Georgia emerged with a 7-6 win over eighth-ranked Kentucky Saturday to even the SEC series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Bulldogs (10-18, 1-7 SEC) notched their first SEC win of the year when junior Dylan Cole recorded the final four outs for his 11th career save and first for Georgia. He spent his first two years at Furman and sat out last season as a transfer. His younger brother Hunter, went 2-for-5 with an RBI as the Bulldogs collected 10 hits on the day. Georgia erased a 1-0 deficit by getting two runs in the fifth, sixth and three more in the seventh. The Wildcats (20-6, 5-3 SEC) rallied for three runs in the eighth and got a one-out double in the ninth before Cole closed it out.
Junior left-hander Patrick Boling earned the win, pitching 5.2 innings to move his record to 2-3. Boling and the Bulldogs responded to the first big scoring threat by the Wildcats in the second. After a leadoff walk and a pair of singles loaded the bases, Boling battled back to strikeout the designated hitter Greg Fettes and then got Micheal Thomas to bounce into an inning-ending double play. Georgia left the bases loaded in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Jared Walsh extended his hitting streak with a double off the wall in right field. Senior catcher Brett DeLoach drew a walk and then freshman designated hitter Daniel Nichols fell behind 0-2 and came back to draw a walk. However, UK left-hander Jerad Grundy struck out J.T. Phillips to keep it a scoreless contest.
Kentucky grabbed a 1-0 lead courtesy of a bases-loaded hit by pitch in the fourth. The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out and Boling struck out Fettes for the second out. However Thomas came up and got hit for a team-high 11th time this year and it resulted in an RBI. By contrast, Georgia batters have been hit just 14 times this year.
Georgia took a 2-1 advantage in the fifth when it loaded the bases with nobody out. Grundy got Cole to bounce in to a double play but a run scored. With two outs, senior Kyle Farmer made it 2-1 with an RBI-double, his team-leading 11th of the year and 62nd for his career. With two on and one out in the sixth, Kentucky went to its bullpen, lifting Grundy in favor of Chandler Shepherd. Grundy had just eight walks in 40.2 innings this year but allowed five in 5.1 innings Saturday. He got the loss to fall to 5-2. In the sixth, senior Curt Powell added a two-run double to give Georgia a 4-1 advantage.
Kentucky rallied back in its half of the sixth, scoring two runs to make it a one-run contest. Georgia looked to senior Blake Dieterich in his first action in 14 days. He had been out since March 16 due to shoulder stiffness. Georgia responded in the seventh with a leadoff double from Ward. It was the fourth double for the Bulldogs on the day. He scored on a base hit by Cole and then went to second on an errant throw by the left fielder. Cole advanced to third on a balk. Kentucky brought the infield in and Shepherd got Farmer to ground out and keep Cole at third. Then, the Wildcats looked to left-hander Dylan Dwyer to face the left-handed hitting Walsh. He was hit by a pitch to bring up DeLoach and the Wildcats opted for a right-hander in Zach Strecker. DeLoach managed an RBI on a fielder's choice. After a walk to Nichols, Phillips came through again with an RBI-single to make it 7-3.
"You can't say these kids are not resilient, they came out and answered after a tough loss Friday, and Kentucky fought back, but they hung in there and got that first SEC win," said Georgia coach David Perno. "This is about your will and spirit, and you have to stay in a good place mentally. Hopefully, things will start to turn for this club, but the tough thing is I think they have their best guy going on Sunday."
Kentucky closed it to 7-6 in the eighth with four hits including three doubles. In the ninth, J.T. Riddle collected his fourth hit of the day, this one a double as the Wildcats looked to rally again. However, Cole struck out Kyle Barrett and got designated hitter Phil McConkey to line one back to him and he threw to first to give the Bulldogs a victory.
The rubber game of the SEC series will be Sunday at 1 p.m. The Bulldogs will start senior right-hander Bryan Benzor (1-1, 5.57 ERA) and the Wildcats will counter with junior left-hander Cory Littrell (3-0, 2.56 ERA). The Wildcats are 10-0 in rubber games with Littrell starting.