By Nick Gray | @KyKernelGray
Struggling starting pitching and untimely hitting doomed UK baseball to its first home series loss, against Tennessee at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Volunteers captured the series win with a 5-0 victory on Sunday with a six-hit shutout from pitcher Zack Godley.
UK junior left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell ran into trouble in the sixth inning with the game scoreless. Outfielder Christin Stewart lifted a two-RBI double into left field, giving Tennessee a 2-0 lead it would not relinquish.
The Volunteers would add another run in the sixth and two more in the eighth inning to provide the final tally.
“We’ve lost two in a row and it’s a part of being in this league. You are certainly not happy about it. You understand it is what it is,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “We are very disappointed about this weekend but you can’t dwell on it.”
On Friday, UK came from two down to take the lead in the eighth inning, then withheld Tennessee’s rally in the ninth inning to win, 5-4.
Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett went 3-for-5 with two runs batted in and a run scored in his second game batting in the leadoff spot. Senior outfielder Zac Zellers went 2-for-5, also with two runs batted in and a run scored.
The Volunteers plated two runs in the fourth and led, 2-1, going into the bottom of the eighth after a Barrett RBI single in the sixth. Tennessee right fielder
Pierce Bily misplayed a fly ball on the warning track off the bat of catcher Micheal Thomas.
Thomas ended up at second base and ran to third after a bloop single in shallow right field by shortstop Matt Reida. Barrett then came to the plate and delivered a double to right field, scoring Thomas.
Reida and Barrett would score the go-ahead and add-on runs after a Zellers single.
Sophomore centerfielder Austin Cousino just missed a home run to right field, but his double off the top of the old scoreboard scored Zellers and provided junior closer Trevor Gott with a 5-2 lead into the ninth inning.
Gott earned the first out, then gave up consecutive singles.
Tennessee first baseman Scott Price followed up with a single to left field that got past Zellers. Two runs scored off of the error, and Price sprinted to third.
Reida would make a running grab of a pop-up in shallow left field, and Gott would complete the save with a strikeout.
Starting pitcher A.J. Reed went 6.2 innings, giving up two runs (both earned) on eight hits, striking out two and walking two on 104 pitches.
Similarly, the Cats’ ninth inning rally on Saturday fell a run short as the Volunteers took game two, 10-9.
Senior left-handed pitcher Jerad Grundy struggled again, taking his third consecutive loss. Grundy pitched four innings, giving up six runs (all earned) on nine hits while striking out seven.
The Volunteers added four runs in innings eight and nine off of the UK bullpen.
UK would load the bases with two outs for Reed, who smashed his ninth home run of the season over the left-field wall off Tennessee pitcher Trevor Bettencourt.
Bettencourt then allowed a walk to junior infielder J.T. Riddle and an infield single to sophomore infielder Max Kuhn before leaving the game.
Tennessee freshman Jeff Moberg made his first pitching appearance of the year and hit UK’s Thomas with the first pitch. Reida came to the plate and flied out to center on the fifth pitch of the at-bat.
Tennessee starting pitcher Nick Williams went seven innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on four hits.
The Cats will return to Cliff Hagan Stadium on Tuesday when Louisville visits at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised by FOX Sports South.