Tennessee Evens Series With Six-Run Sixth
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In a game that saw the lead change hands or the contest tied seven times over the first four innings, the Kentucky baseball team allowed Tennessee to plate six runs in the top of the sixth inning to claim the lead for good and hold on for a 12-8 win over the Wildcats, evening the series on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (11-8, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) posted a 5-3 win over the Volunteers on Friday night, claiming the first SEC win of the year in the league opener, ending UT's nine-game winning streak. In the Saturday afternoon matchup, the two clubs traded blows early, with UK plating two runs in the bottom of the fourth to claim a short-lived 6-4 lead on Chad Wright's two-run homer. After a scoreless fifth, Tennessee plated six runs on five hits in the decisive sixth inning, pushing the Vols to the win.
UK starter Jordan Cooper (1-1) was saddled with the loss, allowing 12 hits and nine runs in 5.1 innings of action, walking two and striking out four. Cooper was victimized by some tough luck in the early innings as six of his 10 hits allowed came as soft contact in or through the infield. UK turned to Walter Wijas in relief for Cooper and the first pitch Wijas threw was a blast into the deck in right-centerfield which opened up the UT lead. Wijas went 2.1 innings, allowing just the one hit, the homer on his first pitch of the game, walking one and striking out one. UK then used lefty Alex Phillips in relief, with the junior going one inning and allowing two hits and one run. Senior righty Nick Kennedy got the final out of the game in the top of the ninth for UK.
The Wildcats had a solid day at the plate, totaling eight runs on 12 hits and drawing four walks. UK was led by Wright, who hit his third homer of the year in the fourth inning, with the Paducah, Ky., native going 1-for-2 with two walks. Freshman J.T. Riddle extended his hitting streak to a career-long seven games, going 3-for-4 with a big two-out RBI hit in the first inning. Riddle also added a stolen base. Braden Kapteyn, the hero of the Friday-night win, went 2-for-5 at the plate with a pair of singles. Third baseman Thomas McCarthy tried to keep UK alive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, sending his second homer of the year over the leftfield fence for a two-run jack.
The series will resume on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to UKathletics.com. UK will turn to sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers (1-1, 4.62 ERA), while Tennessee has yet to announce a starter.
Tennessee (16-3, 1-1 SEC) starter Drew Steckenrider went 2.1 innings, allowing five hits and four runs, walking three and striking out one. Levi Dean replaced Steckenrider and went three innings, allowing three hits and two runs, walking four. Dean (4-1) picked up the win, before turning it over to veteran reliever Nick Blount. Blount dominated the Wildcats through the final 3.2 innings, picking up his first save of the season, striking out two.
UT got the scoring started in the top of the first, taking a 1-0 lead on three hits. Andrew Toles reached on a one-out single on a high hoper off the plate that Cooper couldn't get to first in time. After Toles stole second and moved up the third on a fly out, Josh Liles scored him with an infield hit, another high chopper that UK couldn't make the throw in time at first.
UK got on the board in the first inning, as Wright reached on a one-out walk and Kapteyn singled up the middle. Maile then scored Wright with a single to rightfield. After Thomas McCarthy flied out, Riddle ripped a two-out, two-RBI single into leftfield.
UT got two runs back in the top of the third, as Matt Duffy got hit by his league-leading 10th pitch of the game to lead off and Liles beat out an attempted sacrifice bunt for an infield hit. After a sacrifice bunt, Tyler Horne scored Duffy with a sacrifice fly and Ethan Bennett recorded the first hard-hit ball of the game, a single off the wall in rightfield, scoring Liles.
In the bottom of the third inning, McCarthy singled through the left side of the infield with one out, stealing second and moving to third on Riddle's single to right. Michael Williams then scored McCarthy with a RBI groundout.
UK plated two runs on two hits in the bottom of the fourth, as Black drew a walk with one out and Wright drilled a 0-1 offering over the rightfield fence for a two-run homer, giving UK the lead.
UT opened up the game with six runs on five hits in the sixth inning, as all nine hitters came to the plate. Pinch hitter Chris Fritts singled to rightfield to lead off and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Norfork then singled to right field and Toles pulled a pitch over the fence in rightfield for a three-run homer. UK elected to leave Cooper in to try to finish out the inning and save the UK bullpen and the next two hitters, Duffy and Liles reached, with Duffy reaching on a swinging bunt down the line and Liles drawing a walk. That ended the game for Cooper and the first pitch Wijas threw to Charley Thurber was a no-doubt jack into the deck in right-centerfield, giving UK a 10-6 lead.
UT added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Horne led off with a single through the hole in the infield, with Matt Ramsey hitting into the fielder's choice with Horne out at second. After a swinging bunt moved Ramsey to scoring position, Zack Osborne poked a single through the hole in the infield, scoring Ramsey. Phillips then had Osborne picked off second but UK couldn't properly execute the rundown and Osborne was awarded a stolen base on second. After UK made a pitching change, Osborne stole third and came around to score on a swinging bunt down the third base line by Norfork.
UK attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth, as Kapteyn singled with two outs and McCarthy belted a bomb over the leftfield fence, cutting the UT lead to 12-8.