Big Innings, Beggs Pace Baseball to Series-Evening Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky's offense exploded for a four-run third and a six-run fifth inning and Dustin Beggs won his fourth consecutive start, leading the Wildcats to an 11-5 win over No. 6 Vanderbilt to even the series, on a perfect Saturday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (26-19, 11-11 Southeastern Conference) evened up the series with a pair of big innings and another strong start from Beggs. After Vanderbilt won the opener on Friday night with five-run innings in the seventh and eighth for a 13-3 result, the Wildcats bounced back to set up a rubber match on Sunday.
UK's offense exploded for a four-run third and a six-run fifth inning, erasing a 2-1 Vanderbilt lead after the top of the third inning. UK rode the arm of Beggs, who improved to 7-2 with his fourth consecutive win.
A native of Roswell, Ga., Beggs worked a career-best 8.1 innings -- his fourth straight start working at least eight innings -- striking out a career-high 12. Beggs allowed seven hits and three runs for his eighth quality start of the year, allowing only one walk. He started 20 of the 34 hitters he faced with a strike and exited after allowing a one-out single in the ninth inning.
UK turned to senior Andrew Nelson to try to get the last two outs of the ninth, with Nelson allowing two runs, two walks and two hits. Zach Strecker relieved him with the final two outs.
The Wildcats rapped out 11 hits against the Commodores, with UK getting the third home run of the year from Dorian Hairston. Hairston, Kyle Barrett and Evan White each charted two hits, with sophomore shortstop Connor Heady setting a new career high with a 3-for-3 game. JaVon Shelby drove in a pair with a double, with UK also getting a hit from Greg Fettes and runs from Zach Arnold and Ka'ai Tom.
Vanderbilt (34-13, 16-6 SEC) starter Philip Pfeifer (3-2) worked 4.2 innings, allowing nine hits and 10 runs -- six earned -- walking three and striking out four. Tyler Ferguson took over in the fifth and escaped the jam, working 3.1 innings, allowing two hits and one unearned run, walking three and striking out three.
The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Vanderbilt struck first for the second consecutive game, as Rhett Wiseman lined a double into the left-centerfield gap, his 17th double of the year. Dansby Swanson then worked the count to 2-1 and scored him with a single into leftfield, scoring Wiseman from second base.
Hairston evened up the game in the bottom of the second inning, connecting on a 2-2 offering from Pfeifer, sending it on a line over the 30-foot wall in rightfield for his third homer of the year.
The Dores immediately answered in the third inning as Swanson drew a four-pitch walk, motoring to third base on a single into shallow centerfield by Zander Wiel. Beggs then attempted a fake to third, throw to first pickoff attempt but a balk was called, allowing Swanson to score.
Kentucky mounted a rally in the bottom of the third, as Fettes led off with a five-pitch walk and Heady and Barrett each laid down perfect bunt singles on the right side of the infield. White then fought off a single through the right side to score Fettes and Tom forced in Heady with a grounder to the right side. Shelby then painted a double down the leftfield line, scoring Barrett and White and giving UK a 5-2 lead.
The Wildcats plated six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, as White led off with a bunt single and Tom drew a five-pitch walk. After White was tagged out on a fielder's choice, Hairston punched a single through the left side, scoring Tom from second base, with the throw to the plate allowing the runners to take an extra base. After a strikeout for the second out, Arnold hit a roller up the middle, with the ball skidding under the glove of Swanson for an error, allowing Shelby to score. Pfeifer then uncorked a wild pitch to score Hairston and Fettes ripped a RBI single through the left side, stretching UK's lead to 9-2. Arnold and Fettes then scored after Barrett chopped a double down the leftfield line, with the ball skidding off the shin of leftfielder Jeren Kendall to allow Barrett to take second, with Kendall recovering to throw out Barrett at third base to end the inning.
Vanderbilt plated three runs in the ninth inning on three hits and two walks.