LEXINGTON, Ky. – For No. 13 Kentucky, life was grand on Sunday afternoon.
Kole Cottam belted a soaring game-winning grand slam to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Wildcats claimed a wild series over Missouri, 11-10, on an ideal spring afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
It was UK’s fifth win of the season when trailing after seven innings and came after Missouri scored nine unanswered runs to claim a 10-6 lead, capped by Brian Sharp’s two-out grand slam in the top of the seventh. But Cottam, who has now homered in 10 of 11 weekend series this season, wasn’t about to let this one get away and he greeted Tigers reliever Bryce Montes De Oca by clobbering a fastball that sent the Cats’ dugout into a frenzy.
“I was just trying to stick with my plan I’ve had all year and all game – to do less in a big situation,” Cottam said. “(Teammate) Luke Heyer reminded me to control my breathing and I did and it worked out well.”
Kentucky came out blazing in a critical series finale only to see things fizzle as Missouri erased a five-run deficit in the middle innings. The Tigers got to UK closer Chris Machamer after starter Justin Lewis ran out of steam and appeared set to score a massively important series win before junior outfielder Ryan Shinn opened the eighth inning with a home run, his second in as many days.
From there freshman Coltyn Kessler, who was making his first career start, and junior Tristan Pompey were each hit by pitches. Senior Troy Squires followed with an opposite field single to load the bases before Cottam’s 379-foot blast cleared the wall.
UK then sent freshman right-hander Daniel Harper, the team’s midweek starter, to the mound to get the final three outs and save redshirt freshman Brett Marshall’s first career win. Harper recorded two quick outs before the Tigers put on a pair of runners, but he threw a fastball by Zach Hanna to seal the win.
The Cats now will focus on final exams before heading to Knoxville to face Tennessee next weekend as the SEC race enters its final three weeks.
Top 1st – Brian Sharp doubled to RF. Brett Bond blooped a single to LF, scoring Bond. Mizzou 1, UK 0.
Bottom 1st – Tristan Pompey singled to LF and advanced to second on Troy Squires walk. Kole Cottam singled up the middle, scoring Pompey and moving Squires to third. Cottam advanced to second on fielding error by CF. Luke Heyer homered to RF, scoring Squires and Cottam. UK 4, Mizzou 1.
Bottom 2nd – Coltyn Kessler and Trey Dawson walked. Pompey singled to CF to load the bases. Squires hit into a double play, scoring Kessler. UK 5, Mizzou 1.
Bottom 3rd – Dawson doubled to LF and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Dawson beat throw home on Pompey’s fielder’s choice to 2B. UK 6, Mizzou 1.
Top 5th – Sharp walked and scored on Harris’ home run to LCF. UK 6, Mizzou 3.
Top 6th – Connor Brumfield homered to RCF. Pinch hitter Tony Ortiz singled to RF, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Harris’ flared single to CF. UK 6, Missouri 5.
Top 7th – Chad McDaniel and Alex Samples singled. Matt Berler walked to load the bases. Chris Cornelius reached on an infield hit, scoring McDaniel. Sharp homered to RF, scoring Samples, Berler and Cornelius. Mizzou 10, UK 6.
Bottom 8th – Ryan Shinn homered to LF. Kessler and Pompey hit by pitches. Squires singled through the left side to load the bases. Cottam hit grand slam to LCF, scoring Kessler, Pompey and Squires. UK 11, Mizzou 10.
- Kentucky has scored in 52 consecutive games and 128 of the past 129 dating to the 2016 season. The lone shutout came in a seven-inning game.
- The Wildcats have now won six consecutive series finales in SEC play.
- The Cats had players with five-RBI in back-to-back games: Troy Squires on Saturday and Kole Cottam on Sunday.
- UK now has won five games this season when trailing after the seventh inning.
- UK is 7-2 this season in one-run games.
- Several Cats extended impressive reached base safely streaks …
o Senior INF Luke Becker has reached in 43 of 44 games (and 87 of 88 including 2017 summer ball).
o Junior C/1B Kole Cottam has reached safely in 14 straight games and has hits in 18 of the past 20 games.
o Junior INF Trey Dawson has now reached base safely in 14 of his last 15 games.
o Junior OF Ben Aklinski has reached in 37 of the last 39 games.
- Junior C/1B Kole Cottam went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, a double, a grand slam and five RBI. The game-winning grand slam was his 15th home run of the season. The five RBI set a new career-high. Cottam has 23 extra-base hits this season. Cottam has homered at least once in six of the seven SEC weekend series and 10 of 11 weekend series overall.
o In the final games of SEC series the past three weeks, Cottam has two game-winning hits. Cottam now has a team-high 18 multi-hit games this season and 44 for his career. He has 12 multi-RBI games this season and 27 for his career.
- Junior OF Ryan Shinn homered for the second consecutive game, a solo shot in the eighth.
- Senior INF/OF Luke Heyer hit a three-run home run in the first inning. It was his team-leading 16th of the season. He is tied for the SEC lead in home runs and leads in RBI (49). The 16 home runs are the most in a season for a UK player since National Player of the Year AJ Reed hit 23 in 2014. He has 12 multi-RBI games this season and 15 for his career.
- Freshman C/INF Coltyn Kessler went 0-for-1 with a run, two walks and a HBP. It was Kessler’s first career start. He was the DH and hit eighth.
- Junior INF Trey Dawson went 1-for-2 with a run, a double, walk and SAC bunt. With a walk in the second inning and double in the fourth Dawson reached base for the eighth consecutive time.
- Redshirt Freshman RHP Brett Marshall pitched a scoreless eighth inning to earn his first career victory.
- Freshman RHP Daniel Harper earned his first career save with a scoreless ninth in his first career relief appearance.
Kentucky will not play a midweek game due to course finals and will return to the diamond on Friday night vs. Tennessee in Knoxville. First pitch will be at 6:30 p.m. ET.