Big First Leads SEC West Leader Bama to Sweep
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama sent nine hitters to the plate in the first inning, plating four runs on six hits, lifting the Crimson Tide to a 8-3 win over the Kentucky baseball team, sweeping the Wildcats, on Sunday afternoon at "The Joe" at Thomas-Sewell Stadium.
Kentucky (14-11, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) fell behind after the huge inning in the first and despite rallying with three runs in the third and fourth inning, couldn't recover from the rough start. After the Wildcats rallied with three runs, Bama - the SEC Western Division leader - put the game back out of reach with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After winning two of three games in the SEC opener last weekend against a red-hot Tennessee, UK traveled to Tuscaloosa looking for its first series win at Alabama since the 1993 season.
Alabama (18-7, 5-1 SEC) won the series with a walk-off win on Saturday, as an unearned run scored after an error in the bottom of the ninth inning. On Friday, Bama rode a dominating outing from Nathan Kilcrease, who hurled a complete-game shutout for the 4-0 series-opening win.
UK returns to action on Tuesday, hosting Tennessee Tech, coached by former UK player Matt Bragga, at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be televised live on the Big Blue Sports Network, and the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, will have the audio call on WLAP 630-AM in Lexington and online at UKathletics.com.
UK starter Taylor Rogers (2-2) took the loss in his worst outing of the season, going 4.1 innings, allowing nine hits and six runs, not issuing a walk and striking out five. After allowing the four-run inning in the first, Rogers settled down and retired 11 consecutive hitters before a two-run Alabama rally in the fifth chased him from the game. UK used senior right-hander Nick Kennedy to replace Rogers, with Kennedy going 1.1 shutout innings, before UK used Alex Phillips for a left-on-left matchup in the sixth, also getting an out in the seventh. Corey Littrell relieved Phillips with one out in the seventh and struck out three, allowing two runs - one earned - walking one and allowing just one hit. He was relieved by Jonathan Paquet and Mike Kaczmarek.
UK was led at the plate by a two-hit performance from junior outfielder Chad Wright and a solo homer from freshman second baseman J.T. Riddle, who went 2-for-4. The Wildcats also got a single and an RBI from Braden Kapteyn and freshman outfielder Lucas Witt added his second double of the season. Third baseman Thomas McCarthy collected his first career triple in the eighth inning.
Alabama starter Tucker Hawley (5-1) picked up the win, going seven strong innings, allowing six UK hits and three runs, walking two and striking out three. He was relieved by Jonathan Smart, the winner of the Saturday game, who tossed the final two innings for his fifth save of the year.
Alabama got on the board in the bottom of the first inning, as Brock Bennett lined a double into the opposite-field gap with one out. Jared Reaves followed with a single to leftfield and Austin Smith scored the duo with a double down the leftfield line. That brought up Josh Rosecrans, who belted a homer over the rightfield fence, his third homer of the year, giving Bama a 4-0 lead.
Riddle got UK on the board in the third inning, getting a 2-2 offering from Hawley and pounding it on a line over the rightfield fence for his second homer of the year. The homer was the first allowed by Hawley on the year.
UK cut the lead to 4-3 with two runs on two hits in the top of the fourth inning, as Wright led off the frame with a line-drive single to centerfield. After Black struck out, Kaczmarek and McCarthy drew full-count walks to load the bases. Kapteyn scored Wright with a line drive single through the left side of the infield and Maile hung a deep sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Kaczmarek.
Bama extended its lead and chased Rogers from the game with two runs on three hits in the fifth inning. Bennett got the frame started with a one-out single through the infield, scoring after Reaves smacked a double down the left-field line. Smith then recorded his third RBI of the game, a single up the middle. UK then turned to Kennedy who picked Smith off first base to end the frame.
Alabama put the game well out of reach with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Rosecrans drew a walk to lead off the inning and Andrew Miller laid down a sacrifice bunt, with Littrell missing his throw to get the lead runner for an error, allowing Miller to reach. After Littrell got Brett Booth to strikeout, Brandt Hendricks pounded a double into the gap, scoring two runs.
GAME NOTES: Freshman rightfielder Lucas Witt made his first career start as the No. 1 hitter ... After missing the game on Saturday due to illness, sophomore centerfielder Brian Adams was back in the lineup ... Senior shortstop Taylor Black was in the No. 3 spot in the batting order for the first time in his career ... Freshman J.T. Riddle, making his 17th career start, started at second base for the second time this year ... Riddle hit his second homer of the year in the third inning ... After allowing six hits and four runs in the first inning, Taylor Rogers retired 11 consecutive hitters until a single by Brock Bennett in the fifth inning ... Freshman lefty Corey Littrell made his first career appearance in an SEC game ... Thomas McCarthy collected his first career triple in the eighth inning ... Freshman right-hander Jonathan Paquet relieved Littrell in the eighth inning, making his first career SEC appearance ... Micheal Thomas made a pinch hitting appearance in the ninth inning, his first career SEC outing.