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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Holding a three-run lead entering the sixth inning, the Kentucky Wildcats allowed Auburn to plate 12 runs in the final four innings, with the Tigers holding on for a 15-8 series-clinching win over the Wildcats, on Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
For the second consecutive game, UK held a lead late in the contest and allowed Auburn to rally from behind to post the win. The Wildcats owned a 6-3 advantage after plating two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, before Auburn plated four runs in the top of the sixth and added to its lead with two runs in the top of the seventh inning, a run in the eighth and five runs in the ninth frame off the UK bullpen.
Kentucky (16-16, 2-9 Southeastern Conference) did belt three homers in the contest and have now hit six roundtrippers in the series off an Auburn pitching staff that entered the series having allowed only eight homers through its first 29 games in 2011. UK got homers from Thomas McCarthy, Dallen Reber and Chad Wright in the contest, with McCarthy and Wright connecting on their team-high tying fourth homers of the year.
UK totaled 10 hits and eight runs in the game, also drawing three walks and getting hit by one pitch. Wright led the way, going 2-for-4 with three RBI, while McCarthy went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI and Reber batted 2-for-4 with an RBI. Taylor Black went 2-for-5, while Braden Kapteyn contributed a 1-for-5 outing with an RBI.
After Auburn rallied with the 12 runs in the late innings, UK's offense struck out in six of its next nine outs in the sixth, seventh and eighth inning, also getting called on batters interference. UK mounted a rally in the ninth inning - down nine runs - getting the first two runners on base in the inning and getting an RBI single off the outfield wall in right-centerfield and an RBI double for the final margin, 15-8.
Auburn (17-14, 4-7 SEC) won its second SEC series of the year, snapping a streak of six consecutive SEC losses with back-to-back wins in Lexington. The Tigers got a monster game from catcher Tony Caldwell, who launched three homers in the game, going 5-for-5 with a career-high seven RBI.
UK starter Corey Littrell (4-2) went 6.1 innings, allowing seven runs and 11 hits, both career highs for the freshman southpaw. Littrell, who suffered his first career loss as a starting pitcher, did not issue a walk and struck out five, with nine of his hits coming in the first and sixth innings combined. Littrell was relieved in the sixth inning by Walter Wijas, who got one out in the seventh frame, allowing two hits, two walks and two runs. Mike Kaczmarek replaced him and allowed four hits and five runs through 1.1 innings pitched. Alex Phillips got the final three outs in the ninth for UK, allowing three hits and one run.
AU starter Derek Varnadore (4-1) went five innings, allowing six runs and six hits, with four runs going as earned. Varnadore issued one walk and struck out four to pick up the win, before lefty Corey Luckie replaced him on the mound and turned in a dominating final four innings for his first save of the year. Luckie struck out seven and allowed only two hits in the final four innings.
The series concludes on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will send sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers (2-3, 5.05 ERA) to the mound for his eighth start of the year. 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 WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to coverage on UKathletics.com. The game will also be televised live on CSS, with Matt Stewart and Rusty Ensor on the call. Fans can see the telecast on ESPN3.com.
For the second consecutive game, Auburn struck for the lead in the top of the first inning. After Bobby Andrews struck out to lead off the game, Justin Fradejas singled up the middle. Casey McElroy followed and sent a line drive off the wall in rightfield, allowing Fradejas to move to third, with McElroy forced to hold at first after a nice play by Riddle in rightfield. Dan Gamache followed and lined a single up the middle to score Fradejas. After a first-pitch ball, Caldwell smacked a single to leftfield, scoring McElroy. Littrell got out of the jam with a ground-ball double play, started by McCarthy at third base.
The Wildcats responded in the bottom of the first, evening the game back at 2-2 after a two-out error in leftfield by Auburn. After Wright struck out to lead off, Black smacked a single to centerfield, with Kapteyn following and reaching on a fielder's choice with Black out at second base. That brought J.T. Riddle to the plate, who lofted a fly ball into leftfield that bounced out of Bobby Andrews glove, allowing Kapteyn to score from first. McCarthy then notched a two-out RBI with a single to left, allowing Riddle to score from second.
The Tigers regained the lead with a leadoff, solo homer in the top of the fourth inning, as Caldwell connected on a 1-0 offering from Littrell, sending it into the deck in right-centerfield for his fourth homer of the year.
UK hit a pair of solo homers in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game and regain the lead. McCarthy connected on his team-high equaling fourth homer of the year and then Reber smoked his second career homer into the deck in right-centerfield to give UK a 4-3 lead.
The Wildcats added to its lead with two runs in the fifth inning, taking a 6-3 lead. Matt Reida led off with a walk and Wright scored him with a no-doubt bomb over the right-centerfield fence.
The Tigers jumped all over Littrell in the sixth inning, plating four runs on five hits to take a 7-6 lead. Gamache reached on a one-out single and Caldwell belted his second homer in as many at bats, sending his fifth homer of the year over the leftfield fence. Gilmer then singled up the middle and after a hard-hit line drive to Wright in leftfield for the second out, Simpson doubled into left-centerfield, putting two in scoring position for Justin Hargett, who drove them both in with a single up the middle.
AU added to its lead with a two-run homer in the seventh inning, as Wijas walked Fradejas as the first hitter he faced and McElroy belted a homer into the deck in right-centerfield, giving AU a 9-6 lead.
The Tigers added to its lead with a run in the top of the eighth inning, as Simpson pounded his second double of the game off the rightfield fence, scoring on a bunt single from Andrews.
In the ninth inning, AU added to its lead with five runs, as Caldwell hit a three-run homer - his third homer of the game - and Simpson hit his first homer of the year, a two-run job.
UK rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Reber singled to lead off and Adams drew a walk. Wright then hit a line-drive into the gap in right-centerfield, with Wright having to stop at second and Reber scoring. After Black struck out, Kapteyn doubled down the line to score Adams.
GAME NOTES: Freshman Dallen Reber returned to the lineup after being out of the lineup due to injury, batting No. 7 and starting as the designated hitter ... Freshman Corey Littrell made his seventh career start and his second career SEC start ... After allowing two runs in the top of the first inning, Littrell allowed the first runs allowed in the first inning in his career, having previously tossed six shutout first innings in his first six starts ... With a two-out RBI in the first inning, Thomas McCarthy drove in his team-high tying ninth two-out RBI of the year ... McCarthy has now reached base safely in 30 of 32 games and in 30 of 31 starts ... McCarthy hit his fourth homer of the year in the fourth inning to tie the game at 3-3 ... Reber smacked his second career homer to give UK the lead in the fourth inning ... Chad Wright belted his fourth homer of the year, equaling a career season high ... Wright has now reached base safely in 29 of UK's 32 games this year ... After allowing seven runs and 11 hits through six innings, Littrell set new career highs for runs and innings pitched ... The UK bullpen has allowed 14 runs in the last two games in relief of its starting pitchers ... After allowing runs in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth inning, it marked the first time this year UK has allowed a run in four consecutive innings ... Kapteyn hit his sixth double of the year in the ninth inning.