ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia Bulldogs rode eight runs in the first four innings and a career-long pitching performance from junior right-hander Justin Grimm to an 8-6 series-opening win over the Kentucky Wildcats, on Thursday night at Foley Field.
Kentucky (30-24, 12-16 Southeastern Conference) suffered its first loss in four games and its first SEC loss in five contests. The Wildcats fell behind 8-1 after the first four innings, with Grimm turning in a splendid outing in his final game of 2010.
UK starter Alex Meyer (5-3) took the loss, getting roughed up in his 2.1 innings of work. Meyer allowed seven hits and five runs, walking four and striking out three. UK then used freshman Walter Wijas, who tossed 4.1 innings, allowing three hits and three runs, walking two and striking out four. Freshman Sam Kidd relieved Wijas with a two runners on base in the bottom of the seventh, with Kidd getting the final out of the inning. Kidd tossed the final 1.1 innings, allowing one hit and striking out one.
Georgia (15-36, 4-22 SEC) got a strong outing from Grimm (3-7) in his final game of the 2010 season. Grimm tossed a career-long eight innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs, walking four and striking out five. The majority of the damage against Grimm came in the last three innings, as UK plated five runs in the final three innings, with the UK rally falling short in the ninth. Justin Earls came on in relief of Grimm, getting the final three outs for his first career save.
The Wildcats were led at the plate by freshman leftfielder Brian Adams, who went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. Senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer went 1-for-1 with a pair of walks, an RBI and a single, while Braden Kapteyn added his 11th double of the season. Chris Bisson, Chad Wright, Lance Ray and Gunner Glad added singles, with senior Keenan Wiley contributing an RBI. Taylor Black hit his team-leading 11th homer of the season in the top of the ninth, cutting the UGA lead to 8-6.
Bisson, a preseason All-American second baseman, swiped his SEC-leading 30th base of the season, marking the first UK player to steal 30 or more bases in 14 years, dating back to Chad Green’s 55 stolen bases in 1996.
Georgia bested Kentucky for the seventh consecutive time in the series, with the Bulldogs beating UK 17 of the last 20 meetings in the series. UK has not won a game in Athens since UK clinched the 2006 SEC Championship with a win on the final weekend of the 2006 season.
The Georgia win was its first in an SEC game since April 11 against Ole Miss, a 6-3 result in Athens.
The series will resume Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Foley Field. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio). The game can be heard live in Lexington on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville, in addition to coverage on UKathletics.com. UK will send freshman right-hander Jordan Cooper (4-4, 5.11 ERA) to the mound to face off with Georgia senior right-hander Jeff Walters (1-6, 8.80 ERA).
Georgia jumped in front in the first inning not hitting a ball out of the infield to score one run on one hit. The inning started when Peter Verdin hit a swinging bunt to third for the first and only hit of the inning. Verdin would advance to second when Meyer walked Johnathan Taylor with both Verdin and Taylor advancing into scoring position when Levi Hyams grounded out to second. Zach Cone then plated a run on a sharp groundout to short that Taylor Black backhanded and made a strong throw to get the second out of the inning. The inning ended when Meyer struck out Kyle Farmer swinging.
The Bulldogs scored again in the third inning, getting leadoff singles by Verdin and Taylor. Verdin started the inning with a high chopper over the head of Glad at third, advancing to third when Taylor sent a rope up the middle for a single. Hyams then followed with a single through the left side that scored Verdin and advanced Taylor to third. With no outs and runners at the corners, Cone hit a softly hit single into left-centerfield to score another. With Farmer stepping to the plate, Kentucky successfully completed the hidden-ball trick at third for the first out of the inning. Farmer would later single to leftfield before Meyer walked Robert Shipman to load the bases for Chase Davidson who singled through the right side to score two and give the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead. The two-RBI single for Davidson chased Meyer from the game for Wijas, who threw two pitches to get two outs to end the frame with UGA up 5-0.
Kentucky got in the board in the top of the fourth inning when Ray scored on a wild pitch. The inning started with Glad striking out before Ray and Nidiffer walked. Kapteyn struck out for the second out and while Wiley was bating, Grimm threw a wild pitch that rolled almost halfway down the first base line, allowing Ray to score from second. The inning ended when Wiley flied out to left.
Georgia started the hitting again in the fourth inning after Wijas hit Verdin to start the inning and then allowed a high-chopping single up the middle to Taylor to put runners on the corners and no outs for Hyams. Hyams plated the Bulldogs sixth run on a double down the rightfield line to score Verdin and put two in scoring position for Cone, who singled to leftfield to plate two more runs before being thrown out at second base trying to stretch the single into a double. The inning would end on a fielder’s choice and a strikeout with UGA up 8-1.
Kentucky got a rally going in the top of the seventh inning when Nidiffer started the inning with a walk and then Kapteyn doubled down the leftfield line. Wiley then gathered an RBI by hitting a sacrifice fly to leftfield to score Nidiffer. Kentucky scored another run when Black singled to leftfield that scored Kapteyn from second but Black was called out at second trying to stretch it into a double. The two runs for UK cut the UGA lead to 8-3.
UK cut the UGA lead to two in the top of the ninth inning, getting a two-run homer by Black after a leadoff walk to Wiley. UGA then made a pitching change, brining in Earls who recorded three consecutive outs.