NASHVILLE -- Behind eight strong innings from A.J. Reed and the first career save from Kyle Cody, No. 21 Kentucky rallied from behind to post a 4-2 series-opening win against No. 6 Vanderbilt, on a perfect Friday night in front of 2,545 at Charles Hawkins Field.
Kentucky (19-7, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) fell behind after allowing a run in the first inning and after answering with a run in the top of the fourth, allowed the go-ahead tally for the Dores in the bottom of the fourth inning. UK then mounted a furious rally in the top of the sixth inning to chase All-America right-hander Tyler Beede – the 2013 SEC Pitcher of the Year – from the mound and take a 4-2 lead.
Reed responded with the lead with three consecutive shutout innings to give the Wildcats a 4-2 advantage entering the bottom of the ninth inning. UK turned to Cody, who made three Sunday starts to open the year before sitting out for three weeks. Cody, who made two relief appearances last week in his return to the mound, came on to fire nine pitches in the bottom of the ninth inning for the save, getting a gorgeous catch from centerfielder Austin Cousino for the first out and back-to-back, hard-to-handle grounders chopped to Matt Reida at shortstop.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed (5-1) worked eight strong innings, allowing nine hits and two runs, walking one and striking out seven. Reed notched his sixth consecutive quality start and the 15th of his career. After allowing single runs in the first and fourth innings, Reed settled in to toss four shutout frames to end his strong outing. Reed now has 12 wins in his three-year career and in 2014 has wins against No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 South Carolina and at No. 5 Vanderbilt. In his three starts vs. top-five foes in 2014, Reed has a 3-0 record and a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings.
The win for Kentucky marked its fourth against a top-five team in 2014, with UK also owning two wins against No. 1 South Carolina last weekend and a season-opening win against No. 1 Virginia on Feb. 14. UK has a total of 15 wins against top-five opponents in the Gary Henderson era and a total of 47 wins against ranked foes in his six seasons at the helm of the program.
The Wildcats collected four runs on 11 hits against Vanderbilt, the NCAA leader in fewest hits allowed per nine innings pitched. UK got a three-hit game from Cousino and two-hit performances from Reed, Reida and Max Kuhn. Thomas Bernal and JaVon Shelby each added singles, with Micheal Thomas and Ka'ai Tom each scoring runs, with Kyle Barrett adding an RBI and a walk.
Beede (4-3) worked five-plus innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking three and striking out four. With two runners on and no outs in the sixth, Vanderbilt turned to freshman star Hayden Stone, who entered the appearance with just one earned run allowed in 19.2 innings, surrendering just seven hits – five singles – and striking out 32. Stone worked four innings to finish the game, allowing six hits and one run, walking one and striking out six.
Vanderbilt (21-7, 3-4 SEC) got on the board in the bottom of the first inning, as Dansby Swanson drew a full-count walk to lead off the inning. Xavier Turner then replaced him at first base on a fielder’s choice up the middle, with Bryan Reynolds pushing Turner to second base after getting hit by a 1-2 offering from Reed. After Reed got No. 4 hitter Zander Wiel to strikeout for the second out, Vince Conde drilled a 2-2 pitch through the left side to score the first run of the game.
The Wildcats answered in the top of the fourth inning, as Kuhn led off with a single down the leftfield line, with the leftfielder playing Kuhn from the left-centerfield gap. With Reed at the plate and no outs, the Vanderbilt defense shifted its third baseman, Turner, to shallow rightfield, vacating the left side of the infield. Reed singled up the middle, pushing Kuhn to third base because there was no third baseman to cover. With Thomas at the plate, Kuhn then motored home on the first offering from Beede on a wild pitch.
The Dores immediately answered in the bottom of the fourth, as Chris Harvey singled with one out on a liner that just got out of the reach of a leaping attempt from UK shortstop Matt Reida. Jason Delay then singled to the same spot in leftfield and Nolan Rogers was hit in the helmet, to load the bases with one out, by the first pitch he saw. Swanson then hung a sacrifice fly to leftfield to score Harvey. Turner followed with a single, laced to centerfield, with Cousino firing a one-hop strike to the plate to end the fourth.
UK had a chance in the top of the fifth inning, as Kuhn singled with two on and two outs, with his line drive bouncing off the top of Conde’s leaping glove at shortstop, with the ricochet staying close enough to the infield to keep UK from scoring the tying run from second base.
The Wildcats plated three runs on three hits in the top of the sixth inning to take a lead and chase Beede from the game. Thomas was hit by a pitch to lead off and Tom drew a walk to bring up Bernal, who was greeted by Stone, VU’s dynamic reliever. Bernal missed on his first two bunt attempts, before smacking a single off the wall in leftfield, with the runners having to hold with the bases loaded and no outs. Reida then singled up the middle to score Thomas and even the game at 2-2. Barrett followed by working into a two-strike hole, before chopping a grounder up the middle, with Reida tagged out for the second out and Barrett beating out the back end of the potential double play. That brought up Cousino, who singled up the middle to score Bernal and give UK a 4-2 lead.