TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After Kentucky rallied for four runs in the seventh inning to even up the game, UK booted what would be the routine, inning-ending double-play ball in the bottom of the ninth inning and Alabama sophomore Brett Booth belted a two-out, first-pitch offering for a walk-off single, lifting the Crimson Tide to a 6-5 win over the Wildcats, in front of 3,575 fans on Saturday afternoon at “The Joe” at Thomas-Sewell Stadium.
Alabama started off the bottom of the ninth inning with a single through the infield from shortstop Jared Reaves off freshman reliever Trevor Gott (1-2). After a botched sacrifice bunt attempt for the first out, Josh Rosecrans hit a routine double play ball right at UK freshman second baseman Matt Reida, who while hustling to feed shortstop Taylor Black for the inning-ending twin killing, misplayed the ball for an error, putting the game-winning run on second base with one out. UK turned to senior southpaw Mike Kaczmarek to get a swinging strikeout of red-hot, left-handed hitter Andrew Miller for the second out, then called on junior Braden Kapteyn to get the final out and take it to the 10th inning. The first pitch Kapteyn threw Booth pounded to left-centerfield. UK freshman Lucas Witt – making the start in centerfield due to illness to UK sophomore Brian Adams – read the ball off the bat and ranged deep into the gap, making a leaping, fully-extended effort for the final out of the ninth, narrowly missed hauling in the game-winning line drive, with Bama walking off with the win.
Booth was the hero for the Tide as he was inserted into the game late after Bama second baseman Jon Kelton broke his ankle after getting hit by a pitch from UK starter Jordan Cooper. With Booth playing third base in the top of the eighth inning and with Witt at third base with two outs, Black smoked a hard-hit grounder at the third base bag, with Booth making a nice backhanded play and firing a strong throw to get the speedy Black at first base, keeping UK from taking the lead.
The Wildcats couldn’t recover from the third inning, as Cooper was chased from the game after allowing five runs to score. Cooper had his second consecutive rough outing, as he allowed six hits and five runs through 2.2 innings pitched. A native of Shelbyville, Tenn., Cooper allowed 12 hits and nine runs in a five-inning outing last week vs. Tennessee. UK then turned to sophomore righty Walter Wijas in relief, with Wijas keeping UK in the game with 3.1 shutout innings, allowing four hits and no walks, striking out three. Gott was saddled with the loss after allowing the leadoff hit in the ninth, overshadowing a tremendous performance from the freshman reliever, who went 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and the one unearned run, getting UK out of a bases-loaded, no out jam in the bottom of the seventh.
UK totaled seven hits in the game, with Witt providing the spark in the offense, going 2-for-2 with a walk getting hit by a pitch in his first start since March 15 due to injury. UK also got two hits from leftfielder Chad Wright, with Black, Reida and Luke Maile also adding hits. Maile charted his eighth double of the season, good for second-best on the club.
Kentucky (14-10, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) rallied from a 5-1 deficit with a four-run inning in the top of the seventh, pushing Alabama starter Adam Morgan from the game and swinging the momentum into the UK dugout. The Wildcats mounted a furious rally, as Witt got the inning started with a single to centerfield and Michael Williams drew a walk. After fouling off two consecutive bunt attempts with no outs and runners on first and second, Reida showed bunt and slashed at the offering, lining a single to leftfield to load the bags. Black then ripped a single through the right side to score Witt and Wright singled up the middle to score Williams. Kapteyn followed and almost unloaded the bases, with Alabama’s rightfielder Miller making a fully extended leaping catch to rob Kapteyn of three RBI, with Reida scoring on the sacrifice fly. With Thomas McCarthy at the plate, Black scored the game-tying run on a wild pitch.
Alabama (17-7, 4-1 SEC) reliever Jonathan Smart (1-0) picked up the win, getting three outs in the top of the ninth inning to set the stage for Booth’s heroics. Morgan went six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, walking two and striking out five.
The series will conclude on Sunday, with first pitch at 2:05 p.m. ET at Thomas-Sewell Stadium. 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 in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM. UK will send sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers (2-1, 4.45 ERA) to the mound to face Alabama right-hander Tucker Hawley (4-1, 2.67 ERA).
UK got on the board in the top of the second inning, as Maile doubled down the line with one out and Witt smacked a single to leftfield to move Maile to third. Williams then hit a slow roller to third base, beating the back end of the double play for an RBI fielder’s choice, scoring Maile.
Alabama gained the lead with four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jeremiah Tullidge led off with a four-pitch walk and after Taylor Dugas lined out hard to centerfield, Brock Bennett singled up the middle. Jared Reaves followed with a single through the left side of the infield. Austen Smith then singled to rightfield, to score Jeremiah Tullidge. Josh Resecrans then charted his fourth RBI of the series with a fielder’s choice, with him coming to score on Andrew Miller’s two-RBI double. After Cooper hit Jon Kelton with the first pitch of the at bat, UK turned to Wijas in relief. After a first-pitch ball, James Tullidge singled through the infield to give Bama a 5-1 lead.
Black and Gott provided the heroics in the seventh inning, as Alabama attempted to break the 5-5 tie. After Wijas allowed a single from Reaves to lead off, with Reaves moving to second on a wild pitch, UK turned to Gott, who hit the first hitter he faced. Rosecrans then singled to rightfield to load the bases with no outs, bringing Miller to the plate. Miller hit a high hopper at Gott on the mound, with Gott making a leaping catch and throwing to the plate to force out the go-ahead run and leave the bases juiced. Gott then got pinch hitter David Kindred to hit a hard-hit liner up the middle that Black made a jaw-dropping play on, fielding it with his outstretched glove and flipping to Reida at second base for the force out in one fluid motion. Kelton, confident of a hit up the middle that would score the go-ahead run, was taking a wide turn at first base, preparing to move up to second on a throw to the plate. Reida took the gloved flip from Black and made the quick turn and throw to first base, getting Kindred in the inning-ending double play.