April 26, 2013 10:54:40 AM
OXFORD -- After allowing two unearned runs to score in the seventh inning that erased a lead, the University of Kentucky baseball team rallied for two runs in the eighth and used solid relief pitching from sophomore Chandler Shepherd to beat No. 18 University of Mississippi 3-2 in game one of a best-of-three Southeastern Conference series at Swayze Field.
Kentucky (25-16, 8-11 SEC) took a 1-0 lead into the seventh behind sophomore left-hander A.J. Reed. A lead-off, two-base error, an errant pickoff attempt, and a slow throw on a chopper allowed Ole Miss to score two unearned runs to take a 2-1 lead.
In the top half of the eighth, junior Matt Reida doubled down the left-field line and catcher Greg Fettes walked. Freshman Kyle Barrett fouled a pair of sacrifice bunt attempts before slapping a two-strike single into center field to load the bases. All-America center fielder Austin Cousino chopped a grounder to first base to score Reida. After Ole Miss intentionally walked Reed to load the bases, J.T. Riddle bounced a grounder to the right side to score pinch runner Andrew Bryant with the go-ahead run.
Shepherd then pitched the eighth and worked around a one-out infield single in the ninth to secure the victory. Barrett made a running catch in foul ground in right field to end the game
The victory was Kentucky's first at Swayze Field since 2007, a span of six games. It also snapped a seven-game losing streak that saw the Wildcats lose four one-run decisions in a stretch that included 14 of 16 games against ranked foes.
"I thought we had an aggressive approach at the plate all night," Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. "A.J. was outstanding. Then to put Chandler Shepherd out there for 2 1/3 in a little bit of an unfamiliar role and have him do extremely well for us there. I am just really proud of those guys on the mound and getting some key hits when we needed them. We really played with a lot of heart and really proud of our kids tonight."
The victory came in a brutal stretch of 56 innings in the past five days for Kentucky, all on the road. It played an 11-inning thriller last Saturday at the University of South Carolina and then battled Western Kentucky University in an 18-inning game Tuesday in Bowling Green, Ky. That game is the longest in college baseball this season. After returning to Lexington around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning and attending classes that day, UK traveled to Oxford for its nationally televised matchup against Ole Miss.
Ole Miss junior right-hander Bobby Wahl allowed one run in seven innings. He gave up four hits and a walk. He struck out three. Aaron Greenwood (3-2) took the loss, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk to start the eighth. He did not record an out before leaving the game with the bases loaded. The loss dropped Ole Miss to 30-13 and 10-9.
"It was not a good night for us. I didn't think we played very well," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "You have to credit (A.J.) Reed, we just couldn't get to his fastball. We looked different than we have looked the last couple weeks where we had gotten good swings, but we were able to scratch a couple runs across in the bottom of the seventh. When you don't play well and you're in a position to win, it is disappointing when you don't and you're not able to close it out. That's uncharacteristic of us, normally we can finish it in the bullpen but we couldn't tonight."
Cousino gave Kentucky a 1-0 lead in the first with a one-out home run into the left-field bullpen.
Both pitchers settled in from there and the defenses worked out of jams when necessary before the Rebels rallied in the seventh to take the lead.
Andrew Mistone started things off with a ground ball to third, but a throwing error allowed him to reach safely and move to second to start the inning. A sac bunt from Preston Overbey took him to third before he would come home on a sac fly to center field from Christian Helsel to tie the game at one.
Will Allen then came up with a two-out single through the left side and was replaced on the base path by freshman Cameron Dishon, who stole second. A walk of pinch hitter Austin Knight kept the inning alive before Tanner Mathis beat out a groundball to shortstop for an infield single. Dishon broke hard from second base and slid in ahead of the tag at the plate on the return throw from first.
Game two will be at 6:30 tonight.