(Britney McIntosh/UK Athletics)
A combined shutout pitching performance from freshman A.J. Reed and junior Taylor Rogers propelled Kentucky baseball to a 2-0 victory in game one of the SEC Tournament over Ole Miss. It was a big day for Reed in his post-season debut; he not only picked up the win in his 5.2 innings of work on the mound, but also went 4-for-4 at the plate, including a solo-home run in the fourth. The Rebel Alliance was no match for the Cats.
The Reb’s threatened in this 6th, when Rogers came in for relief with two runners in scoring position, but Rogers tossed a three-pitch at-bat to Preston Overbey for an easy ground ball to get out of the jam. He would go on to finish the game without much resistance. Rogers is the usual day-one weekend starter for the Cats, and this was his first relief appearance this season. He could have had the start today, going on four days rest from his last start on the road at MSU on Thursday, but it seems Coach Gary Henderson was playing matchups. Or he could have been saving some arm going against a weaker team in Ole Miss, saving them for the next few games in the tournament. Risky move, but it paid off.
Kentucky had several key defensive moments, including catching two Ole Miss runners in a pickle, once between second and third, and another between third and home. Both runners were tagged out and could have been the difference in the game. But Matt Reida took the play of the game honors, making a spectacular diving grab up the middle at shortstop, coming to his feet to get his man on a bang-bang play at first. Keep an eye on SportCenter’s Top 10 this evening, because that play might make its way on.
On the offensive side, the Cats collected six hits on Ole Miss starting pitcher Bobby Wahl, who threw six complete innings in the loss. Wahl struck out six Kentucky batters and only walked two. Aside from the one mistake pitch to Reed in the fourth, he looked strong — just didn’t have the run support. He gave up the second run in his final inning of work, surrendering a walk to Luke Maile to lead off the inning, A.J. Reed’s third hit of the day moved him to third, and a Cameron Flynn RBI single into right scored him. The Cats seventh hit, another A.J. Reed single, came off reliever Tanner Bailey.
Kentucky’s win jumps them up one spot in the winner’s bracket, advancing to play Thursday against the winner of LSU vs. Arkansas/Mississippi State. LSU seems the likely opponent, though the Bulldogs are a red-hot team — as Kentucky is surely aware of. Whoever the opponent is, Kentucky can beat them. They have got to say on top to keep those hopes for a top-eight national seed alive.