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By Tom Hurley | @TomHurleyKernel
Junior left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell didn’t give up his second hit of the game until the seventh inning Sunday as he and UK baseball earned a series clinching, 3-1, win over Michigan State.
Littrell struckout a career-high nine batters in his seven innings of work, using command of his pitchers to limit the Spartans to four hits and one earned run.
“I was able to find my rhythm and just really throw the ball where I wanted to,” Littrell said. “The curveball was good early in the game, I was able to throw it in the front end and get ahead with that, and then the change up and cutter was able to put them away.”
Strong winds battered Cliff Hagan Stadium throughout Sunday’s contest, benefiting an MSU pitching staff that recorded no less than 11 outs in the outfield.
“The wind was a big factor today for not only me but a lot of our hitters,” junior second baseman J.T. Riddle said. “We put a lot of good strokes on the ball today, but just couldn’t get anything to fall in the gaps … the wind kept it up in the air for us.”
The game was scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning when UK’s freshman right fielder Kyle Barrett picked the perfect time to deliver his first-career extra base hit.
Barrett snuck a 1-2 pitch past MSU’s freshman third baseman Justin Hovis that rolled all the way into the visiting bullpen for a one-out double.
Two batters later Riddle singled to left center to bring Barrett home and put the Cats ahead, 1-0.
With runners on first and second and no outs in the sixth, junior catcher Micheal Thomas laid down a sacrifice bunt to move sophomore infielders Max Kuhn and A.J. Reed into scoring position.
Junior designated hitter Paul McConkey made the most of the RBI opportunity by ripping a double down the right field line, scoring both Kuhn and Reed to give No. 7 UK a 3-0 lead.
MSU’s sophomore second baseman Kevin Goergen’s RBI single got Michigan State (6-5) on the scoreboard in the seventh as a tired Littrell gave up three one-out hits.
Littrell worked his way out of a two-on, one-out jam before leaving the game with a 3-1 lead, pleasing UK head coach Gary Henderson by allowing the Spartans to see only 14 balls amongst his 100 pitches.
“He got ahead, he had the fastball on both sides of the plate. … at times his cutter was outstanding,” Henderson said. “His change was average early and then it got outstanding about the third inning. He was really good; he was on top of his game. Sixty-eight strikes in 100 pitches is doing it.”
Senior pitcher Walter Wijas worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning before handing over to junior closer Trevor Gott who tied the Cats’ all-time saves record with his fifteenth career save.
UK (13-2) returns to Cliff Hagan Stadium on Tuesday to face Ohio University . First pitch is set for 4 p.m.