No. 19 UK Suffers First Loss During February in 1,094 Days

Feb. 21, 2009

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CONWAY, S.C. -- For the first time in 1,094 days, the No. 19 Kentucky baseball team suffered a loss in February, falling to the 22nd ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, in front of 936 fans at Vrooman Field at Charles Watson Stadium.

Kentucky (2-1) had not suffered a loss during the season’s opening month since a Feb. 24, 2006 setback against Arkansas State in San Antonio. UK had posted back-to-back 19-0 starts to the season in 2007-08. The Wildcats played two games Saturday, dispatching 2008 Colonial Athletic Association Champion James Madison, 8-3 behind strong performances from freshmen Sean Bouthilette and Cory Farris.

Coastal Carolina, winners of the 2008 NCAA Conway Regional, got dominating pitching outings from its starter Austin Fleet and relievers Matt Rein and Nick McCully. Fleet, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander, kept UK off balance for six innings, allowing only three hits and one run, while striking out six. Coastal then turned to a shut-down bullpen, with the lefty, Rein, tossing two hitless frames with four strikeouts and McCully closing the door with two strikeouts and a hitless ninth.

UK’s top five hitters in the order combined to go 0-for-19, with only Marcus Nidiffer, Spencer Korus and Chris Bisson totaling hits. On the mound, UK turned to junior righty Clint Tilford for the starting assignment, with Tilford only lasting 3.1 innings. Tilford allowed four hits, three runs – only one earned – walking two and striking out two. After Coastal chased Tilford from the game, junior Tyler Henry kept UK in the ball game, tossing 4.2 innings, allowing only two hits and one run, while striking out a career-best eight.

Kentucky returns to action on Sunday in its final game of the tournament, facing Coastal at noon ET at Vrooman Field. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network, with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game on WGVN 1580-AM.

Coastal jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the second inning, as Tilford walked the lead-off man, Adam Rice, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Taylor Motter followed with a bunt single and after a sac bunt, Tyler Bortnick reached on a hard-luck error charged to Chris McClendon at third base, which allowed Rice to score. After Scott Woodward loaded the bags with a walk, Rico Noel lofted a sacrifice fly into left field, with UK’s Troy Frazier showing excellent range to make the play and hold CCU to just one run on the play.

CCU struck again in the fourth, chasing Tilford from the game, taking a 3-0 lead. Dan Bowman led off with a single into left field and Bortnick followed with a single into center field, just out of the reach of a diving Keenan Wiley. With Woodward at the plate, UK catcher, Nidiffer, attempted to throw to get the runner at second, who was taking a big lead off the bag. Nidiffer threw a strike, but his ball plunked Bowman and skipped into the deserted part of right-center field, allowing Bowman to scamper home for the run. That chased Tilford from the game and Henry entered, quickly educing two strikeouts to get out of the frame.

UK got a run back in the fifth inning, to cut the Coastal lead to 3-1. Nidiffer led off with a hard-hit single into left field and Korus ripped a double down the left-field line, moving Nidiffer to third base with one out. Bisson scored Nidiffer with a ground out to the shortstop, getting the Wildcats on the board.

Coastal had a golden opportunity to stretch its lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, loading the bases off Henry with no outs. Jose Iglesias led off with a single into left and Chance Gilmore got plunked by a pitch. Rice attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, fielded by Henry, who attempted to get the lead runner at third base, but McClendon was not on the bag to get the force out, loading the bases. McClendon, considered one of the top defensive third baseman in the nation, came up clutch on the next play, fielding a hard-hit grounder from Motter and firing a strike to get the force out at the plate, with Nidiffer completing the double play with a good throw to first base. Henry promptly struck out Bowman to get the Wildcats out of the inning unscathed.

CCU (2-0) notched a run in the sixth inning for the final margin, as Bortnick led off with a double down the line, moving to third on a sacrifice bunt from Woodward. Bortnick came around to score on a Henry wild pitch, making it 4-1 Coastal.