Cats sneak past Georgia in extra innings

By David Schuh | @DSchuhKernel

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UK sophomore A.J. Reed has does a little bit of everything for his team this season. He entered Friday’s series-opening game against Georgia with a 2.94 ERA and a .341 batting average in 91 at-bats.

Friday, it was his pitching that shut down the visiting Bulldogs, giving the Cats a 3-2, 10-inning win to begin their third SEC series of the year.

Reed nearly threw a complete game, going 8.1 innings, giving up five hits and one earned run.

“Not a whole lot to poke at in that outing,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “Once again, A.J. is at his absolute best when he needs to be.”

It was a slow offensive game for most of the night. Sophomore Austin Cousino knocked in two runs with a ground rule double in the fifth inning, giving the Cats a lead they would hold entering the ninth.

Reed left the game with two outs remaining, handing the ball to junior closer Trevor Gott, who broke the UK career saves record with his 16th on March 12 against Ohio University.

Gott’s first batter singled and stole second base, before scoring on a two-out line drive down the left-field line that tied the game. It was his first blown save since his first save opportunity of 2012.

Both offenses came up empty in the next two frames, but Georgia’s pitching faltered in a big way.

Junior infielder Matt Reida walked on four pitches with one out the bottom of the tenth. Each of the next two players walked as well, loading the bases with one out.

With Reed at the plate a wild pitch threatened to end the game, but Reida was tagged out at home to extend the inning. Reed was hit by the ensuing pitch to load the bases again.

Sophomore Max Kuhn stepped in and followed the trend, drawing another four-pitch walk to score Cousino and give the Cats the win.

Reed has assumed a lot of duties for his team this season. With now the second-best ERA of the starting pitchers and the best batting average of any starter, the balancing act can be a daily challenge.

“It’s not easy, but I try to do it the best I can,” he said. “When I’m pitching out there on the mound that’s all I’m thinking about, when I’m hitting that’s all I’m thinking about.”

With an opening-game win, the Cats (20-5, 5-2 SEC) are a weekend victory away from winning each of their first three SEC series.

And while Reed’s performance was a bit overshadowed by a quiet offensive night for UK, Henderson knows these are the types of games his team must be prepared to win.

“You have to win games like that, because you’re going to play them,” Henderson said. “That was certainly by no means a pretty game … I expect in the next eight weekends we’re going to play a bunch more of them. You better get comfortable doing it.”