Ninth-Inning Rally Lifts Baseball to Win over No. 12 Arkansas
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After allowing the go-ahead run to score in the top of the ninth on a pair of errors, Kentucky rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning to even up the game and third baseman Thomas McCarthy drew a bases-loaded, two-out walk to force home the walk-off run, lifting the Wildcats to a 3-2 win over No. 12 Arkansas in the series opener, on a cloudy Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
With the game tied at 1-1 and UK starter Alex Meyer tossing the best game of his career, Arkansas led off the top of the ninth with a three-base error on a fly ball to centerfield. After getting the go-ahead run across on a second error in the frame, UK mounted a furious rally in the bottom of the ninth. Catcher Michael Williams led off the frame with his third hit of the game, a single down the rightfield line. After Lucas Witt's sacrifice bunt pushed pinch runner Matt Reida into scoring position, freshman pinch hitter Paul McConkey reached on an infield hit. Junior outfielder Chad Wright then singled down the line in leftfield, allowing Reida to score the game-tying run. After a Taylor Black single, a slick defensive play got the force out at home plate. McCarthy then came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and drew four consecutive balls from Arkansas ace closer Nolan Sanburn to force home the win.
Meyer, a 6-foot-9, 220-pounder, turned in the start of his career, tossing his third complete game of the year, allowing only three hits and one earned run in his nine frames. A native of Greensburg, Ind., Meyer walked four and struck out 10, his seventh career double-digit strikeout game and his third this year. Meyer now owns 224 career strikeouts, good for the seventh-best total in UK career history. The quality start was the team-high sixth of the year for Meyer, a 2011 preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection by Baseball America.
Kentucky (18-21, 3-13 SEC) was led offensively by Williams, who had three hits and an RBI. Wright batted 2-for-5 with the game-tying RBI in the ninth. Black, UK's senior shortstop, extended his hitting streak to a career-long 11 games with a single in the ninth inning, while UK also got hits from McCarthy, Witt, McConkey, Braden Kapteyn and J.T. Riddle.
Sanburn (2-2) took the loss, allowing four hits and two runs while getting two outs in the ninth. Arkansas (27-10, 8-8 SEC) starter Randall Fant went seven strong innings, allowing only one run and seven hits, striking out five without issuing a walk. Barrett Astin took over for Fant to start the eighth and got a shutdown frame.
The series will resume with the nightcap on Saturday with a 7 p.m. ET first pitch at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will start freshman southpaw Corey Littrell (4-3, 6.13 ERA) vs. Arkansas standout sophomore righty D.J. Baxendale (5-1, 1.62 ERA). The game will be televised live by FSN, with Dave Baker and Larry Conley voicing the action. The nightcap will also be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Arkansas got the scoring started in the second inning, as Kyle Robinson worked a one-out walk, stealing second base with two outs. Catcher James McCann followed and smacked a double into the right-centerfield gap, with Robinson scoring from second base.
UK had its best early scoring chance in the second inning, as Maile led off with a single up the middle. With Williams at the plate, Maile got a great jump from first base, sliding in under the tag, with the third base umpire ruling him out. After Williams struck out, Witt singled up the middle on what would have scored the game-tying run in the form of Maile. Arkansas then got out of the jam with a fly out.
The Wildcats evened up the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Riddle singled on a blooped hit into shallow centerfield with one out, coming around to score after Williams painted a double down the rightfield line, allowing Riddle to scamper home from first base.
Arkansas struck for the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning, as Collin Kuhn led off with a fly ball into centerfield. With the wind howling between 15-29 mph during the inning, Witt misplayed the ball for a three-base error to lead off the ninth inning. Meyer, operating with dominating stuff for the final three innings, immediately responded to strike out No. 4 hitter Sam Bates with the go-ahead run at third base and no outs. That brought up Robinson with the infield in, one out and the go-ahead run at third base. Meyer induced a slow roller at first base but it skidded into shallow rightfield for an error, allowing the go-ahead runs to score.
GAME NOTES: Senior Taylor Black started his team-high 79th consecutive game at shortstop, Chad Wright started his 46th consecutive game in the outfield and Braden Kapteyn started his 44th straight game at first base or DH ... Wright has reached base safely in 36 of 39 games this year ... Senior Neiko Johnson made his first start since Feb. 22 at Morehead State due to injury ... J.T. Riddle made his eighth start of the year at second base ... Wright stole his team-high 14th base of the year in the third frame ... Thomas McCarthy has reached base safely in 37 of 38 starts this year ... Michael Williams charted his eighth double of the year in the sixth inning, scoring Riddle ... The quality start was the team-high sixth of the year for Alex Meyer ... Black extended his hitting streak to a team and career-high 11 games.