Cats advance in SEC Tourney

On the strength of strong pitching from A.J. Reed and Andrew Nelson, Kentucky advanced to the double-elimination bracket of the SEC Tournament by eliminating Alabama 7-1 Tuesday night at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

Reed improved to 11-2 on the season by holding the Crimson Tide to one run through five innings of work. The national player of the year favorite was not particularly sharp, allowing six hits and walking two, but was able to escape jams time and time again in the early innings.

The Cats' junior left-hander wiggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the second inning with no damage. He escaped a third inning jam with only one run crossing the plate, and he got out of another two-on threat in the fourth with a double-play grounder.

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After Reed had thrown 92 pitches, Nelson came in to pitch the final four innings, allowing no runs and just two baserunners to earn his first career save. The junior right-hander's showing was important for the Cats, who will likely need Reed to pitch again if they are to make a deep run in the tourney.

"I'm really glad to win," UK head coach Gary Henderson said. "We are looking forward to being able to stay here and play some more baseball. I'm really proud of the effort of our kids today. It was just a really, really good day on the mound for us, with A.J. getting his 11th win of the year."

The Kentucky offense collected nine hits on the day with five coming from the bottom three spots in the order. Micheal Thomas, Matt Reida and JaVon Shelby combined to go 5-for-12 with four runs scored and one RBI.

Lead-off man Austin Cousino took advantage, driving in three runs for the Cats with a base hit and a run-scoring groundout. Max Kuhn and Ka'ai Tom also had one RBI for UK.

Freshman right-hander Nick Eicholtz (3-2) took the loss for the Tide, lasting only one inning on the mound. He was lifted in the second inning after allowing four walks and hitting a batter.

The Cats, who grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning, never trailed. They added two runs in the fourth, two in the sixth and one in the eighth to keep Alabama in a hole.

Kentucky (33-22) advances to play SEC regular season champion Florida on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET. The Cats took two out of three games from the Gators earlier this season in Lexington, outscoring the Gators 36-20.

No. 19 Alabama (34-22) must now wait to learn if its resume is strong enough to make the NCAA Tournament. Many college baseball analysts still have the Tide making the field despite their early exit from the SEC tourney.

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