LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A.J. Reed belted his nation-leading 13th homer and struck out a career-high 10 but Missouri rallied from behind with a three-run homer in the eighth to post an 8-7 series-opening win over No. 12 Kentucky, on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (22-12, 6-7 Southeastern Conference) fell behind after single runs from the Tigers in the first three innings, including a solo homer from catcher Dylan Kelly in the third. Missouri added two runs after a three-way collision on a two-out, fly ball into shallow centerfield in the fifth inning. UK got a run back in the first inning, on a Reed opposite-field double, and in the fourth inning on a Reed homer. The Wildcats took the lead with a five-run inning in the seventh, before Missouri’s Eric Anderson belted a three-run homer to take an eighth-inning lead.
The Wildcats were led at the plate by Reed, who launched his nation-leading 13th homer of the year, also adding his 10th double of 2014, going 3-for-5 with four RBI. Kentucky also got multi-hit games from Ka’ai Tom and Thomas Bernal, with Tom going 3-for-5. Austin Cousino, Micheal Thomas and JaVon Shelby each notched singles. Third baseman Max Kuhn charted his second career three-walk game.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed had his streak of seven straight quality starts snapped, taking a no decision despite exiting with a two-run lead in the eighth. He allowed nine hits and five runs – four earned – in six innings, walking one and striking out a career-high 10. Reed threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 31 hitters he faced, including a stretch of nine straight hitters with first-pitch strikes. Reed eclipsed his career high in strikeouts, set in an eight-strikeout game in the 21-inning 2012 NCAA Tournament game in Gary, Ind., where he worked nine innings in relief.
UK turned to the bullpen to start the eighth inning, as sophomore righty Zach Strecker came on to start the frame, who allowed an eight-hop single up the middle to the only hitter he faced. Freshman lefty Logan Salow was called on to replace Strecker, allowing a single to the first hitter he faced before getting an out on a sacrifice bunt. Junior righty Spencer Jack (1-1) replaced Salow with two in scoring position and no outs, allowing a go-ahead three-run homer to suffer his first career loss in 1.2 innings.
Missouri hard-throwing starter Brett Graves took the no-decision, working six innings, allowing seven hits and five runs, walking three and striking out three. He loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, with Mizzou turning to lefty Austin Tribby in relief. Tribby got Reed in a 0-2 hole, before Reed smashed a tough-hop single off the glove of the first baseman, allowing two runs to score and end Tribby’s brief outing. Breckin Williams then allowed a single to Thomas in the first hitter he faced to complete the pitching line for Graves. Williams (2-1) worked one inning, allowing two hits and one run, striking out one. Closer Keaton Steele took over to start the eighth in a one-run game, working the final two innings for his eighth save of the year.
The series will resume on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be televised live on Fox Sports South and CWKYT, with Dick Gabriel, Doug Flynn and Brian Milam calling the action. The game will also be live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will start sophomore southpaw Dylan Dwyer (3-1, 4.50 ERA) in his first career SEC start vs. Missouri junior righty John Miles (3-3, 5.02 ERA).
Missouri (16-16, 5-8 SEC) got on the board in the first inning as Anderson led off the game with a two-strike double painted down the leftfield line. After a pair of groundouts left Anderson at second base, left-handed hitting catcher Dylan Kelly fisted a single on a 2-1 count into shallow leftfield, with Anderson sliding in safely with the throw coming up the third-base line.
Kentucky immediately answered in the bottom of the first, as Kuhn drew a full-count walk with one out, taking second base on a wild pitch on a 0-1 offering. Reed then drilled the 1-1 pitch into the left-centerfield gap, sliding in safely with his 10th double of the year.
The Tigers took the lead in the top of the second inning, as Dillon Everett singled to rightfield with one out, taking third on Anderson’s two-out single to right. With Everett attempting to go first-to-third, Barrett’s throw hopped off the glove of Kuhn for an error, sailing into the Missouri dugout to forced Everett home with the unearned run.
Kelly added to the Missouri lead with a solo homer in the top of the third inning, his second homer of the year.
Reed led off the bottom of the fourth inning by working an eight-pitch, full-count at-bat before smoking his 13th home run over the right-centerfield fence, narrowing the lead to 3-2.
The Tigers added to their lead in the top of the fifth inning, as Reed hit Kelly with a 3-2 pitch with two outs. Kendall Keaton then singled to left-centerfield and Josh Lester loaded the bases with a walk. Ryan Howard followed with a fly ball into shallow right-centerfield, with Cousino, Shelby and rightfielder Kyle Barrett colliding on the play to allow two runs to score on the two-out single.
Kentucky mounted a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Facing a three-run hole, UK got a lead-off single from Shelby and Cousino reached on an error at third base. Kuhn then drew his third walk of the game, coming on a 3-2 pitch, to load the bases for Reed with no outs. Missouri turned to Tribby in relief, with Reed smashing a two-RBI single off the glove of the first baseman, scoring Shelby and Cousino and pushing Kuhn to third base. Thomas then singled through the left side on a 1-1 pitch, evening up the game at 5-5. Tom then failed to get the bunt down on the first two pitches, before chopping a single over the head of the first baseman, scoring Reed for a 6-5 lead. UK then called on Wilson to pinch-hit, with the left-handed hitting working the count full before lining a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Thomas.
Missouri immediately answered with a leadoff single from Howard off Strecker and a single through the left side from Everett off Salow. Salow then got a diving play from Bernal to get the first out on a sacrifice bunt. Jack replaced Salow and allowed the go-ahead, three-run homer to Anderson, his third of the year.