No. 20 Vanderbilt Sweeps No. 24 Baseball
NASHVILLE -- After falling behind 7-0 in the top of the fourth inning, No. 20 Vanderbilt outscored 24th-ranked Kentucky 9-1 over the final five innings and sophomore Riley Reynolds forced home the walk-off run in the bottom of the ninth with a bases-loaded walk, handing the Wildcats a stunning 9-8 loss and series sweep, on Saturday evening at Charles Hawkins Field.
Kentucky (16-8, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) held a 7-0 lead entering the bottom of the fourth inning but the Commodores slowly started chipping away, plating one run in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the sixth, two in the eighth and the decisive three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap the comeback win.
Entering the bottom of the ninth, UK held a two-run lead with the top of the Vanderbilt order coming to the plate. UK closer Matt Little had fought through the seventh and eighth frames with two runs allowed. Vanderbilt shortstop Brian Harris lead off the frame with a jam-shot single over the UK defense in leftfield. UK caught a break however, when Harris was caught stealing at second base. Little then hit the next two hitters to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. That brought UK submarine reliever Nick Kennedy out of the bullpen to face a pair of right-handed hitters. Kennedy got a first-pitch ground ball hit to UK preseason All-American Chris Bisson, a perfect game-ending double play ball. The ball took a hard-luck bounce on Bisson, bouncing over his head and into right-centerfield, allowing the first run of the inning to score. Senior Vanderbilt catcher Andrew Giobbi then delivered the game-tying RBI, ripping a single down the left-field line. With runners on second and third, UK intentionally walked Joe Loftus to set up the force out at all bases. After freshman centerfielder Connor Harrell struck out swinging, Reynolds worked a four-pitch walk for the walk-off run.
Vanderbilt (20-4, 4-2 SEC) reliever Navery Moore picked up the win, improving to 1-0 on the season. The Commodores used seven pitchers in the game including six over the final four innings. Giobbi led the Commodores with four hits and two RBI.
The loss was the second of the day for UK, which dropped the first game of the twinbill 2-1 earlier Saturday. UK had not been swept by Vanderbilt since the 2004 season and entering the series had won four of the last five meetings between the two schools. UK fell in game one 7-0, with Vandy using an outstanding outing from sophomore Sonny Gray on the mound.
UK starter Alex Meyer turned in a strong effort for UK on the bump, going six innings, allowing five hits and three earned runs, walking two and striking out six. Vanderbilt starter Jack Armstrong went five innings, allowing 10 hits and seven runs, striking out five. Kennedy took the loss, the first of his career, allowing one hit and two walks and getting one out in the ninth. Little allowed two hits and four runs in his 2.1 frames of action, walking three and striking out two.
Kentucky was led offensively by sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright, who went 3-for-5 with a double. Bisson and Neiko Johnson each charted two hits, with Keenan Wiley and catcher Michael Williams contributing two RBI.
Kentucky will return to action Tuesday, traveling to play Cincinnati in the Queen City at 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio).
The Wildcats got on the board in the third inning, plating six runs on seven hits and one Vanderbilt error, taking a 6-0 lead with an exuberant offensive frame. After Taylor Black grounded out to shortstop, Wright reached on his second hit in as many trips and Johnson laid down a bunt single down the first-base line. Bisson scored the duo with a base clearing double down the left-field line and after Farris struck out, Gunner Glad singled into centerfield to score Bisson, with Glad moving into scoring position thanks to a wild pitch. Wiley followed and came through with a clutch RBI single up the middle, scoring Glad and Andy Burns singled with a bunt down the third-base line. After a well-timed double steal put both runners in scoring position, Williams got his fifth and sixth RBI of the year with a single through the left side.
UK added a run in the fourth frame, as Johnson ripped his first double of the year down the left-field line and Bisson scored him with a single into leftfield.
Vanderbilt got on the board with a run bottom of the fourth inning, cutting the UK lead to 7-1. Jason Esposito led off the inning by hitting a grounder to third base but the throw to first base pulled Glad off the base, with Esposito reaching on the error. After Esposito stole his 12th base of the year, Giobbi singled to leftfield to move Esposito to third. The next hitter, Curt Casali, hit into a ground-ball double play, with Esposito scoring on the play.
The Commodores got two runs on two hits in the bottom of the fifth inning. Reynolds led off the inning with his third double of the year, stuck down the left-field line. Mike Yastrzemski changed places with him, charting his second double of the year, painted down the right-field line, scoring Reynolds. After Harris was hit by a pitch, pinch hitter Andrew Harris laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving two runners into scoring position. Aaron Westlake scored Yastrzemski with a RBI groundout.
Vandy added a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, cutting the UK lead to 7-4. Giobbi led off with a single through the left side, moving to second on a wild pitch and stealing third with one out. Harrell came through with a sacrifice fly, hanging a ball into leftfield, allowing Giobbi to score.
The Commodores continued to apply pressure, plating two runs on a hit and two walks in the bottom of the eighth, cutting the UK lead to 7-6. Little issued a four-pitch walk to Esposito to lead off and Giobbi scored him with a double into left-centerfield. Casali drew a walk and after a wild pitch moved Giobbi to third, Harrell scored him with a sacrifice fly.
UK got an insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Wright led off with a single down the right-field line, moving to second on Johnson's sacrifice bunt. Bisson then drew a walk to put runners on first and second, with Vandy bringing in closer Russell Brewer to face pinch hitter Braden Kapteyn. Kapteyn lined out hard to rightfield, bringing Glad to the dish. Glad drew a full-count walk against Brewer, just the second walk he had issued all year. Wiley then came up with a clutch full-count, bases-loaded walk against Brewer, driving home Wright and chasing Brewer.