AUBURN, Ala. -- The 29th-ranked Auburn Tigers scored in all but two innings, as the Tigers posted a series-opening 13-6 win over the Kentucky Wildcats, in front of 2,662 fans on Friday night at Plainsman Park.
Kentucky (22-16, 5-11 Southeastern Conference) was led offensively by junior Lance Ray, who had three doubles in his four at bats. Over his last three games - all starts - Ray has reached base safely in 11 of 13 plate appearances. Braden Kapteyn hit his fifth homer of the year, going 2-for-4 with two RBI.
UK starter Logan Darnell (3-3) allowed a career-high nine runs in 6.1 innings of work, walking two and striking out seven. Darnell was relieved by freshman Walter Wijas, who in his first seven pitches of the game, allowed two homers and a double into the gap. Wijas finished his outing with three hits and four runs allowed, issuing a walk without getting an out. Wijas was relieved by Kapteyn who got two outs and allowed one hit. Mike Kaczmarek tossed a perfect bottom of the eighth, striking out one.
Auburn (26-13, 9-7 SEC) starter Cory Luckie (5-2) lasted 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and four runs, not issuing a walk and striking out five. Luckie was relieved by Michael Hurst, a submarine right-hander, who gave up a hit and a walk without recording an out. Closer Austin Hubbard was then called on in the sixth inning. Hubbard worked the final 3.1 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, walking two and striking out three in his fourth save of the season.
The series will resume Saturday at 12 p.m. ET at Plainsman Park. The game time was pushed up in order to beat the rain, expected later Saturday afternoon. Fans can hear the game live in Lexington on WGVN 1580-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to complete coverage on UKathletics.com.
Auburn jumped on the board at its first opportunity, as Justin Fradejas led off with a bloop single into right-centerfield, moving to third after Trent Mummey singled through the right side of the infield on the first pitch from Darnell. After Brian Fletcher popped out in foul ground, Hunter Morris drilled a 2-0 offering from Darnell into right-centerfield, with the ball bouncing out of UK centerfielder Keenan Wiley's diving glove, with Fredejas and Mummey motoring home and Morris moving to third on a two-RBI triple. Catcher Tony Caldwell drove in Morris with a high sacrifice fly into deep rightfield.
The Wildcats answered with two runs on two hits in the top of the second, cutting the Auburn lead to 3-2. After Gunner Glad popped out in foul territory, Ray drilled a double off the wall in rightfield, his third two-bagger of the year. Kapteyn followed and took a 3-1 offering to centerfield, the deepest part of the ballpark, for his fifth homer of the year, scoring Ray and cutting the AU lead.
Auburn added a run to its lead in the bottom of the second, as shortstop Casey McElroy led off with a full-count walk and Wes Gilmer singled to centerfield, moving McElroy to scoring position. After a Darnell wild pitch moved both runners to scoring position for Justin Hargett, who drilled a sacrifice fly to rightfield, scoring McElroy from third base.
The Tigers continued to take advantage of Darnell's control issues, plating two runs on a hit in the bottom of the third. Fletcher led off with a single up the middle, just out of reach of a diving Black. Morris then drew a walk and Caldwell got hit by a pitch, attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt. With the bases loaded, Crede Simpson flied out to leftfield, good for a sacrifice fly that scored Fletcher from third. A double steal for the heavy footed Morris and Caldwell put both runners in scoring position and McElroy grounded out to UK's shortstop Taylor Black, allowing Morris to score. Darnell got out of the inning with a swinging strikeout from Gilmer.
Auburn got a run in the bottom of the fourth, stretching its lead to 7-2. After Darnell efficiently got the first two hitters in the inning out, Mummey drilled a two-strike pitch for a line-drive home run, just edging the fence in down the right-field line for his sixth homer in just 10 games this season and his third homer in his last three SEC games.
UK got a run back in the top of the fifth, cutting the Auburn lead to 7-3. After Kapteyn led off with a dribbler to first base for the first out, Wiley executed a perfect bunt single down the first-base line. Marcus Nidiffer then found the gap in left-centerfield, scoring Wiley from first. The double was Nidiffer's fifth of the season.
The Wildcats had a great chance in the top of the sixth, plating one run but leaving the bases loaded with the go-ahead run at the plate. With two out, Glad pelted the monster in leftfield for his ninth double of the year, bringing the hot-swinging Ray to the plate. Ray found the gap in right-centerfield, scoring Glad with his second double of the game. Kapteyn followed and reached on an infield single and Wiley drew a full-count walk to load the bases for Nidiffer. Auburn turned to its closer, Hubbard, who struck out Nidiffer to lead the bases loaded on a 2-2 count.
Auburn got two runs back in the bottom of the sixth inning on a crazy sequence, taking a 9-4 lead. Gilmer led off with a single hit into centerfield. Hargett followed and hit a crisp double play ball right at Bisson, who tossed a hard ball to Black at short, but the ball sailed out of his glove and into no-man's land on the left side of the infield. With UK third sacker Andy Burns rushing to get to the ball and both runners safe, Gilmer made a heads up play and hustled to third base. Darnell attempted to get Gilmer with a throw to third but Burns was not on the bag, with the throw sailing into leftfield, allowing Gilmer to score and Hargett to move to second. On the next pitch, Darnell uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Hargett to move to third, with Fradejas scoring him with a single through the drawn-in infield.
UK got a run back in the top of the seventh, as Black led off with a single up the middle. Chris Bisson followed and with Black in motion with the pitch, drilled a single through the right side, moving Black to third. Burns then scored Black with a sacrifice fly to rightfield. With Bisson at second after a stolen base, Wright drilled a ball into the hole on the left side of the infield, with McElroy sliding to get to the ball. Bisson was moving on contact and when he saw McElroy pinned the ball on the infield dirt, he stopped, getting caught in a run down, with Wright moving to second on the out. Glad then grounded out to end the frame.
Auburn broke the game open in the bottom of the seventh inning, plating four runs to stretch its lead to 13-5. After Morris led off popping out, Darnell was pulled from the game in favor of Wijas with the bases clear and one out. Wijas served up a no-doubt homer over the left-field fence to Caldwell on the first pitch he threw. Pinch hitter Kevin Patterson then watched three pitches from Wijas before he hit a no-doubt homer off the batter's eye in centerfield. McElroy then watched a strike, before he pelted the gap with a double into right-centerfield. Wijas then issued a walk to Gilmer to bring up Hargett. Hargett hit a perfect double play ball to Bisson but his throw was wide and bounced off of Black's glove, allowing the bases to be loaded for Fradejas, who scored one with a sacrifice fly off Kapteyn, who replaced Wijas. Mummey then score another with an RBI single through the right side. Kapteyn then got Fletcher to fly out to end the decisive frame.
The Wildcats continued to battle in the top of the ninth, as Black drew a lead-off walk and Bisson followed with a walk of his own, with Black moving to third on a pair of wild pitches. Black came around to score on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 13-6.