BATON ROUGE, La. -- After Kentucky rallied to take a four-run lead in the sixth and seventh innings, the LSU Tigers batted around in the eighth inning for eight runs and held on for a 9-5 win over the Kentucky Wildcats, spoiling a stellar outing from starter Alex Meyer, in front of 9,810 on Thursday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Kentucky (20-23, 4-15 Southeastern Conference) rallied with two runs in each the sixth and seventh inning to take a 5-1 lead, before the Tigers jumped on UK for eight runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Meyer turned another dominating outing, tossing his team-high seventh quality start of the year in 11 outings. Meyer went seven strong inning, allowing only four hits – two infield hits – and three runs. Meyer walked two and struck out 10, his fourth double-digit strikeout outing of the year and his eighth career. The Greensburg, Ind., native now owns 234 career strikeouts, the sixth-best total in UK career history, passing Scott Wade (227) and Joe Blanton (231).
The Wildcats did get a good offensive performance, plating five runs on 11 hits, including a three-hit outing from catcher Michael Williams. Williams hit his fifth homer of the year, adding three RBI and a double. UK got multi-hit games from Chad Wright and Thomas McCarthy, with Taylor Black, J.T. Riddle, Luke Maile and Brian Adams each collecting hits.
Meyer was relieved by freshman Trevor Gott in the eighth inning, with Gott suffering some tough luck after allowing two infield hits and getting one out, with two runs scoring. UK then turned to Braden Kapteyn (0-3) in a save situation, with Kapteyn getting one out and allowing three runs to score. Alex Phillips then got the call trying to get the final out of the inning, not getting the out and allowing a run. Senior Nick Kennedy got the final out in the eighth.
LSU (26-17, 5-14 SEC) starter Kurt McCune tossed a quality outing, going 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, walking two and striking out seven. He was relieved by Kevin Berry in the top of the seventh inning with a runner on first base. Berry got two outs in the seventh, allowing two hits and one run, before Nick Rumbelow started the top of the eighth. Rumbelow (2-0) went one inning, allowing two hits and two runs, walking one and striking out two. LSU All-American closer Matty Ott came on to get the final three outs.
The series will resume on Friday, with first pitch slated for 8 p.m. ET at Alex Box Stadium. UK will send freshman southpaw Corey Littrell (5-3, 5.64 ERA) vs. LSU freshman righty Kevin Gausman (2-5, 4.73 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 Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Tigers got on the board in the bottom of the third inning, as Grant Dozar connected on his second double of the year, moving to third after Ty Ross singled through the left side of the infield. JaCoby Jones then hit a grounder at McCarthy at third base, with UK turning the double play and Dozar scoring and giving LSU a 1-0 lead.
UK immediately answered with a run in the top of the fourth, evening up the game at 1-1. McCarthy led off and smoked his league-leading double down the leftfield line, moving to third after Riddle ripped a single to rightfield. After a strikeout for the first out, Williams pounded a single off the third base bag, allowing McCarthy to score and Riddle to scamper to second.
The Wildcats had their best chances to score in the later inning, as Williams led off with a double in the right-centerfield gap and Adams smacked a single into the hole on the left side, with LSU acclaimed defensive shortstop Austin Nola diving to snag the ball, throwing to third base to try to get Williams. The ball hit Williams on his slide to third, sailing a few feet away. Williams tried to scamper from third to the plate on the throw, getting nabbed at the plate as UK’s go-ahead run, with Adams staying put at first base. After Matt Reida popped out, Wright singled on a hard-hit ball to rightfield, allowing Adams to move to third base. With two outs, Black lofted a single into shallow centerfield, allowing Adams to score. Wright hustled around third base and despite the throw beating him to the plate on the third base side, ducked under the tag, crawling back to home plate after avoiding the tag to touch home plate.
The biggest defensive play of the game came with two outs and a runner on third base in the top of the seventh inning. Tyler Hanover belted a line drive into rightfield, with Riddle – who was pulled in about five steps before the pitch – sprinting to the warning track and laying out with a fully extended diving grab.
UK got two more runs in the top of the eight, courtesy of two big hits from UK’s catching duo. Maile tripled off the wall in right-centerfield with two outs, his 14th two-out hit of the year. That brought up Williams, who hit an absolute no-doubt home run over the leftfield fence, his fifth of the year and lifting UK to a 5-1 lead.
LSU rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning using three infield hits for three runs, as Dozar led off with a walk and Ty Ross singled on a chopper to the shortstop. That ended Meyer’s game with Gott coming on in relief. Gott threw a first pitch strike and got a slow grounder hit to Reida. Maile ranged to his right and attempted to make the plate, stepping in front of Reida with Gott covering first base, with the ball bouncing out of his glove for an infield hit to load the bags. Dozar then scored on a wild pitch from Gott and Trey Watkins grounded out to shortstop to make it 5-3. Pinch hitter Mike Lowery then hit a grounder at Black at shortstop, with the ball bouncing awkwardly off the lip of the grass, with Black having to adjust to the wild hop, going as the third infield hit of the inning. UK turned to Kapteyn, who allowed a double to Mahtook to put two in scoring position. Kapteyn then struck out clean-up hitter Raph Rkymes, before allowing a walk to Austin Nola. With the bases loaded, Kapteyn then hit Hanover to bring in the game-tying run and end his outing. Pinch hitter Mike Lowery then singled to rightfield for two RBI and Ty Ross singled to centerfield for an RBI.
GAME NOTES: UK senior shortstop Taylor Black made his 83rd consecutive start, Chad Wright his 50th consecutive start and Braden Kapteyn his 48th straight start … Wright has reached base safely in 20 consecutive games and in 40 of UK’s 43 games in 2011 … Wright collected his first triple of the year and the fourth of his career with two outs in the third … Thomas McCarthy has now reached base safely in 40 of 42 starts this year … McCarthy cranked his SEC-leading 16th double of the year … Michael Williams has doubled nine times this season … Black connected on his team-leading 20th two-out hit of the year … Black has now reached base safely in 15 consecutive games … J.T. Riddle made his fifth run-saving diving catch of the year in rightfield, saving a run and robbing Tyler Hanover of extra bases in the eighth inning … Luke Maile connected on his second career triple and his second this year … Williams hit his fifth homer of the year … Brian Adams drew his 10th walk of the year with two outs, stole second base and then advanced to third on the attempted throw to second base … Alex Meyer went seven innings, allowing only four hits and striking out 10, his eighth career double-digit strikeout outing … Meyer now owns 234 career strikeouts, passing Joe Blanton and Scott Wade to move into sixth place in UK career history … The start was Meyer’s seventh quality start of the 2011 season.