Sixth-Inning Completes Comeback Win in Opener
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- For the third time in its last four games Kentucky rallied from at least a three-run deficit in the middle innings, posting a 5-3 comeback win over USC Upstate, stretching UK’s winning streak to seven games, on Friday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (10-3) entered the bottom of the sixth inning trailing 3-0, which marked the third time in the last four games UK has faced a three-run hole in the middle innings. UK rallied from down seven in a 9-8 win on Sunday vs. Buffalo and came back from a 4-1, seventh-inning hole vs. Cincinnati on Tuesday.
After USC Upstate took the lead with a two-run homer in the fourth and a single run in the fifth, UK mounted a five-run rally in the sixth inning for a 5-3 lead. UK has now won seven consecutive games at Cliff Hagan Stadium since returning from a two-week road swing to open the 2016 season.
UK starter Zack Brown took a no decision, working five innings and allowing three runs on five hits and four walks, striking out three on 101 pitches.
Kentucky freshman righty Justin Lewis (2-0) took over to start the sixth inning, working a perfect sixth to put UK in position for the five-run frame in the sixth, before firing shutout frames in the seventh and eighth. A 6-foot-6, 200-pound right-hander who was picked in the 19th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, retired nine of the 11 hitters he faced, striking out a career-high four, and allowing a single.
The Wildcats turned to freshman 6-foot-11 right-hander Sean Hjelle for the save opportunity in the ninth inning. Hjelle earned his second save by retiring the top of the USC Upstate lineup, notching one strikeout.
Junior centerfielder Storm Wilson led UK with three hits, including a pair of doubles and a walk. Gunnar McNeill, Troy Squires and Luke Becker each added hits, with McNeill extending his hitting streak to a club-high eight games. UK also got the first career hit from sophomore third baseman Tyler Marshall, who made his first career start in place of preseason All-American JaVon Shelby.
Evan White – the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week – had a two-RBI single to give UK the lead in the sixth inning. Over his last six games, White is 15 for his last 24 and over his last 29 trips to the plate, he’s reached base safely 22 times. On the year, White is hitting .411 (23-for-56) with 20 RBI, four doubles, one triple and one homer.
Whitney (0-3) worked 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and five runs, walking two and striking out four.
The series will conclude with a Saturday doubleheader, starting at 12 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
USC Upstate (8-7) got on the board first in the fourth inning, as Charlie Carpenter led off with a single through the right side and James Fowlkes smashed his third homer of the year over the rightfield fence for a 2-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, USC Upstate stretched its lead, taking advantage of two UK walks. Jaden Savage singled up the middle with two outs, scoring Daniel Fickas, who led off the frame with a walk.
Kentucky rallied in the sixth inning as McNeill led off with a single down the leftfield line and Becker followed with a double to rightfield. Pinch hitter Marcus Carson then scored McNeill with a well-placed, RBI groundout. UK then loaded the bases on a Tristan Pompey walk and a Marshall HBP, with Troy Squires forcing in Becker with a 2-2 HBP. Pompey then scored on a wild pitch with Wilson at the plate and Wilson followed with a walk to load the bases for White. White ripped a single to leftfield, scoring Marshall and Squires and giving UK a 5-3 lead.