A.J. Reed hit his NCAA-leading 21st home run and picked up his ninth pitching win of the season in leading Kentucky to a crucial series-opening 6-3 win over Auburn on Friday night in Lexington.
The Wildcats' two-way standout added to his national player of the year campaign by belting a solo home run in the sixth inning to pull UK within one and watched as his teammates gave him the lead with a four-run seventh.
Reed (9-2) made it stand up by pitching through the eighth inning, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five. It marked the junior left-hander's 10th quality start of the year as he lowered his season ERA to 2.30.
Kentucky (29-19, 11-14 SEC) picked up a big win in the race for one of the final slots in the SEC Tournament, extending its lead over Auburn (26-24, 9-16) by two games.
The Tigers had to make a last-minute pitching change as scheduled starter Dillon Ortman, who leads the SEC in wins, yielded to Michael O'Neal. Auburn used a committee pitching approach with Terrance Dedrick (1-3) taking the loss in UK's four-run seventh inning.
Junior outfielder Ka'ai Tom played a key role in the Cats' win, going 3-for-4 with two go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning. Junior outfielder Austin Cousino added two hits for UK, which got at least one hit from all nine starters.
Reed is now hitting .360 on the season with 12 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs and 63 RBI. He owns an .800 slugging percentage and a .491 on-base percentage.
The series will resume on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will turn to junior right-hander Chandler Shepherd (5-2, 3.55 ERA) to face off with Auburn freshman righty Keegan Thompson (5-3, 1.91 ERA).
Reed powers UK to win over Auburn
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