Wildcats Win Crucial Series, Top No. 18 Ole Miss, 9-7

OXFORD, Miss. -- Behind six combined hits from Antone DeJesus and Ryan Wilkes, the Kentucky baseball team topped the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels, 9-7, to secure the pivotal Southeastern Conference three-game series, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in front of 4,585 fans at Swayze Field.

Kentucky (33-17-1, 12-14-1 SEC) got three hits a piece from DeJesus and Wilkes and two-hit performances from Keenan Wiley, Sawyer Carroll, and Mike Brown, as the Wildcats rolled to 14 total hits and a series-high nine runs. Wilkes finished the day a perfect 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored.

The Wildcats series win over Ole Miss in Oxford marks UK's first since the 2001 season. UK has now won five of its last six games vs. the Rebels. Kentucky has now won back-to-back series against the Rebels for the first time since the 2000-2001 seasons. The loss for Ole Miss was the first home series loss since dropping the 2006 SEC opener to Vanderbilt.

Wildcat starter Greg Dombrowski battled through 6 2/3 innings, allowing only three earned runs and striking out five. The junior was relieved in a tight spot in the seventh inning by Aaron Lovett, who worked the final 2 1/3 innings, allowing only one hit to pick up his team-high sixth save of the season.

Ole Miss (33-20, 14-12 SEC) starter Nathan Baker took the loss, falling to 6-2 on the year. Baker tossed 4 1/3 innings, allowing five runs before a trio of Rebel relievers took over the hill.

The Wildcats got on the board first in the second, loading the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch. DeJesus delivered the clutch bases loaded, two-out hit with a single up the middle, scoring Wilkes and Matt McKinney to give UK an early 2-0 lead.

Ole Miss cut into the UK lead with a run in the bottom half of the second, as centerfielder Logan Power reached on a fielder's choice and after moving to second on a ground out, came around to score on designated hitter Fuller Smith's single through the right side of the infield. Wiley, the freshman UK left fielder, fielded the grounder and fired a strike to catcher Sean Coughlin, whose tag narrowly missed a sliding Power.

The Rebels captured the lead with a two spot in the third inning, as Dombrowski allowed a lead off single up the middle from Jordan Henry. The next batter, shortstop Zach Cozart delivered a two-run home run over the left field fence, his fifth of the season.

UK reclaimed the lead with two runs on two hits and a Rebel error in the fourth. Wilkes led off with a single to centerfield and moved to second on a wild pitch. Brock Wright laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Wilkes to third, setting the stage for Wiley, who came through with a clutch, high-hoping infield single, allowing Wilkes to score with two outs. The next UK batter, DeJesus, hit a ground ball to the second baseman, Zach Miller. Miller allowed the ball to scoot under his legs, enabling Wiley to score from first.

The Wildcats added to its lead in the fifth, taking a 6-3 lead. Coughlin worked a one-out walk and Mike Brown rocketed his 18th double of the season to deep left-center field, moving Coughlin to third. Baker was relieved in favor of Brett Bukvich, who issued a wild pitch that allowed Coughlin to score from third and Brown to advance to third. Wilkes followed with a clutch sacrifice fly to right center field, bringing Brown home.

UK tacked on another two spot in the sixth, stretching its lead to 8-3. Wiley reached on a one-out bunt single and DeJesus doubled down the right-field line, moving Wiley to third. Brian Spear cleared the bases with a single through the right side, scoring Wiley and DeJesus.

In the seventh, Ole Miss capitalized on three hits and some UK defensive miscues to narrow the UK lead to 8-7. Alex Kliman reached on a fielder's choice with one out and Jordan Henry single to centerfield to put runners on second and third. Cozart hit what would be a routine double play ball right at Wilkes but the shortstop misfired on his throw, drawing Spear off second base and allowing runners to load the bases. Justin Henry grounded out to Carroll at first base, forcing Kliman home. The next batter, Cody Overbeck roped a double down the left-field line, clearing the bases to allow two runs to score. Overbeck moved to third on a wild pitch and Zach Miller singled through the left side, allowing Overbeck to score.

Kentucky tacked on an insurance run in the eighth, scoring one run to stretch the lead to the final margin, 9-7. Spear led off the inning in dramatic fashion, as the junior second baseman got hit by two pitches in the same at bat but was not given first base. The first ruling insighted UK head coach John Cohen to be ejected and the second ruling caused assistant coach Nick Mingione to be ejected by the home plate umpire. Spear kept battling and drew the walk, later coming around to score on a Wilkes RBI single through the right side.

The Wildcats return the action on Tuesday with the final contest of the week-long road swing, against Murray State in Paducah, Ky. First pitch on Tuesday is set for 3 p.m. EDT and fans in Lexington can catch the action live on WLAP 630-AM with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price on the call.

Post-Game Notes

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky improves to 33-17-1 with the win, 12-14-1 in the SEC. Ole Miss falls to 33-20, 14-13 in the SEC.
  • Kentucky still trails the all-time series with Ole Miss, 31-23.
  • UK's series win in Oxford is the first since the 2001 season. Kentucky has now won five of its last six vs. the Rebels.
  • Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday with its final road game of the season, a matchup with Murray State in Paducah, Ky. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

    Team Notes

  • Kentucky stole six bases on the game, including two from Antone DeJesus. UK's six steals were one shy of the season high of seven, against Oakland on February 27.
  • UK's series win in Oxford was the first home series loss for Ole Miss since opening the 2006 SEC season against Vanderbilt.

    Individual Game Notes

  • Sean Coughlin made his team-leading 69th consecutive start.
  • Sawyer Carroll connected on his SEC leading 21st double of the season. The first baseman finished the day, 2-for-5.
  • Mike Brown doubled for the 18th time this season, part of a 2-for-5 day.
  • Antone DeJesus finished the day 3-for-6 with two RBI. The junior also stole a team-high two bases, bringing his season total up to a club-best 16.
  • Aaron Lovett worked the final 2 1/3 innings of one hit ball to pick up his 6th save of the season.
  • Ryan Wilkes finished his day a perfect 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI. Wilkes also stole his fourth base of the season.