Tennessee Uses Late-Inning Rally to Even Series
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- With the game knotted at six in the bottom of the sixth inning after Kentucky had come from behind to tie the game, Tennessee scored two runs to take the lead for good and post a 8-6 victory over UK, on Saturday in front of 1,097 fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Saturday.
Tennessee (23-21, 7-13 Southeastern Conference) took an early 5-0 lead after the first two innings before Kentucky would start to mount a comeback, scoring two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and three in the sixth to tie the game at six before UT took the lead for good in the eighth behind a two-RBI single to centerfield by junior Josh Liles.
In the rally, Kentucky used clutch hitting from sophomore Chad Wright and senior Gunner Glad. Wright started the rally with a two-out, two-run double with Glad coming through with a solo homer and a RBI triple. Wright ended the game 2-for-5 with two RBI and his team-high 11th double of the season. Glad finished the game 2-for-4 belting his second homer in as many games and gathering two-RBI to post a multi-RBI game for the 10th time this season, a team-high. Glad extended his hitting streak to seven games while juniors Lance Ray and Chris Bisson also extended hitting streaks. Ray has now hit safely in eight consecutive games, a team high while Bisson has gathered a hit in six games. Ray hit his sixth homer of the season, going 1-for-3 with two walks.
Kentucky (24-19, 7-13 SEC) received seven innings on the mound from freshman Taylor Rogers (4-6). The native of Littleton, Colo., allowed eight runs in the game, seven earned, on 11 hits while walking two and striking out two. Rogers was relieved in the game by junior closer Matt Little who gave up the single to Liles to give UT the lead, the only hit the UK pitcher allowed.
Tennessee was led offensively by P.J. Polk who went 3-for-4 with three RBI and his 10th homer of the season. UT also got RBI from Liles who finished 1-for-3 with two RBI and Cody Hawn who went 2-for-3 with three RBI and his eighth homer of the season.
UT starter Stephen McCrary went 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and six runs while walking three and striking out four. Junior Matt Ramsey was the star on the mound for UT, going the final 3.1 innings, allowing only two hits and striking out four for his third win of the season, throwing 65 pitches.
The series resumes Sunday at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised by SportsSouth, with the game available in Lexington on Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52). Neither Kentucky nor Tennessee has announced a starting pitcher. The game will also be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
Tennessee posted the first run of the game on a solo shot by Polk. The inning started when Khayyan Norfork got hit by a pitch, advancing to second on sacrifice bunt by Josh Liles. With Polk batting, Norfork tried to steal third getting thrown out after a great strike from Marcus Nidiffer and tag from Andy Burns. On the next pitch, Polk scorched a line drive into right-centerfield that cleared the fence to give the Vols a 1-0 lead.
UT plated four runs in the second inning behind a three-run homer by Cody Hawn. Blake Forsythe began the inning with a single through the left side and then Charley Thurber chopped a ball to third that Burns fielded cleanly and threw to second for the fielder’s choice. Ramsey then singled to right field, putting runners on first and second for Hawn with one out. Hawn would take full advantage of the RBI chance, blasting a no-doubt shot to left field. The rally continued when Zach Osborne hit a swinging bunt that rolled fair down the third baseline for an infield single, advancing to second on a fielder’s choice out at first of Norfork. After Liles walked, Polk sent a laser into rightfield, scoring Osborne from second. Polk then stole second base to put two runners in scoring position for Duffy, who flied out to rightfield to end the frame.
Kentucky got on the board in the fourth inning when Ray launched a soaring homerun off the scoreboard in right-centerfield and then Burns scored on a wild pitch. Ray started the inning with a monster shot off the scoreboard for his six homer of the season. Farris then struck out swinging taking first when the ball got away from the catcher but the home plate umpire said Farris interfered with the ball and was called out. Burns then sent double over the head of the centerfielder in left-centerfield, advancing to third on the groundout by Wiley. Burns then got a great read on a wild pitch from McCray, sprinting home to score before the catcher could gather the ball to cut the UT lead to 5-2.
The Vols answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI single to center by Polk. The inning started when Osborne singled to third base on a ball that took a bad bounce and went off the glove of Burns. Norfork then grounded a ball up the middle that Bisson fielded and flipped to Black at second for the first out but the relay to first was just late, allowing Norfork to reach. Liles then lined out to Wright in left for the second out and after Norfork advance to second on a wild pitch, Polk got jammed on a pitch by Rogers but was just able to fight it off and drop it in front of Wiley to score Norfork and give the Vols a four run lead.
Kentucky would answer with the second homer of the series from the Wildcat slugger Glad. Wright started the inning with groundout to third before Glad hit a no-doubt solo shot well over the wall in leftfield. Ray would walk and Farris and Burns would hit balls hard but the Wildcats could not plate any more in the fifth.
For the third consecutive inning, Kentucky plated a run getting a two-out two-run double by Wright. After back-to-back fly outs from Nidiffer and Wiley, Black got hit by a pitch, stealing second before Bisson gathered an infield single when McCray was late to cover first base. Bisson stole second to put two in scoring position for Wright who took full advantage lacing a double into left-centerfield, scoring two and cutting the UT lead to one. UK would tie the game on the second extra base hit of the game for Glad, a laser triple over the centerfielder’s head that easily scored Wright. With two strikes, Glad sent a screaming line drive into centerfield that just landed beyond the out-stretched glove of the UT centerfielder for Glad’s first career triple. Ray flied out to left to end the inning.
Tennessee took the lead for good in the bottom of the eighth inning when Rogers gave up a leadoff single to Hawn and then Osborne reached on a throwing error by Black, pulling Bisson off the back at second on what would have been a fielder’s choice. Kentucky would go to the bullpen to bring in Little, hitting the first batter he faced to load the bases and then giving up a single to center by Liles to plate two. With no outs and two runners on, Polk bunted the runners into scoring position for the first out. Little then threw two strikes to Duffy before the UT third baseman injured his leg and had to be replaced by Cody Stubbs. Stubbs grounded the first pitch he saw to third with Burns fielding the ball cleanly and throwing home to get Norfork for the second out. Forsythe grounded out to third to end the inning.