Big First Lifts No. 1 Vandy to Series-Evening Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind a six-run first inning, highlighted by a grand slam from Conrad Gregor, No. 1 Vanderbilt rode the early cushion and a splendid pitching performance from Grayson Garvin, posting a 10-3 series-evening win over Kentucky, on Saturday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Vanderbilt win sets up a rubber match for the series on Sunday afternoon. UK will send sophomore righty Jordan Cooper (3-1, 4.37 ERA) to the mound for his first conference start since March 26 at Alabama, facing off with Vandy senior righty Taylor Hill (4-0, 3.03 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. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats rode a dominating performance from junior right-handed starter Alex Meyer in the series opener Friday night, as UK got a 2-0 win and a complete-game shutout from Meyer. Vanderbilt jumped out strong in the series-evening win Saturday, plating six runs in the top of the first and adding single runs in the third and sixth, and two runs in the seventh.
Kentucky (21-26, 5-18 Southeastern Conference) was led offensively by junior Chad Wright, who continued to whack the baseball at a blistering pace, extending his team-high hitting streak to nine games after launching his fifth homer of the year in the sixth inning. The Paducah, Ky., native has now reached base safely in 23 consecutive games and owned UK's lone multi-hit game of the contest, going 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. The Wildcats also got hits from Thomas McCarthy, J.T. Riddle and Luke Maile, with senior Taylor Black collecting his 14th double of the year.
UK starter Corey Littrell (5-5) suffered the loss, allowing seven runs and nine hits in five innings of work, recording three strikeouts and three walks. Senior Nick Kennedy relieved Littrell and went 1.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, not issuing a walk and not recording a strikeout. Braden Kapteyn replaced Kennedy and despite allowing a single to the first hitter he faced that scored an inherited run, the junior tossed the final 2.1 innings with just the one hit allowed. Kapteyn's outing was arguably the best of his season on the mound, striking out three without allowing a run, walk or hit batter.
Vanderbilt (39-6, 18-5 SEC) starter Garvin (10-1) picked up his league-leading 10th win of the year, going eight inning, allowing only six hits and one run, not issuing a walk and striking out two. Hard-throwing righty Jack Armstrong relieved him and got one out in the ninth before Corey Williams got the final two outs to end the contest.
Vanderbilt got on the board in its first opportunity, as leadoff man Tony Kemp popped up a bunt over the pitching mound in front of the second-base bag for a single. Anthony Gomez then chopped a single off the plate, going as a slow-rolling single down the third base line that McCarthy couldn't field in time for the throw to first. After a pair of wild pitches put the duo in scoring position, Jason Esposito hung a double down the leftfield line on a 3-2 offering, scoring Kemp and Gomez for an early 2-0 Vanderbilt lead. Mike Yastrzemski drew a four-pitch walk and Curt Casali loaded the bases with a walk. Gregor then belted a 2-1 offering from Littrell into the deck in right-centerfield, giving VU a 6-0 lead.
VU got another run in the top of the third inning, as Gregor led off with a single up the middle, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and took third on a wild pitch, scoring on Kemp's RBI groundout.
The Dores got another run in the top of the sixth inning, as Kemp doubled into the gap to lead off, moved to third on a groundout from Gomez and scored on an RBI groundout from Aaron Westlake.
UK got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Wright launched a solo homer over the rightfield fence, his fifth of the year to cut the lead to 8-1.
Vandy added a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning, as Casali reached on a one-out single up the middle, moving to second on a 3-4-3 groundout from Gregor. Riley Reynolds scored Casali with a single chopped up the middle, making it 9-1 Vandy. After Connor Harrell singled to centerfield, Kemp recorded his fourth hit of the game with a single to rightfield, scoring Reynolds for a 10-1 lead.
UK rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Armstrong walked three hitters to lead off the frame and Brian Adams forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk. After pinch hitter Micheal Thomas struck out swinging for the second out, Wright picked up an infield single to the left side to score a run. Black then flied out to right field to end the game.
GAME NOTES: Chad Wright extended his hitting streak to nine straight games with his fifth home run of the season in the sixth inning ... He has reached base safely in 24 straight games ... It was Wright's 11th career home run ... Kentucky allowed six or more runs in one inning for the sixth time this season ... Taylor Black, Chad Wright, and Braden Kapteyn continued to be the only Wildcats to start all 47 games this season for UK ... The Wildcats drew four walks in the ninth inning, including three straight to start the frame ... Braden Kapteyn made his 13 pitching appearance of the season, it was his eighth relief appearance of the season without yielding a run.