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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Georgia Bulldogs plated four runs in the second inning for an early lead and held off a late charge from Kentucky for a 7-6 win to salvage the series and prevent UK’s first sweep of Georgia since the 1993 season, on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (24-28, 7-20 Southeastern Conference) posted the series win with a 7-4 series-opening win on Friday night, before securing the series with a 12-5 win on Saturday evening. The series win was UK’s first over Georgia since claiming two of three in 2007, with UK falling just shy of its first sweep over Georgia since the 1993 season. The narrow one-run loss was UK’s 21st one or two-run game of the season, with UK owning a 10-11 mark in the tightly contested games in 2011.
The Bulldogs rallied on Sunday to salvage the series, with UGA fighting for a postseason berth. Georgia entered the series at 25-24 overall, needing to finish above .500 to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, despite a No. 20 RPI. UGA, rated as owning the NCAA’s toughest schedule, plated four runs in the second inning and added a run in the fifth and two runs in the sixth to take the series finale.
Throughout the weekend, the Wildcats were paced by third baseman Thomas McCarthy, who had an electric three games. The Corvallis, Ore., native was a terror at the dish, totaling 10 hits in 14 at bats, including two doubles, two homers and eight RBI. McCarthy extended his hitting streak to seven games with his 3-for-5, three-RBI game on Sunday, the fifth consecutive three-or-more-hit game for the junior. On Friday, McCarthy went 3-for-4 with a double, before exploding on Saturday for a four-hit outing, adding two homers and four RBI. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder opened the week with a three-hit game against Indiana on Tuesday, also charting three hits last Sunday vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt.
Overall during UK’s four-game week, McCarthy hit .684 (13-for-19) with two doubles, two homers and nine RBI. On the year, McCarthy leads UK with a .359 average, totaling 19 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 34 RBI, stealing eight bases.
Kentucky’s offense erupted during the three-game series with Georgia and during the four-game week, batting .378 on the weekend and .393 during the week. The SEC leader in home runs, Kentucky lunched a staggering nine homers during the four games, including five in the series with Georgia.
On Sunday, McCarthy led UK with the three hits and three RBI, with senior shortstop Taylor Black tallying a 3-for-5 game with an RBI and his 15th double of the year. Chad Wright and Luke Maile added two hits, with Neiko Johnson, Michael Williams and Lucas Witt each charting hits, with Witt notching his fourth double of the year and Maile notched his 10th two bagger of 2011, also adding a walk.
UK starter Jordan Cooper (3-2) went 4.2 innings, allowing nine hits and five runs, walking one and striking out one. Senior Nick Kennedy took over for Cooper in the top of the fifth with two outs and two runners in scoring position. Kennedy went 1.2 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, striking out one. Freshman Trevor Gott relieved him with two outs in the top of the seventh and got out of the jam, going 1.1 innings, allowing one hit and one walk, striking out one. Lefty Alex Phillips replaced Gott with two outs and two runners on base in the eighth inning and got out of the jam, going the final 1.1 innings of shutout relief.
Georgia (26-26, 15-12 SEC) starter Blake Dietrich (2-3) went five innings, allowing eight hits and two runs, walking one and striking out four. Earl Daniels replaced him in the bottom of the sixth inning and allowed five hits and four runs in his inning of work, striking out two. Bryan Benzor started the seventh inning and tossed two perfect innings, before handing to ball to closer Tyler Maloof, who got his NCAA-leading 16th save of the year with a perfect ninth inning.
UK wraps up its home schedule on Tuesday, hosting Western Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, voicing the action. Fans can hear the game live in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Bulldogs got on the board first in the top of the second inning, as Chase Davidson led off the inning with a two-strike double into the right-centerfield gap. Brett DeLoach then followed with a two-strike hit of his own, poking a single through the right side to push Davidson to third base. Jonathan Hester then lined a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Davidson for the first tally of the game. After Cooper got Brandon Stephens to strike out for the second out, Curt Powell stroked a single into right-centerfield to score DeLoach. Levi Hyams then ripped his third homer of the year over the rightfield fence, scoring Powell and lifting UGA to a 4-0 lead.
UK immediately answered with two runs on three hits in the bottom of the third inning, cutting the Georgia lead to 4-2. Johnson led off the inning with a blast to leftfield, his second homer of the season and his third home run of his career. All three of Johnson’s career homers have come to lead off an inning. Black followed and doubled off the wall in rightfield, taking third after a line-drive out by Wright. McCarthy then smacked an RBI single through the left side to score Black.
The Bulldogs got a run in the top of the fifth inning, as Hyams drew a walk to lead off the inning, taking second base on a two-out single from Zach Cone. Davidson then singled up the middle to score Hyams, with Davidson taking second base on an error on by the cutoff man. UK then pulled Cooper in favor of Kennedy with two in scoring position, getting a ground out to end the threat.
After Georgia escaped a UK bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the fifth inning without any damage, the Bulldogs got two, two-out runs in the sixth inning. With two outs, Powell singled on a chopper to third base, with first base umpire Keith Sanders ruling that Maile, UK’s first baseman, pulled his foot off the bag. After an argument from head coach Gary Henderson, Hyams connected on his second homer of the game, giving UGA a 7-2 lead.
The Wildcats got a four runs back in the bottom of the sixth inning, getting two extra-base hits to lead off the inning and two-out hits from Black, Wright and McCarthy. Maile led off the inning with a triple bounced off the 30-foot wall in rightfield, his third triple of the year. Witt followed and pelted a double off the same wall to score Maile. UGA got two quick outs to look like they would get out of the jam, including a groundout from Matt Reida for the first out. After a strikeout, Black singled to centerfield to score Witt and Wright pushed Black to scoring position with a single up the middle. McCarthy then ripped a double into the gap in right-centerfield, with Black scoring and Wright sliding in just ahead of the throw at the plate for a 7-6 score.