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OXFORD, Miss. -- Owning a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Kentucky Wildcats dropped a two-out infield pop-up, allowing the game-tying run to score and then Ole Miss plated the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, then held on for a 3-2 win in the series opener, on Friday evening in front of 8,676 at Swayze Field.
Kentucky (17-18, 2-11 Southeastern Conference) held a 1-0 lead late in the game, thanks to a solo homer from catcher Michael Williams. In the bottom of the sixth inning, UK starter Alex Meyer – in the midst of the best start of his three-year career – induced a pop-up with two outs and the game-tying run on second base. That ball sailed into the wind and UK third baseman Thomas McCarthy dropped it for an error, allowing the Rebels to tie the game 1-1.
UK had its best chance to take the lead in the top of the eighth inning, as Taylor Black doubled to lead off and was on third with one out with McCarthy at the plate. McCarthy was called on two check swings to fall in a 0-2 hole, took a ball and then struck out. Luke Maile followed and popped up to end UK’s best chance to score.
UK starter Alex Meyer (3-5) turned in the most efficient start of his career but was saddled with the loss. Meyer went 7.1 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs – two earned – walking three and striking out seven. The outing was Meyer’s team-high fifth quality start of the year. UK turned to Mike Kaczmarek with two runners on in the eighth inning and one out. Kaczmarek allowed a first-pitch single to score one run and then a pinch-hit single to score a second run. Entering the outing, Kaczmarek had inherited 23 runners, with only two scoring. After Kaczmarek allowed two hits, freshman Trevor Gott replaced him on the bump with runners on the corners and two outs in the eighth, getting a strikeout to end the frame.
The loss spoils the strong outing from Meyer and a great offensive performance from Williams, the junior catcher. Williams led UK at the plate with a 3-for-4 effort, including his fourth homer of the year. Black collected two hits in the game, including a double, and McCarthy added his team-high 13th double of the year.
UK rallied in the top of the ninth inning with two outs, as Brian Adams reached on a two-out single and J.T. Riddle smacked a single to centerfield to move Adams to third. In a seven-pitch at bat, Chad Wright laced a single on a 3-2 count to leftfield to score Adams and cut the lead to 3-2. Black worked the count to 1-1 before flying out to the track in leftfield for the game-ending out.
Ole Miss (21-14, 6-7 SEC) starter Matt Crouse turned in a quality start, going six innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking two and striking out one. Crouse’s lone mistake came on Williams’ solo homer in the third inning. He was relieved by Eric Callender, who got three outs in the seventh to get Ole Miss out of the jam, going 1.1 innings with only one hit allowed. Brett Huber, the Rebels’ closer in 2010, got two outs in the top of the eighth inning before Bobby Wahl relieved him and got his first save of the year, recording three outs in the ninth.
The series will resume on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET at Swayze Field. UK will send freshman southpaw Corey Littrell (4-2, 5.56 ERA) to the mound to face Ole Miss flame-throwing righty David Goforth (1-5, 3.86 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 on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats got on the board in the third inning, as Williams launched a 0-2 offering from Crouse for a solo homer over the bullpen in leftfield. The homer was Williams’ fourth of the year, giving him a share of the team lead.
Ole Miss evened the game thanks to a two-out error in the bottom of the sixth inning. Blake Newalu led off the inning hitting a hard grounder into the hole on the left side, with Black sliding to his right and attempting a hard throw, but his feet slipped out from under him, allowing Newalu to scamper to first with the infield hit. After Alex Yarbrough laid down a sacrifice bunt to get Newalu in scoring position, Matt Smith navigated a 3-2 check-swing call that would have been the second out and drew a walk. Meyer then struck out Matt Tracy to bring up Matt Snyder. Snyder popped it up on the UK infield, with the wind pushing it from foul territory on the third base line back into play. McCarthy settled under it but the ball popped out of his glove, allowing Newalu to score from second base on the error.
The Rebels took the lead in the eighth inning with two runs. Newalu led off and Meyer got the count to 2-2 after a close check-swing call allowed Newalu to stay alive at the plate. On the next pitch, Newalu poked a double down the right-field line and Yarbrough laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Newalu to third. Smith then drew a walk off Meyer with UK turning to Kaczmarek. On Kaczmarek’s first pitch, lefthanded-hitting Matt Tracy ripped an RBI single to center. Will Allen then singled to left to score the second run.
GAME NOTES: Freshman J.T. Riddle had his 17-game consecutive starting streak snapped on Friday … Freshman Paul McConkey made his 10th career start and his second consecutive at second base … UK turned its 31st double play of the year in the first inning … Michael Williams hit his fourth homer of the year in the third inning, giving UK a lead and evening him with four other players on the UK roster for the team lead in homers … Taylor Black singled in the third inning with two outs, his team-high 14th hit with two outs this year … Thomas McCarthy’s stand-up double in the sixth inning was his team-best 13th double of the year … McConkey drew a walk in a 13-pitch at bat, the longest at-bat by a UK player in 2011 … Black’s double down the line to lead off for UK in the top of the eighth was his 11th double of the year … The start was Meyer’s fifth quality start of the year, equaling him with Corey Littrell for the team lead.