Auburn Rallies from Behind for Series-Opening Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Trailing by two runs in the seventh inning, Kentucky hit two homers in the frame to take a 7-6 lead, before Auburn rallied with six runs in the eighth inning off the UK bullpen, posting a 12-9 win over the Wildcats, securing the series opener, on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (16-15, 2-8 Southeastern Conference) started the game off with four runs in the first two innings, before Auburn plated six unanswered runs to take a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. UK belted two homers in the frame to take a 7-6 lead into the eighth. Auburn rallied with six runs in the eighth inning, courtesy of five hits, two walks and a dropped routine pop up in rightfield that went as an error. The Wildcats rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning, getting two runs on a no-out double.
The Wildcats belted three home runs in the game off the Auburn pitching staff, which entered the game having allowed only eight homers on the year, fewest in the SEC.
UK got a three-run homer from Braden Kapteyn in the first inning, a game-tying two-run homer from freshman J.T. Riddle in the seventh inning and a go-ahead solo homer from Luke Maile in the seventh. UK was led at the plate by Kapteyn, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and four RBI. Thomas McCarthy went 2-for-5 with two RBI and his 11th double of the year, while Maile went 2-for-5. Senior shortstop Taylor Black added a 2-for-5 outing, while UK got hits from Chad Wright and the two-run homer from Riddle, who also got hit by a pitch and drew a walk.
Auburn (16-14, 3-7 SEC) starter Andrew Morris went 1.1 innings with three hits, four runs and one walk allowed. Zach Blatt relieved him and turned in the outing of his career, going a career-long 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and three runs, striking out a career-best five. Ethan Wallen (2-3) picked up the win with 1.1 innings in relief with two hits and two runs, striking out two. AU called up Dillon Ortman to get his first save of the year, getting the final three outs with one strikeout.
UK starter Alex Meyer, who entered the start leading the SEC in strikeouts and ranking among the league leaders in innings pitched and opponent batting average, went six innings, allowing 11 hits and six runs, walking three and striking out two. The 11 hits allowed were the most Meyer has allowed in a single outing in his three-year career. With two strikeouts, Meyer now has 207 career strikeouts, good for eighth most in UK career history.
UK reliever Nick Kennedy (0-1) took the loss, allowing one run on one hit without getting an out in the game-changing eighth inning. UK used five relievers in the inning with four of the relievers allowing at least one run. The Wildcats entered the game owning a 2.83 ERA out of the bullpen and held a 15-2 record in games where UK entered the eighth inning holding the lead.
UK used several relievers after Meyer, including senior lefty Mike Kaczmarek, who entered the game having inherited 16 runners without allowing a run to score. Kaczmarek allowed both runners he inherited in the game to score, walking one and allowing a hit, while getting one out, with three runs charged to the senior southpaw.
The series resumes on Saturday, with first pitch at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will send freshman southpaw Corey Littrell (4-1, 4.82 ERA) to the mound to face Auburn junior righty Derek Varnadore (3-1, 3.38 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action, with the pregame show starting at 6:15 p.m. ET. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to coverage on UKathletics.com.
Auburn got on the board in the first inning, as Bobby Andrews laid down a bunt single down the third base line, with Meyer's throw to first just late. After Cullen Wacker laid down a sacrifice bunt, Casey McElroy singled up the middle to score Andrews. Dan Gamache then drew a walk and Tony Caldwell singled up the middle on a 3-2 pitch to make it 2-0 Auburn.
The Wildcats regained the lead with three runs on three hits in the bottom of the first inning. Wright led off the game with a single to rightfield and after Wright took second on a wild pitch, Black smoked a single through the left side. On the first pitch to Kapteyn, Black stole second base. After working the count to 2-0, Kapteyn connected on his fourth homer of the year, a no-doubt blast over the left-field fence.
Auburn tied the game up with a solo homer from Kevin Patterson, as he connected on the first pitch in the top of the fourth, sending it into the deck in right-centerfield for his fifth homer of the year.
The Tigers took the lead in the top of the sixth inning, plating two runs on three hits to take a 6-4 advantage. Patterson led off the inning with a single and after Justin Hargett flied out, Justin Fradejas drew a walk and Andrews laid down a bunt single to load the bases. After UK got Patterson out with a force at home plate, allowing Wacker to reach, McElroy singled through the left side of the infield, scoring two runs.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, UK rallied to take a short-lived lead. After Black grounded out to lead off, Kapteyn singled through the left side and Riddle smoked his third homer of the year over the right-field fence, evening up the game at 6-6. After McCarthy grounded out, Maile belted a solo homer to centerfield to give UK the lead.
Auburn broke the game wide open with six runs in the eighth inning, using five hits, two walks and a UK error. The Tigers got a lead-off bunt single off Phillips from Hargett and Fradejas singled up the middle. After a strikeout, Kaczmarek induced a routine pop fly to rightfield that bounced out of Lucas Witt's glove for an error, loading the bases. McElroy then doubled down the line to score two and UK turned to Kapteyn in relief. Dan Gamache drove in the run with a bases-loaded walk and Tony Caldwell singled to score another run. Gilmer then drove in two more runs with a single down the line and Patterson drove in one more run with a single to rightfield.
UK mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Kapteyn reached on a high chopper to the left side and Riddle worked a nine-pitch at bat and got hit by a pitch. That brought McCarthy to the plate, who worked the count full before sending a two-RBI double into left-centerfield.
McElroy led Auburn at the plate with a 4-for-5 game, with five RBI. Patterson added four hits with a homer and two RBI.
GAME NOTES: Freshman J.T. Riddle made his second career start as the No. 4 hitter in the lineup ... Chad Wright has reached base safely in eight consecutive games with a single in the first inning ... Wright has reached base safely in 28 of 31 games this season ... Braden Kapteyn hit his team-high fourth homer of the year in the first inning ... With a two-out single in the fifth, Thomas McCarthy has now reached base safely in 29 of 31 games played this year ... UK starter Alex Meyer allowed season highs in hits (11) and runs allowed (six), with the 11 hits allowed the most he has allowed in a single outing in his three-year career ... With two strikeouts, Meyer now has 207 in his career, eighth-most in UK career history ... Luke Maile launched his first career triple in the sixth inning ... Riddle hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning, his third homer of the year, to even the game at 6-6 ... Maile hit his fourth homer of the year in the seventh inning to give UK a 7-6 lead ... Thomas McCarthy hit his team-high 11th double of the year, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth ... With three runs scored in the game, Kapteyn has now scored seven runs in his last two games.