulls getting three runs off the southpaw in the third inning. Senior Alex Phillips turned in a strong outing in relief of Littrell tossing two shutout innings with one hit and one walk, striking out three.

Buffalo (0-3) starter Jeff Thompson worked 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and six runs - three earned - walking three and striking out one. Kevin Crumb (0-1) took the loss in his fourth inning of work, allowing the decisive run to cross in the ninth, his lone run allowed, with three walks and three strikeouts.

UK returns to action on Tuesday for a midweek contest vs. Morehead State at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Littrell hit a rough patch in the top of the third when as he surrendered his first hit of the day to Buffalo third basemen River McWilliams. Shortstop Michael Burke reached with a base hit to left field and Buffalo lead-off Jason Kanzler walked to load the bases with one out. Buffalo got on the scoreboard with an infield base hit by second baseman Jon Mestas that scored McWilliams and left the bases loaded with one out. Catcher Tom Murphy knocked Kanzler and Burke in with a single to left, putting the Bulls up 3-0 in the top of the third. Littrell would work out of the jam with minimal damage after a foul out to first base by Matt Baldock and a catcher Luke Maile picking off of Murphy at first.

Kentucky answered the Bulls with a run of their own in the bottom of the third. Zellers reached first on a hit by pitch before advancing to second from a groundball to first by Riddle. McCarthy scored Zellers on a base hit to left, leaving Kentucky down 3-1 through three.

Littrell got back on page, surrendering no runs and retiring the side in the top of the fifth. Kentucky came surging in the fifth as Boehm led off with a base hit up the middle, the first of his Kentucky career. Reida walked and a bunt perfectly placed down the third-base line by Zellers loaded the bases for the meat of lineup. A deep sacrifice fly to left center by Riddle scored Boehm while advancing Zellers to second and Reida to third. McCarthy got an RBI of his own with a sacrifice fly to right field that would score Reida. Zellers was left stranded at second but not before Kentucky tied the game at three through five innings.

Murphy led off the top of the six for the Bulls with a single up the middle before advancing to second a sacrifice bunt by Baldock. After advancing to third on a ground out from Pollock, Murphy would score on an infield hit by Dan Scahill to give the Bulls a 4-3 lead.

Once again Kentucky would respond to Buffalo's offense in the top of the sixth. Flynn got the two-out rally started for the Wildcats with a two-out hit to right field. After an error on a Boehm ground ball to shortstop, Reida walked to load the bases with two outs. In a two-out jam, Buffalo replaced starting pitcher Thompson with Crumb. Zellers welcomed Crumb with a bases-clearing triple to right field to put Kentucky up 6-4.

Gott took the mound in the ninth-inning save opportunity for the Wildcats. Scahill led off the top of the ninth for the Bulls with a solo home run down the right field line with two strikes, leaving the Bulls down one run with no outs. McWilliams followed Scahill with a single to right and advanced to second on a Burke sacrifice bunt. Kanzler hit a sacrifice fly to right field, advancing McWilliams to third with two outs. With two strikes, two outs and the infield pinched towards the corners, Mestas delivered for the Bulls with a base hit up the middle, tying the game at 6-6. Gott worked his way out of the top of the ninth as Kentucky entered the bottom of the ninth tied, setting up the heroic walk-off win.

GAME NOTES: Jeff Boehm (RF) made his first career start ... Zac Zellers hit leadoff for the first time in his UK career ... Thomas McCarthy has now reached base safely in 19 consecutive games and in 59 of his 60 career starts ... Boehm recorded his first career hit to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning, coming on a 1-2 count up the middle ... Matt Reida drew his first walk of the year ... J.T. Riddle recorded his first sacrifice fly of the year in the bottom of the fifth inning ... McCarthy followed Riddle with his first sacrifice fly of the year ... Reida tied a career high with two walks ... Zellers recorded his first career triple with two outs in the sixth ... Lucas Witt came off the bench for the first time as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning ... In 30 career appearances and 41.1 innings, Alex Phillips has walked only two hitters ... Witt had only one at bat to extend his career long and team-high hitting streak, lining out to leftfield in the eighth inning ... Thomas Bernal made his second appearance since starting the season opener on Feb. 17 at Wofford as the DH ... Bernal recorded his first career RBI with the two-out, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to force home the game-winning run ... UK's walk-off win was its first since a Lance Ray walk-off homer during a win over LSU in 2010.