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April 22, 2012After beating Louisiana State Sunday there was dancing, yelling, autographs and even congratulatory handshakes from UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart.
The UK baseball team (35-6, 12-6 Southeastern Conference) beat LSU 7-6 on Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium, clinching the series against the Tigers (32-9, 13-5 SEC) and claiming the top spot in the SEC. It was the 15th game for the Wildcats decided by one run this season. UK is 12-3 in those games.
"We are the biggest grinders in the country, hands down," sophomore pitcher Corey Littrell said. "I didn't have my best stuff but I know they are going to find a way to win. We always do. We are resilient, there was no way they were going to beat us twice."
Littrell pitched 5.2 innings, giving up eight hits and allowing a season-high five runs.
In a game that was more back-and-forth than the flags blowing in left field, UK was able to deliver the final blow thanks to four doubles in the sixth inning.
Junior outfielder Zac Zellers started with a double that bounced off the right field wall. Shortstop J.T. Riddle drove him in on the next at bat. Riddle took third after a wild pitch. Second baseman Matt Reida showed bunt, drawing the Tiger infielders in. Then he ripped a line drive down the right field line, scoring Riddle.
Cousino followed suit with a double on the next at bat. Cousino finished with a team-high three hits.
"Any day can be your day," Cousino said. "You just have to come at it with good heart, good energy and you never know when (it'll) be your time."
That put the game in the hands of the UK bullpen, which hadn't allowed a run in its last 20 innings. But LSU's Raph Rhymes scored after a routine grounder went through third baseman Thomas McCarthy's legs to pull LSU within a run. Rhymes finished 4-4 on the day, improving his season average to .500.
UK's Alex Phillips stopped the bleeding after that. UK head coach Gary Henderson opted to stick with Phillips in the ninth rather than closer Trevor Gott. The Tigers went in order in the ninth
UK elected to keep Phillips in the game instead of going with closer Trevor Gott. He retired the Tigers in order.
"Our bullpen has been outstanding," Maile said. "That will help you win a lot of one-run games. They come up big when they need to."
Cliff Hagan Stadium saw 9,496 fans for the weekend series, the most in UK baseball history. A crowd of 3,086 saw UK clinch the series Sunday despite chilly weather.
Weekend wrap up
After falling behind 2-0 in the series opener on Friday, UK tied the score at three in the bottom of the fourth. But LSU scored a pair of runs in the fifth and never looked back. The Cats best chance to retake the lead came in the sixth after an LSU error allowed the UK to pull within one. But with runners on second and third and one out, Tiger pitcher Kevin Gausman struck out back to back Wildcats to preserve the lead.
The Cats responded to Friday's one-run loss by throttling the Tigers 8-1 on Saturday. It was the most runs LSU had allowed in conference play all season. LSU jumped to a 1-0 lead but UK quickly responded by loading the bases in the first inning. Maile hit a sacrifice fly to score a run, and then Cameron Flynn's single put UK ahead. Junior Jerad Grundy pitched six innings, giving up six hits and striking out three Tigers.