Nidiffer Powers No. 29 UK to Series-Evening Win at No. 3 LSU
March 15, 2009
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Catcher Marcus Nidiffer batted 3-for-3 with his third homer of the year and senior Chris Rusin threw a complete, seven-inning game, to lead the No. 29 Kentucky Wildcats to a series-evening 5-2 win over No. 3 LSU, on Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
Due to Saturday's second game of the series being called due to rain in the Baton Rouge area, the two teams are playing two seven-inning games Sunday, per Southeastern Conference travel regulations. After UK suffered a 5-3 setback in the SEC opener Friday, UK's win evened the series heading into the rubber match, a 3-1 LSU win.
Nidiffer, a junior backstop, had a stellar game, batting 3-for-3 with two RBI, a homer and a double, adding a sacrifice fly. Rusin, a 2008 first-team All-SEC starter, worked seven innings, allowing two runs, six hits, while striking out six and walking three. Offensively, UK charted 11 hits, including the three from Nidiffer and a multi-hit game from freshman Chad Wright and junior center fielder Keenan Wiley.
"We've faced Rusin three years in a row," LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. "And he's pitched great against us three years in a row. I have so much respect for that kid. The way he pitches and his demeanor on the mound are outstanding."
Austin Ross (2-1) suffered the loss for the Tigers, going six innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, striking out seven. Ross entered the game with a 2-1 record and a 1.59 ERA.
Kentucky (12-3, 1-1 SEC) struck first at its first opportunity, plating one run on two hits in the first inning. Chris Bisson led off with a hard-hit double off the wall in the left-center field gap, his team-best seventh double of the year. After a productive out from Neiko Johnson moved Bisson to third, Wiley stroked a first-pitch single into center field, scoring Bisson and giving UK a 1-0 advantage.
The Wildcats stretched their lead to 3-0 after the top of the fourth, getting four hits in the frame. After Braden Kapteyn led off with a ground out to third, Wright ripped a single up the middle, just under the glove of Ross. Nidiffer followed and nailed a hard-hit grounder that LeMahieu had no chance to field before it sailed into left-center field. Junior Troy Frazier followed and drilled a grounder to the shortstop, but LSU's second baseman, Ryan Schimpf, could not make the double-play turn, allowing Frazier to reach first with an RBI fielder's choice. After Chris Wade singled to center field, third baseman Andy Burns singled through the left side with a two-out RBI.
LSU (12-4, 1-1 SEC) narrowed the UK lead to 3-2 in the bottom half of the fourth, as Jared Mitchell worked a one-out walk. After a Rusin throwing error on a pickoff attempt moved Mitchell to third, catcher Micah Gibbs belted an RBI double into the left-center field gap, allowing Mitchell to score. Center fielder Lean Landry scored Gibbs with a hard-hit single down the right-field line, just above the glove of a leaping Kapteyn at first.
UK added a run to its lead in the top of the sixth inning, making it 4-2. The junior backstop got a first-pitch fastball from Ross and immediately deposited it over the fence, a towering, no-doubt jack that bounced off the top of the monstrous video board in left field. Nidiffer's third homer of the year hit just below the CST signage on the top left corner of the board.
The Wildcats added another insurance run in the top of the seventh, as Wiley reached on a one-out single up the middle, just out of the reach of LeMahieu's diving glove. Kapteyn followed with a single to right field and Wright ripped a single into center field to load the bases. Nidiffer drove a high fly ball into left field to score Wiley with a sacrifice fly, making it 5-2 UK.