HOOVER, Ala. — Kentucky limped into the postseason and exited after only one game in the SEC Tournament.
Sixth-seeded Ole Miss eliminated the No. 11 Wildcats with a 4-1 victory in the tournament-opening contest Tuesday in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The Kentucky offense, which struggled for most of the season, failed again to find its stride, scoring just one unearned run on eight hits.
"It's been tough for us all year," said Matt Reida, who went 2-for-4 at the plate Tuesday. "We wanted to compete. It just didn't work out for us today. We do a great job of staying positive, but we just couldn't get the win today."
The loss capped off a disappointing season for the once No.7-ranked Wildcats that finished with only four wins — two in conference — in May. With its at-large hopes slim heading into the tournament, Kentucky's loss in the opener surely eliminates any hope that the Cats' 2013 season will continue.
"The biggest issue has been getting hits," said Kentucky coach Gary Henderson. "My guys fight well, but at times we don't have enough offense. That's been the story for us."
Kentucky fell behind early as Ole Miss went ahead in the first inning. Wildcats starter Jerad Grundy — who allowed nine runs against the Rebels in the regular season — surrendered consecutive one-out singles that put two runners in scoring position. Ole Miss 3B Andrew Mistone brought in the run with a sacrifice fly to right.
Ole Miss added to its lead in the third after a leadoff double by Rebels 2B Christian Helsel. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on a RBI-double by SS Austin Anderson.
That double was one of four allowed by Grundy, who left after 5 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs on nine hits with just one strikeout.
"I was pleased with the effort I received from Jerad," Henderson said. "It wasn't enough hits and opportunities for us."
Meanwhile, the Kentucky bats slumbered through the first three innings, with only a game-opening single that was nullified by a double play. Ole Miss starter Mike Mayers was dominant throughout his 6 2/3 inning outing, surrendering only an unearned run on six hits with four strikeouts.
"Ole Miss has a good pitcher," said Anthony Cousino, who went hitless but did draw two walks. "He mixes it up very well. The loss was tough, but that's what you get when playing in the Southeastern Conference."
The Wildcats did scratch together a run in the fourth, thanks in large part to an error by Ole Miss C Stuart Turner. Zac Zellers reached on a one-out single then advanced to third on a grounder to second. Austin Cousino walked then attempted to steal second.
Turner's throw sailed into the outfield, and Zellers trotted home to cut Ole Miss' lead to 2-1 at the time.
Kentucky's biggest threat came in the seventh. The Wildcats chased Mayers from the game on a one-out single that put runners on first and second. Rebels reliever Jeremy Massie entered and allowed a swinging bunt single to Zach Storm that loaded the bases.
But Massie got Michael Thomas to pop out to second base, then induced an inning-ending grounder to escape the threat.
"I made some great pitches," Massie said. "I was a little bit nervous coming in with runners on first and second."
Massie and Tanner Bailey combined to record the final six outs and eliminate Kentucky from the tournament.
Cats eliminated from SEC Tournament
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