Eighth-Inning Homer Powers No. 6 Vandy to Series Clincher
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Jeren Kendall's home run in the eighth inning broke open a tie game and lifted No. 6 Vanderbilt to a series-clinching 7-3 win over Kentucky in the rubber match, on a perfect Sunday afternoon in front of 3,043 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (26-20, 11-12 Southeastern Conference) and Vanderbilt batted in a tie game entering the eighth inning, before Kendall connected on his first career home run to give the Dores a two-run lead they wouldn't surrender, adding a pair of two-out runs in the ninth for the final margin.
The Wildcats were paced at the plate by a three-run homer in the first inning from JaVon Shelby, his seventh home run of the year. UK also got a two-hit game from Dorian Hairston, with Evan White, Ka'ai Tom, Thomas Bernal and Greg Fettes each collecting hits.
UK starter Kyle Cody worked 5.2 innings in his longest start since March 29 at No. 1 LSU. Cody, a preseason All-America righty, worked 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and three runs, walking three and striking out eight. He was just one out away from his fourth quality start of the season, before UK turned to lefty Logan Salow to escape the sixth inning. Salow got out of the jam and got an out in the seventh before loading the bases for reliever Zach Strecker (2-1) who came on with one out to face switch-hitting centerfielder Bryan Reynolds. Strecker got Reynolds to chop into a double play to end the seventh, before Kendall ripped the two-run blast in the eighth to saddle Strecker with the loss. Freshman lefty Zach Logue and senior right-hander Spencer Jack pitched the ninth inning.
UK's pitching staff struck out 13 for the second consecutive night, equaling its season high for strikeouts in a game.
Vanderbilt (35-14, 17-7 SEC) starter Walker Buehler, a native of Lexington, worked six innings, allowing three hits and three runs, walking two and striking out five. Vandy turned to Jordan Sheffield to start the seventh in a 3-3 game. Sheffield (4-1) picked up the win, tossing a shutout seventh, before a hit batter and a walk ended his appearance with one out in the eighth. Kyle Wright took over, getting a strikeout of Hairston and giving way to lefty Ben Bowden who retired pinch hitter Zach Arnold to escape the eighth inning.
Kentucky will return to action on Wednesday, playing host to No. 3 Louisville to conclude the toughest eight-game stretch in program history. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Vanderbilt jumped out to an early lead in the first, as Dansby Swanson drew a two-out, full-count walk. With Swanson on the move, Zander Wiel ripped a double to the wall in rightfield, scoring Swanson for a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats answered in the bottom of the frame, as White and Tom each singled with one out. Shelby then cranked his seventh homer of the year over the leftfield fence, giving UK a 3-1 lead.
The Dores tied up the game in the third inning, as Ro Coleman lead off with a double on a line drive down the rightfield, scoring on Swanson's RBI groundout. Wiel then lined his 10th homer of the year over the leftfield fence to even up the game at 3-3.
After shutout innings heading into the seventh, the Commodores loaded the bases with one out on a double from Rhett Wiseman and walks from Swanson and Wiel.
Vanderbilt gained the lead in the eighth inning as Will Toffey singled down the rightfield line, just out of the reach of a diving White at first base. Kendall then smashed his two-run homer over the rightfield fence for a 5-3 lead.
The Dores scored twice in the ninth for the final margin, coming on a two-run, two-out single from Toffey.