Cody, Ninth-Inning Blasts Pace Baseball to Series Win in Finale
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Kyle Cody worked seven-shutout, three-hit innings and Kentucky got ninth-inning home runs from Evan White and JaVon Shelby, leading the Wildcats to a crucial 8-2 win over Missouri to claim the rubber match, on Saturday afternoon at Taylor Stadium.
Kentucky (30-24, 14-15 Southeastern Conference) entered the final day of the regular season in need of a win to clinch its third road SEC series of the year. UK now has series wins at No. 1 LSU, No. 5 Florida and Missouri. UK's 14 wins in league play marks the eighth time since 1933 the Wildcats have had at least 14 wins.
UK's 14 conference wins puts the Wildcats in eighth in the league standings to conclude the season.
The Wildcats will play at 5:30 p.m. ET in the opener of the SEC Tournament on Tuesday at the Hoover Met against the No. 9 seed, which will be either Auburn or South Carolina.
It marks the fourth consecutive year UK has advanced to the SEC Tournament, equaling the best stretch in program history, from 1993-96. Only top-ranked LSU has more SEC series wins on the road then Kentucky, with UK's three series wins on the road equaling a school record set in 2012.
A native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Cody (4-4) worked seven-shutout, three-hit innings, issuing two walks and striking out eight. A preseason All-America selection, Cody threw first-pitch strikes to 18 hitters, including five consecutive to end his outing. He allowed a leadoff walk in the second and a two-out walk in the seventh, with all three hits allowed coming in a fifth inning, when Cody induced a 6-4-3 double play to escape a bases-loaded jam.
UK turned to junior righty Zach Strecker to start the eighth inning. Strecker got two outs but allowed three consecutive two out hits, with two scoring. UK used Logan Salow, before righty Bo Wilson came to escape a key jam in the eighth with a strikeout. Wilson, a transfer from Air Force Academy, worked the final four outs in his 10th appearance of the year for his first career save.
The Wildcats pounded out 14 hits, led by a 4-for-4 game from centerfielder Kyle Barrett, who reached base safely in all five trips. UK got two-run homers in the ninth from White and Shelby, with White going 3-for-4 with three RBI and Shelby charting a 2-for-5 game with three RBI. Ka'ai Tom added two doubles and two RBI, with Riley Mahan -- making a spot start at third base for a minor injury to senior Thomas Bernal -- going 2-for-4 with a key double. UK also got a hit from Dorian Hairston, with Greg Fettes catching a strong game behind the plate.
Missouri (29-26, 15-15 SEC) starter Peter Fairbanks (4-5) worked 1.2 innings, allowing six hits and four runs, walking two and striking out two. Andrew Schwaab took over with two outs in the second, escaping the jam. Schwaab worked 4.1-shutout, one-hit innings, allowing a walk and striking out two. Lefty Austin Tribby started the seventh, working two innings, allowing five hits and two runs, striking out one. Jace James gave up two runs and two hits and John Miles also worked in the ninth.
The Wildcats struck first in their first chance as Barrett worked an eight-pitch at-bat before singling up the middle. White then drew a four-pitch walk and Tom scored Barrett with a double down the leftfield line. Fairbanks then got a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to escape the jam.
UK stretched its lead in the top of the second inning, started with an opposite-field double for Mahan, snapping out of a 0-for-18 stretch with the knock. After a pop out, Barrett singled to rightfield to put runners on the corners and White singled to centerfield on a perfectly executed hit-and-run that put Barrett at third and scored Mahan. Tom then hung a sacrifice fly to score White and Shelby painted the leftfield line with a two-out RBI double.
Missouri got on the board in the eighth inning as Brett Peel and Jake Ring each collected two-out infield hits and Ryan Howard smacked a RBI single through the right side to score Peel.
UK immediately got the runs back in the ninth, stretching the lead to 8-2. Tribby hit Barrett with the first pitch of the at-bat and White spanked the second pitch of the inning over the leftfield fence for his second homer of the year. Tom then ripped a double off the base of the rightfield wall and Shelby belted his ninth homer of the year into the scoreboard in left-centerfield.