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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind the ninth quality start of the season from Alex Meyer and a three-hit outing from Thomas McCarthy, the Kentucky Wildcats plated four runs in the first inning and posted a 7-4 series-opening win over Georgia, on a pleasant Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (23-27, 6-19 Southeastern Conference) got tremendous two-out hitting in the contest, batting 8-for-14 as a team with two outs, with all three of McCarthy’s knocks coming with two down. UK plated seven runs on 12 hits in the game, with all of its runs coming with two outs.
Meyer (6-5) turned in his ninth quality start in his 13th starting assignment of the year, going 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking four and striking out five, with the UK bullpen allowing one inherited runner to score in the seventh. Junior lefty Alex Phillips replaced Meyer with the bases loaded and one out and got the second out of the frame on a sacrifice fly, before getting out of the seventh with a foul out. Phillips closed out the game with 2.2 innings, allowing four hits and one run, striking out two for his second save of the year and his second of the week, also picking up a save in a win over Indiana on Tuesday.
McCarthy led UK’s offensive charge with his three two-out hits, including his team-leading 18th double of the year. UK got multi-hit games from Neiko Johnson, Chad Wright and Luke Maile, with Michael Williams and J.T. Riddle adding hits in the four-run first inning, with Riddle delivering a two-out, two-RBI single. Maile added two RBI and Taylor Black recorded an RBI in the eighth inning. Johnson went 2-for-3 with a game-high two walks and a stolen base, with Wright added his team-best 15th steal of the year. Freshman Lucas Witt played good defense in centerfielder and added a 1-for-3 game with a walk at the dish.
Georgia (25-25, 14-11 SEC) starter Alex Wood (4-6) went five innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs, walking three and striking out three. Chase Hawkins replaced him to start the sixth and went 2.2 innings, allowing no runs and striking out two, before John Herman relieved him with one outs in the eighth.
The series will resume on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium, with UK freshman southpaw Corey Littrell (5-5, 6.37 ERA) facing off with Georgia ace righty Michael Palazzone (8-2, 2.15 ERA). The game will be televised live on the Big Blue Sports Network, with Dick Gabriel (play-by-play), MLB Gold Glover Doug Flynn (color) and Ryan Lemond (sideline) calling the action. The telecast can be found on FSN South (Insight-Lexington channel 52) and in Central Kentucky on CWKYT-TV (Insight-Lexington channel 5). The three games will also be broadcast live on BBSN, 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 with four runs on four hits to take a 4-0 lead after the bottom of the first inning. Johnson led off the inning falling behind 0-2, before drawing a leadoff walk. Black then hit into a double play to bring up Wright with two out. Wright drew his team-leading 22nd walk of the year, moving to third after McCarthy doubled over the fence in left-centerfield for a ground-rule double and his team-leading 18th double of the year and his 23rd two-out hit of the season. Williams then hit a ball off the dirt in front of the plate that hung up in the air too long to make a play, going as an RBI single to score Wright. The next hitter, Braden Kapteyn, got hit by his SEC-leading 18th pitch of the year, a ball that bounced off his ear hole of his helmet. Kapteyn eventually got to his feet and took second base to load the bases. Maile then notched his 14th two-out RBI of the year with a single to rightfield, scoring McCarthy. Riddle then delivered with two more two-out RBI, smacking a single through the right side to score Williams and Kapteyn for Riddle’s ninth and 10th two-out RBI of the year.
Georgia got on the board in the third inning, snapping Meyer’s 11-inning consecutive scoreless streak and cutting the UK lead to 4-1. Curt Powell led off by reaching on a hit by pitch, taking second and third on a pair of wild pitches and scoring on a groundout to second base from Zach Cone.
UK added two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 6-1 lead. After Witt led off with a single to leftfield, Johnson singled to the left side of the infield. After a strikeout, Wright singled through the right side, allowing Johnson to score. After Wright stole second base, McCarthy delivered a two-out RBI through the left side to score Wright.
In the top of the seventh inning, Georgia plated two runs to cut the lead to 6-3 and chase Meyer from the mound. Curt Powell reached on a one-out single and Levi Hyams singled through the right side. After a walk to Cone loaded the bases, Kyle Farmer singled up the middle to score Powell and end Meyer’s outing. Phillips then entered and got a sacrifice fly for the second out from Chas Davidson, scoring Hyams.
The Bulldogs added a run in the top of the eighth inning, Jonathan Hester led off with a single up the middle and after a strikeout, Joey Delmonico singled to rightfield. Powell then hit into the fielder’s choice with Delmonico out at second and Hester moving to third with two out. Hyams then singled up the middle, just out of the reach of a diving Riddle behind the bag, with the ball skidding out of his outstretched glove, allowing Hester to score.
UK got a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Maile reached on a one-out single, moving to second on a groundout and taking third after Witt and Johnson drew walks to load the bags. With Black at the plate, Maile scored on a catcher’s interference.