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By Nick Gray | @KyKernelGray
No. 8 UK baseball (18-5, 4-2 SEC) used two quality pitching starts from senior left handed pitcher Jerad Grundy and junior left handed pitcher Corey Littrell to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader and take the series over No. 14 Mississippi State at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The first game of the doubleheader saw the Cats hold on to defeat the Bulldogs 3-2, while sophomore centerfielder Austin Cousino brushed off a slump to hit a walk-off single to capture the 4-3 win late Saturday afternoon.
In the first game, sophomore first baseman A.J. Reed began the afternoon with a first inning, two-run home run to push UK to a 2-0 lead. The home run was Reed’s sixth of the season.
From there, the game was controlled by Grundy. Grundy pitched 8 innings, giving up two runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts.
“Grundy was outstanding,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “I’m really, really happy for Jerad, happy for our club. That effort today was about as good as you see in college baseball.”
UK led 3-1 going to the ninth inning when Henderson elected to bring Grundy (who had thrown 105 pitches thru eight innings) back out to pitch to Mississippi State outfielder and SEC RBI leader Hunter Renfroe, who crushed the second pitch over the left field wall.
Junior right handed closer Trevor Gott came into the game to face the next batter and closed the game, earning his seventh save of the year.
Senior outfielder Zac Zellers, sophomore infielder Max Kuhn and Reed all went 2-for-3 in Saturday’s first game. Zellers scored two runs and Kuhn had a run batted in.
The Cats gained an advantage early in the second game of the doubleheader.
The first five UK batters got on-base via walk or being hit-by-pitch, resulting in three Cats runs in the first inning, all without a hit.
Littrell ran into trouble in the third inning,
“I was a little wild early and then the defense made errors, but the biggest thing for me was knowing that I’ve been in that situation before. I know I can find it at any moment,” Littrell said. “We know that we’re not going to win every game. We’re going to lose again because it’s baseball, but we’re confident and we know that if we play the way we know how, we’ll come out successful.”
Littrell allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits and a career-high six walks.
Little threat came from either team offensively until the UK ninth inning. Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett led the inning off with a double to left center. Freshman pinch hitter Jeff Boehm was walked intentionally and junior shortstop Matt Reida walked in the next at-bat.
Cousino, who had gone 1-for-16 since his dazzling Florida series, came up to bat with the bases loaded.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Cousino said. “I just really wiped away what happened early in the game. I knew that if I could get up, I could get him.”
The second pitch Cousino saw was lined down the first base line, off of first base, into right field, and the Cats poured out of the dugout to celebrate a win, a doubleheader sweep and a series win.