McCarthy, Homers Power UK to Series-Clinching Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind 17 hits and four home runs – including two from junior third baseman Thomas McCarthy and a grand slam from senior shortstop Taylor Black – the Kentucky Wildcats pounded out a 12-5 series-clinching win over the Georgia Bulldogs, on Saturday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (24-27, 7-19 Southeastern Conference) rode the 17-hit outing and the breakout offensive performance from McCarthy to the series-clinching win. After a 7-4 win over Georgia on Friday night and the win on Saturday, UK clinched its first series win over Georgia since the 2007 season in Lexington.
The Wildcats – who entered the series leading the SEC in home runs – jumped all over Georgia acclaimed starter Michael Palazzone, plating seven runs over the first and second frames, including a grand slam from Black in the five-run second inning. Despite allowing a four-run inning in the top of the third, UK rallied with runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings. All told, Palazzone allowed 15 hits and 11 runs in the losing effort.
A native of Corvalis, Ore., McCarthy turned in a career-high four hits in the game, including his sixth and seventh homers of the year. A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, McCarthy totaled a four RBI, launching homers in the fifth and eighth innings. After belting three hits in the win on Friday night, McCarthy has run up seven hits in nine at bats in the series with the Bulldogs, belting three homers in his last six games. McCarthy’s two-homer game was the first multi-homer game for UK since Michael Williams hit two against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 25.
Black joined McCarthy with the game-high four RBI, with all four coming on his grand-slam swing in the second inning. Black finished 2-for-5, stealing his 12th base of the year. The Wildcats got hits all over the lineup, as all nine starters owned at least one hit in the game before Georgia had recorded five outs in the game.
Senior Neiko Johnson drew two walks at the top of the lineup and led off the game with a double, with Chad Wright, Michael Williams, Braden Kapteyn and Luke Maile each contributing two hits. Freshman J.T. Riddle and Brian Adams each charted hits. Maile hit his team-leading ninth home run of the year in the fifth inning, going 2-for-4 with two RBI.
UK starter Corey Littrell (6-5) tossed six innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, walking three and striking out a career-high six. All of the damage done off Littrell came in a four-hit, four-run third inning, before the freshman settled in to get UK into the seventh. UK turned to sophomore righty Walter Wijas to relieve Littrell to start the seventh, with Wijas going 1.1 innings and allowing four hits and one run, striking out one. With two on and one out in the eighth inning, UK went to senior Mike Kaczmarek in relief with the southpaw getting two outs to get out of the jam in the frame and tossed the final 1.2 innings, allowing two hits and striking out one.
Georgia (25-26, 14-12 SEC) starter Palazzone (8-3) went 5.1 innings, allowing 15 hits and 11 runs, walking one and striking out four. Craig Gullickson replaced him and went the final 2.2 innings, allowing two hits and one run, walking one and striking out one.
The series will conclude on Sunday, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will turn to sophomore right-hander Jordan Cooper (3-1, 4.23 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats got on the board first with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Johnson led off the inning with a full-count double down the leftfield line, taking third on a balk and plating after a passed ball during Black’s at bat. Wright then ripped his 14th double of the year into the left-centerfield gap, scoring after McCarthy smoked a single off the chest of Levi Hyams at second base.
Kentucky plated five runs on seven hits in the bottom of the second inning, taking a 7-0 lead. Maile led off the frame with a hard-hit single to centerfield and Riddle smacked a single up the middle. Adams then laid down a bunt single in front of the plate to load the bases for Johnson. Johnson worked an 11-pitch at bat for a bases-loaded walk. That brought up Black, who connected on a no-doubt blast to leftfield, his second grand slam and his third homer of the year.
The Bulldogs answered in the top of the third after the big UK inning, as Curt Powell got hit by a pitch to lead off and Hyams singled through the right side. Cone then pelted a single off the wall in rightfield, scoring Powell. Littrell then struck out Kyle Farmer for the first out and got Chase Davidson to chop a grounder off the front of the plate, bouncing to high to turn to inning-ending double play, allowing Hyams to score. Brett DeLoach followed and ripped a ground-rule double over the fence in deep centerfield, allowing Cone to score the third Georgia run of the game. Jonathan Hester then ripped a two-out single up the middle, scoring DeLoach.
UK got back on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning behind McCarthy. On the first pitch of his two-out at bat, McCarthy connected on his sixth homer of the year, sending a line drive over the left-centerfield fence for the homer.
The Wildcats added two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Kapteyn led off the frame with a single through the right side and Maile connected on his team-leading ninth home run of the year, sending it over the fence in right-centerfield.
Kentucky stretched its lead to 11-4 after a run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Black led off the frame with a single, stealing second base and Wright dropped a single into right-centerfield, with Black moving to third. McCarthy then scored Black with a grounder at short, with the ball going as an error and McCarthy awarded an RBI.
Georgia jumped on Wijas in the seventh inning, as Cone lined a hard-hit single on the first pitch of the inning to centerfield. Farmer then doubled off the wall to push Cone to third base and Davidson scored him with a hard-hit sacrifice fly to centerfield. Wijas settled in to get out of the frame without further damage.