LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind another extraordinary pitching performance from Logan Darnell and home runs from seniors Gunner Glad, Marcus Nidiffer and Keenan Wiley, the 22nd-ranked Kentucky baseball team posted a 10-1 win over IPFW in the series opener, Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
After both teams sat through a three-hour and 17-minute rain delay, Kentucky (11-2) rode a dominating performance from Darnell, who tossed eight innings, allowed just five hits and one run and struck out six. Darnell, a native of Joelton, Tenn., stretched his scoreless innings pitched streak to 19.1 innings before allowing a harmless, solo home run in the top of the seventh. Darnell, the reigning Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week, came on for the eighth inning after allowing the run and struck out two to finish off his outing. Last week at San Diego, Darnell tossed a complete-game shutout against the Toreros.
Nidiffer and Wiley each lofted three-run homers in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, with Nidiffer belting his first homer of the year. Wiley, a native of Richmond, Ky., ripped a three-run homer in the seventh, his second jack of the year. UK’s third and final senior, Glad hit his first homer of the season in the fourth inning, a towering roundtripper over the left-field wall.
UK’s most impressive performance of the game came from junior second baseman Neiko Johnson, a speedster filling in for the injured preseason All-American second baseman Chris Bisson, stole a career-high four bases in the game, all without recording a base hit. Johnson, a native of Stone Mountain, Ga., now leads the SEC, stealing 13-of-13 bases on the season and his four steals in the game equals him with LSU’s Leon Landry for the most steals in a game for an SEC player this season. As one of his four steals in the game, Johnson stole home plate in the third inning, his third consecutive steal after reaching with a lead-off hit by pitch.
Overall, Nidiffer and Wiley led Kentucky with three RBI each, with Glad charting the only multi-hit game for the Wildcats. UK also got a career-high three steals from Wiley, who went 1-for-1 with two runs and two walks. Glad, a native of Tulsa, Okla., finished 2-for-2 with three runs scored, one RBI and two walks.
Following Darnell’s eight innings, freshman right-hander Walter Wijas came on for the ninth inning, retiring the side in order.
IPFW (1-10) starter Samuel Walker (0-3) took the loss, allowing two hits and two runs in 3.1 innings, walking four and striking out five.
The series will resume Saturday, with a 1 p.m. ET first pitch at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will send freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers (2-0, 6.19 ERA) to the mound to face off with IPFW junior right-hander Ryan August (0-2, 3.52 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 WGVN 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky struck for a run in the top of the third as Johnson led off getting hit by a pitch, stealing second and third base. After a couple of outs and with Kapteyn at first, Johnson broke to steal home with Kapteyn stealing second. The defense was confused and the speedy Johnson slid home for the run, with Kapteyn caught in a rundown.
In the fourth inning, UK added a run, as Glad belted a towering homer high over the leftfield fence for his first jack of the season.
UK added a run to its lead in the fifth inning, as Johnson reached on a fielding error to lead off and stole second base. Chad Wright followed and laid down a perfectly-placed bunt single down the first base line. IPFW’s pitcher, Antos, fielded it off balance and tried to stretch out and make a diving tag, but the ball bounced out of his glove upon contact with Wright, allowing Johnson to scamper home and Wright to advance to second on the error.
The Wildcats opened up the game in the bottom of the sixth, as Glad led off with a walk and Keenan Wiley reached base on a fielder’s choice bunt with Antos trying to get Glad at second base, but his defender was not on the bag. That brought Nidiffer to the dish and he belted a no-doubt jack over the left-field fence, his first homer of the year, making it 6-0 UK.
IPFW got on the board with a single run in the top of the seventh, making it 6-1 UK. After Matt Keys popped out, Daren Boss jumped on a first-pitch offering from Darnell, sending a low-lining homer sneaking over the left-field fence.
In the bottom of the seventh, UK added three runs to make it 9-1. Kapteyn reached on a one-out double drilled to the right-centerfield gap and Glad drew a walk. Wiley followed and lofted his second homer of the year over the 30-foot wall in rightfield, a towering bomb that scored three.
UK added a run in the bottom of the eighth, as Michael Williams got hit by a pitch and Brian Adams came on to pinch run at first base. Wright hung a fly ball to shallow leftfield and Adams, using his exceptional speed, tagged up from first base and moved into scoring position. Andy Burns followed and singled up the middle, scoring Adams from second.