LEXINGTON, Ky. – For No. 13 Kentucky, life was grand on Sunday afternoon, April 29.
Junior Kole Cottam (pictured) 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 Wildcat 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 (29-15 overall, 10-11 SEC) now will focus on final exams before heading to Knoxville to face Tennessee next weekend as the SEC race enters its final three weeks.
UK Athletics Photo by Elliott Hess