Wildcats even series vs. Bulldogs with 11-4 win
ATHENS, Ga. -- Dustin Beggs became the first pitcher in school history to win his first five starts of the year and Kentucky got home runs from Gunnar McNeill and Zach Reks, leading the Wildcats to an 11-4 series-evening win, on an overcast Saturday afternoon at Foley Field.
Kentucky (13-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from a hard-luck season-opening loss on Friday night in Athens, scoring runs in five of its first seven innings and getting its leadoff hitter on base in the first six frames. UK had four-run innings in the fourth and sixth and single tallies in the first, third and seventh.
A native of Roswell, Ga., Beggs (5-0) shined in a return to his home state. He is the first pitcher in UK history, with records complete back to 2002, to win his first five starts to a season. Only three pitchers in UK history have won their first four starts to a season, Greg Dombrowski (2006) and Taylor Rogers (2012), with Beggs passing the decorated UK duo with his fifth consecutive win.
Beggs allowed four runs on six hits and no walks in seven innings, striking out two. A two-time MLB draftee and a 32nd round pick in 2015, he fired first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 27 hitters faced in the outing. He lowered his season ERA to 1.77 and dropped his career mark to 3.13, ranking sixth in program history.
McNeill and Reks each launched homers to highlight Kentucky's offensive attack. McNeill finished 3-for-5 with three RBI and Reks was 1-for-2 with his first homer. The Wildcats also got a three-hit game from Evan White, who drove in two, and two-hit games from Kole Cottam and Luke Becker. Seven of UK's eight starts had hits, with all nine reaching base. Riley Mahan, Dorian Hairston and Tristan Pompey collected hits.
UK senior reliever Zach Strecker took over in the eighth inning in his 66th career appearance. He worked the final two innings, allowing a hit to secure the win.
Georgia (14-6, 1-1 SEC) starter Heath Holder (0-2) worked 3.1 innings, allowing four hits and five runs, walking four and striking out one. UGA also used Blakely Brown, Andrew Gist, Mike Mancuso and Shane Tucker in relief.
The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Foley Field. The game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network and on the UK Sports Radio Network. UK will start senior righty Kyle Cody (2-1, 5.40 ERA) against Georgia flame-throwing junior southpaw Connor Jones (3-0, 3.15 ERA).
The Wildcats got on the board in the first inning, starting with a four-pitch walk from Wilson to open the game. Wilson then took second on a balk, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a second wild pitch.
Daniel Nichols evened up the game in the bottom of the second, taking a one-out, 2-2 pitch from Beggs into the trees in right-centerfield, his third homer of the year.
Kentucky regained the lead with a four-run inning in the fourth. The inning started with the first home run of the career for Reks. He smashed a 2-2 offering over the right-centerfield wall. Cottam was then hit by a pitch and Wilson drew a walk. After a wild pitch, White ripped a two-RBI double into the gap, scoring a pair. After two walks loaded the bases, White came around to score on a misfired pickoff attempt with runners on first and third.
In the fourth inning, Georgia mounted a rally, as Stephen Wrenn worked a full count and singled up the middle to start the frame. Keegan McGovern then doubled over the head of Wilson in centerfield, scoring Wrenn from first base. After a pair of groundouts, Trevor Kieboom singled home McGovern to make it 6-3.
UK stretched its lead to 10-3 with a four-run sixth inning. Mahan opened the frame with a single up the middle and McNeill smashed a two-run homer - his fourth - over the leftfield fence. Becker and Hairston followed with hard-hit singles, moving into scoring position on a deep fly out from Pompey. Cottam then ripped a two-RBI double into the right-centerfield gap, scoring Mahan and Becker.
Georgia got a run back in the bottom of the seventh inning as freshman catcher Michael Curry drove a solo homer the opposite field to make it 10-4. It was the fourth homer of Curry's career.
UK got a run on the board in the seventh, as McNeill singled with one out, scoring on an RBI groundout from Pompey.