Hot bats propel Kentucky to first SEC win of season against Georgia


Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Adam Fogel (55) rounds third base to score a run during the UK vs. Morehead State baseball game on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 7-5. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Scott Clarke

Kentucky defeated No. 17 Georgia 10-8 on Saturday evening at Kentucky Proud Park, earning the Cats their first win in SEC play.

Darren Williams took the hill for the Cats (16-8, 1-4 SEC) for his first career start while Garrett Brown started on the mound for the Bulldogs (18-5, 3-2 SEC).

Williams faced danger early on in the first, allowing two of the first four Bulldog batters to reach base. However, he was able to get out of the inning unscathed.

In the bottom half, Kentucky was able to get two men on base, thanks to a lead-off walk from Hunter Jump and a hit from Ryan Ritter.

With men on first and third and one out, Brown balked, allowing Jump to score and Ritter to advance to second, giving the Cats an early 1-0 lead.

Brown retired the next two batters, leaving the lead at one.

Like the previous inning, Williams allowed two out of four Bulldog batters to reach on base. With runners on first and second, it looked as if Williams had gotten out of trouble again.

Unfortunately for Kentucky, second baseman Daniel Harris IV committed an error to allow the inning to continue.

The next batter, Joshua McAllister, hit a ground-rule double that gave the Dawgs a 2-1 lead. After an intentional walk to reload the bases, Williams gave up a RBI single to Connor Tate, scoring two and pushing the lead to 4-1.

Parks Harber followed with an RBI single of his own to make it 5-1. A wild pitch from Williams made it a 6-1 lead. 

Just when it seemed like Kentucky was out of the inning, in the blink of an eye its lead had evaporated and turned into a five-run deficit.

With the lead now gone, Kentucky had some work to do in the bottom half of the inning.

Harris, whose error allowed the Bulldog onslaught to begin, hit a solo homer, cutting the deficit to four. Adam Fogel followed with a single, John Thrasher followed with a walk, and Jump singled to left field, driving home Fogel to cut the lead to three.

Chase Estep and Ritter could not keep the rally going, flying out and popping out respectively, leaving the score at 6-3 heading into the third frame.

Williams had a much easier go of things in the third, sitting the Bulldogs down in order.

Kentucky’s bats stayed hot in the bottom half of the inning.

Kirk Leibert drew a one-out walk and then stole second, getting himself into scoring position. The stolen base would pay off as Alonzo Rubalcaba doubled down the left field line, scoring Leibert and cutting the deficit down to two.

A scary moment followed as Harris was hit in the helmet with a Brown fastball. He ran down the line to first and was checked on by trainers, and was deemed fine enough to stay in the game, sending a decently sized Kentucky Proud Park into applause.

That would end the day for Brown. Luke Wagner was called upon to get Georgia out of the predicament.

KPP would have more reason to cheer, as Fogel doubled down the right field line, scoring Rubalcaba. The Cats would have been able to score both Rubalcaba and Harris  had the ball not bounced off the turf and off the foul pole. 

Thrasher and Jump could not drive Harris IV and Fogel home, leaving the score at 6-5.

Williams pitched another solid inning in the fourth. After giving up a lead-off hit, he sat the next three Bulldogs down.

Estep led off the bottom half with a single and then stole second base, getting himself in scoring position. The inning started to look bleak as Ritter and Jacob Plastiak followed with strikeouts. Then, Leibert stepped to plate and singled to left field, driving home Estep and tying the game at six.

Sean Harney would pitch the fifth for Kentucky and found success. LIke Williams, Harney maneuvered his way out of an early-inning baserunner and sat the Bulldogs down, keeping the game tied.

The floodgates opened for the Cats in the bottom of the fifth. 

With one out, Fogel singled to right and Thrasher followed with a walk. A wild pitch from Wagner allowed the runners to advance to second and third. 

That would be it for Wagner as Chandler Marsh would take over the mound for UGA.

Jump drew a walk to load the bases. With ducks on the pond, the time to take the lead for Kentucky was prevalent.

They did just that when Marsh drilled Estep with a pitch, giving UK a 7-6 lead. Ritter drew a bases-loaded walk, stretching the lead to 8-6. Marsh then drilled Plastiak with a pitch, pushing the lead to 9-6. 

Georgia manager Scott Strickin had seen enough from Marsh, who did not register a single out and allowed four straight free passes. Michael Polk took over for Georgia, needing to get out of the mess Marsh left him.

Leibert grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice, giving the Cats a 10-6 lead.

Harney found himself in some danger in the sixth. With two runners on he was able to get out of the inning unharmed, leaving the lead at four. 

The Cats were sat down in order in the bottom half.

Neither team posed a threat in the seventh inning as both Polk and Harney were solid.

In the eighth, UGA was able to cut the lead to two. Harney gave up a lead-off single, a double, and an RBI single that scored two. Harney gave up two more baserunners after the double but limited the damage and escaped the inning with the lead in hand.

Polk sat the Cats down one-two-three in the bottom half.

Kentucky manager Nick Mingione went to Lexington native Tyler Guilfoil to close out the game and secure the victory for UK.

After allowing a one-out-single, Guilfoil slammed the door shut on any comeback hopes for the Dawgs, securing the 10-8 victory.

On a day where temperatures were frigid, the Cats’ bats got hot. In their four earlier SEC games, the Wildcats had only scored eight runs. Saturday was a different story, putting up a 10-spot. 

In a conference with the top teams in the country, Kentucky will need to build off the win and continue scoring runs at a high clip if they want to be competitive in the SEC.

Kentucky will look to take the series against Georgia on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for noon.