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HOUSTON -- Owning a 2-1 lead heading to the top of the seventh, the Kentucky baseball team allowed Houston to bat around in a six-run seventh inning, lifting the Cougars to an 8-5 win over the Wildcats, on the second day of the 2011 Houston College Classic, on Saturday afternoon at the Houston Astros Minute Maid Park.
Kentucky (4-6) owned a 2-1 lead entering the top of the seventh, largely due to a solid starting pitching performance from junior right-hander Alex Meyer. Meyer allowed a single run in the first inning after a lead-off walk and put together five consecutive shutout innings, allowing only two hits through his first six innings. Houston mounted a rally using a lead-off single, a sacrifice bunt and a pinch-hit RBI single to the game, then jumped on UK’s bullpen to bat around in a six-run frame.
The Wildcats mounted another furious rally to get back in striking distance in the game, plating a run in the bottom of the seventh and two runs in the eighth to cut the lead to 7-5, with Houston adding an insurance run in the top of the ninth and closing out the win by shutting UK out in the bottom of the ninth.
Meyer (1-2), a 6-foot-9 native of Greensburg, Ind., was tagged with the hard-luck loss, going 6.2 innings and allowing five hits and four runs, walking three and striking out six. Freshman Corey Littrell was called on in relief in the seventh and didn’t get an out, allowing two hits, one walk and three runs. Senior Nick Kennedy went one inning, allowing three hits and no runs and Alex Phillips tossed the final 1.1 innings, allowing two hits and one run.
UK was led at the plate by a two-hit performance from junior outfielder Chad Wright, in addition to getting the first homer of the season from sophomore Luke Maile. Wright went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk, while Maile’s homer was a no-doubt jack that sailed high over the tall, leftfield out-of-town scoreboard and over the famous Crawford Boxes.
UK totaled nine hits in the game, with Taylor Black, Thomas McCarthy, Michael Williams, J.T. Riddle, Brian Adams and Paul McConkey charting hits, with eight of UK’s nine starters collecting a base knock. McCarthy’s hit extended his hitting streak to a team-high 10 games and Williams cranked a double deep into the spacious left-centerfield gap.
Houston (6-4) starter Jordan Lewis was strong through five innings, allowing three hits and two runs. Matt Creel (3-0) picked up the win in relief, going two innings and allowing four hits and three runs. Dakota Dill picked up his first save of the season with two shutout innings in relief.
UK returns to action for its final game at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, facing Utah at 12 p.m. ET. The Utes are 2-0 on the weekend with a pair of impressive upsets. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WGVN 1580-AM or online at UKathletics.com. UK will start sophomore right-hander Jordan Cooper (0-0, 5.79 ERA) vs. Utah’s Joe Pond (0-2, 8.31 ERA).
Houston took an early 1-0 lead with a run in the top of the first inning. Landon Appling drew a full-count walk to open the game, moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. No. 3 hitter Caleb Ramsey then scored Appling with a single up the middle, just out the reach of a diving UK second baseman, McConkey.
The Wildcats took the lead in the bottom of the fourth, as Wright dew a full-count walk with one out. Maile followed and belted a no-doubt blast into the left-field bleachers, high above the tall out-of-town-scoreboard in left and over the famous Crawford Boxes. The homer was Maile’s first of the year and the fourth of his two-year career.
UH opened up the game with a six-run inning in the top of the seventh, taking a 7-2 lead on seven hits. Jake Runte led off the inning with just the third hit recorded off Meyer at that point, moving up on a sacrifice bunt. Pinch hitter M.P. Cokinos singled Runte home to tie the game and John Cannon tripled into the right-centerfield gap, just out of the reach of a stretched out Riddle in rightfield, scoring another run. Appling then hit into a fielder’s choice with Cannon out at the plate on the play, with Appling stealing second. Ryan Still then drew a walk off Littrell, with the pair of runners moving up on a wild pitch during Ramsey’s at bat. Ramsey then scored two more with a single through the right side. Matt Creel singled on an infield hopper and Chase Jensen then had an RBI single to leftfield. Runte’s second at bat of the inning was also a hit to centerfield, scoring another.
UK mounted a rally in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 7-3 but left the bases loaded. Riddle drew a walk to lead off and after a pair of fly outs, Black singled through the right side and McCarthy got hit by a pitch. Wright then ripped a single to leftfield that was two hard hit to score more than one run, with Riddle plating. That brought up Maile with the bases loaded and two outs but the threat was ended on a strikeout.
UK plated two more runs in the bottom of the eighth to cut the lead to 7-5. Kapteyn led off the inning with a hard-hit ball to short that forced an error and Williams scored Kapteyn from first with his deep double into the gap. After Riddle singled to rightfield to move Williams over, UK called on senior Mike Kaczmarek to pinch hit. Kaczmarek had the best at bat of the game for the Wildcats seeing 11 pitches, including fouling off six two-strike pitches after falling behind 0-2 early in the count. Kaczmarek hit a bullet on the ground right at the second baseman, who turned the double play, with Williams scoring on the play.
Houston added to its lead with an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Ramsey tripled into the deep gap in right-centerfield to lead off and Creel smacked a single through the drawn-in infield to score Ramsey.