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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With the Kentucky baseball team owning a six-run lead heading to the top of the seventh, the University of Illinois Chicago plated eight unanswered runs, including four runs in the top of the ninth when facing a two-run deficit and down to its last strike, handing the Wildcats a 10-8 series-opening loss, on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (2-4) held an 8-2 lead heading into the top of the seventh, before UIC plated four runs to cut the lead. With the Wildcats holding an 8-6 lead heading into the top of the ninth and needing three outs to seal the win, UIC rallied with four runs in the ninth, posting a 10-8 series-opening win. Down to their last out with the game-tying run on second base, UIC recorded the game-tying, two-RBI hit on a 2-2 count, poking a single down the rightfield line. Jason Ganek then provided the difference, launching a two-run homer over the leftfield fence.
UIC (1-4) picked up its first win of the season with the late-game rally. Trailing by two runs in the top of the ninth, UK turned to Braden Kapteyn for his first save situation of the season. Kapteyn hit No. 7 hitter Joe Betcher with a 1-0 offering to lead off and then No. 8 hitter Harry Kammholz drew a walk on a 3-2 count. After a successful sacrifice bunt put the game-tying run at second base and after Kapteyn struck out leadoff man Ryan Shober for the second out, Andy Leonard came to the plate. With the count at 2-2, Leonard stuck his bat out and poked the two-RBI single down the rightfield line, evening the game at 8-8. Ganek then delivered the heroics, belting a 1-1 offering from Kapteyn for the go-ahead homer.
UK brought the game-tying run to the plate after Kapteyn got hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Luke Maile belted a deep shot to left-centerfield that was caught just shy of the wall on the warning track, bringing up Mike Kaczmarek as the game-tying run. With Kaczmarek at the plate and a ball in the dirt, Kapteyn was gunned out for the final out of the game attempting to take second base on a wild pitch.
The loss overshadows an outstanding offensive performance from UK junior catcher Michael Williams, who went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two homers at the plate, scoring three runs. Williams ripped homers in the second and in the sixth inning, his first homers of the 2011 season and his first since his freshman campaign. Senior shortstop Taylor Black also performed at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a pair of walks. Third baseman Thomas McCarthy added his team-high fifth double of the season, going 2-for-5 with a RBI. Maile continued to pace the Wildcats offensively in 2011, batting 2-for-4 with a walk.
UK starter Taylor Rogers turned in a quality start, his second consecutive and the seventh of his two-year career. Rogers tossed a season-high 6.2 innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out six. Rogers was tagged with three unearned runs in the seventh inning. UK sophomore Walter Wijas went 1.1 innings of shutout relief and Kapteyn (0-1) was charged with the loss, allowing two hits and four runs in his inning of work. The loss was the first of Kapteyn’s career, as he entered the game owning a 7-0 record with six saves in his two-year career.
UIC’s Chris Hoffman (1-0) picked up the win with 2.1 perfect innings in relief. Ganek, the slugger who hit the go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth, relieved Hoffman in the bottom of the ninth and picked up his first save of the year.
Kentucky resumes the series with the Flames on Saturday, with first pitch at Cliff Hagan Stadium slated for 1 p.m. ET. 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 WGVN 1580-AM.
UK opened up the scoring with a pair of runs in the second inning, as Kaczmarek singled with two outs and Williams belted a no-doubt homer over the left-centerfield fence.
UIC answered with two runs on three hits in the third, as Betcher led off with a single, getting thrown out for the first out on a fielder’s choice attempted sacrifice bunt. Addison then doubled into the gap, putting two runners in scoring position. Shober then scored one with a sacrifice fly and Leonard notched an RBI with a single up the middle with two outs.
Down 8-2 in the top of the seventh, UIC mounted a rally. Jon Ryan tripled down the line to lead off, scoring when Matt Serna grounded out. After a throwing error allowed Betcher to reach, Kammholz doubled to rightfield and Addison scored one with a sacrifice fly. After Shober drew a walk, Leonard doubled down the left-field line, scoring two and cutting the UK lead to 8-6.