KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Taylor Black had his first career multi-homer game, finishing with a career-high five RBI, as the Kentucky baseball team belted six home runs and posted a 12-8 series-opening victory over the Tennessee Volunteers, in front of 1,918 fans on a gorgeous Friday evening at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Black was incredible offensively and defensively for Kentucky, ending the game 2-for-4 with a career-high five RBI and helping turn two slick double plays to get UK out of middle-inning jams. The native of Easley, S.C., now has seven homers on the year and 28 RBI. Kentucky exploded with six homers in the game, marking the most for UK since belting six jacks against Butler in 2008. UK got a three-run shot from senior Marcus Nidiffer and solo shots from senior Gunner Glad and juniors Chris Bisson and Lance Ray. Nidiffer finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBI. The native of Bristol, Tenn., belted his sixth homer of the year and brought home his 20th RBI. Bisson, Kentucky’s All-American second baseman, went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and RBI in the contest while Glad and Ray went 1-for-5 with Glad gathering one RBI and Ray, who extended his hitting streak to a team-high seven games, had two RBI.
Kentucky (24-18, 7-12 Southeastern Conference) starter Logan Darnell (4-3) was solid for Kentucky, going 6.1 innings allowing five runs on six hits while striking out one. The native of Joelton, Tenn., worked ahead in the count all night to UT batters, throwing first pitch strikes to 21 of the 30 batters faced. The junior has now gone six innings or more in each of his last three starts. Darnell was relived on the mound by junior Nick Kennedy, who lasted 1.2 innings, allowing three runs on three hits with three strikeouts. Kennedy was removed from the mound in the bottom of the ninth after allowing two runners to get in scoring position with no outs. Junior Mike Kaczmarek came in to finish off the game, throwing a quick and scoreless inning, striking out two. Kaczmarek allowed a run to score in the ninth off a groundout, charging another run to Kennedy.
Tennessee (22-21, 6-13 SEC) used five pitchers in the game, starting with junior Bryan Morgado (2-6) who lasted four innings, allowing seven runs – five earned – on six hits while striking out three. Nick Blount relieved Morgado, going two innings and giving up one run on two hits. Morgado was relieved by D.J. Leffer who recorded one out in the game and allowed a run. Steve Crnkovich and Dylan Hochevar pitched the final 2.2 innings for UT with Crnkovich going 1.2 innings, allowing four hits and three earned runs. Hochevar pitched a hitless and scoreless ninth.
Offensively, the Vols plated homers from P.J. Polk and Matt Duffy, with Duffy’s shot of the three-run variety. Polk ended the game 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a RBI while Duffy finished 2-for-4 with three RBI. Josh Liles ended the game with two RBI on a two-run double in the third inning that started the scoring for UT.
The series resumes Saturday at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised by SportsSouth, with the game available in Lexington on Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52). Kentucky will turn to freshman lefty Taylor Rogers (4-5) while UT counters with senior righty Stephen McCray (4-3). The game will also be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
Kentucky scored first in the game when Black lofted a three-run homer over the leftfield wall to give UK a 3-0 lead. The inning started with Braden Kapteyn getting hit by a pitch later being called out on a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Keenan Wiley. Andy Burns then singled sharply up the middle to start the two-out rally. After Nidiffer got hit by a pitch, Black stepped in with two outs and runners on first and second, lofting a high fly into the wind that cleared the wall for his sixth homer of the season. The inning ended on a strikeout of Bisson.
Darnell received great defensive help in the second inning, allowing a leadoff single to Forsythe and then getting an amazing leaping catch at the wall in left-centerfield by Wright. With the wind blowing the high fly off the bat of Duffy all the way to the wall in left-centerfield, Wright tracked the ball down until his back was against the wall and then leaped towards the top of the wall to haul in the catch. Darnell then got a chopper off the bat of slugger Cody Hawn to Bisson who threw wide to Black at second. Black caught the ball before falling off the bag and then spun and threw a fastball to first for the impressive inning-ending double play.
UT plated two runs in the bottom of the third inning when Liles doubled off the left-centerfield wall, scoring Charley Thurber and Zach Osborne. The inning started when Darnell got Cody Grisham to strike out swinging but then walked Thurber and Osborne got a handy hop on a grounder to the left side for an infield single. After Khayyan Norfork flied out to rightfield, Liles sent a laser to left-centerfield in the same spot that Duffy hit a ball earlier in the game, but Wright could not track this one down, plating two runs. The inning ended with Blake Forsythe dribbled a ball back to the mound for the final out.
The Wildcats scored four runs in the top of the fourth, getting a three-run bomb from Nidiffer and a solo shot from Bisson. The inning started with a leadoff single by Braden Kapteyn, advancing to second base when Burns reached on an error by the shortstop. Nidiffer then stepped in with the RBI chance, working a count full before belting a high bomb over the wall in left-centerfield. After Black flied out to shallow center, Bisson lined an opposite field shot over the porch in leftfield for the Wildcats third homer of the game and a 7-2 lead.
UT answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth when Duffy led off with a walk and then Hawn singles through the left side. With runners at first and second and no outs, Grisham just beat out a double play when he grounded a ball to Burns at third who turned and threw to second for the only out. Thurber then plated a run with an infield single up the middle that Bisson was able to glove but had no play at first or second, scoring Duffy. Darnell ended the inning with a lineout to center by Osborne and a groundout of Norfork.
Kentucky responded to the UT run quickly with Glad scorching a line drive homer over the leftfield wall to lead off the top of the fifth. Tennessee went to the bullpen to start the frame, calling on right-handed throwing Blount. Blount was welcomed with the blast by Glad, his ninth homer of the year but shut the door on the Wildcats for the final three outs.
The Vols answered the solo shot by Glad with their own in the bottom of the fifth when Polk belted a laser over the left-centerfield wall. The inning started on a line out to leftfield by Liles before Polk did the damage with his ninth homer of the season. The inning ended when Darnell got Forsythe to line out to left and Duffy to groundout to short.
UK plated two more runs in the in the seventh inning on a two-run blast by Ray. The inning started when Bisson was hit by a pitch, advancing to second on a stolen base. After Crnkovich got outs out of Wright and Glad, Ray stepped up and hit an opposite field laser home run over the leftfield wall, giving UK a 10-4 lead.
Tennessee cut the Kentucky lead to three in the bottom of the seventh inning when Kennedy gave up a three-run blast to Duffy to centerfield. Darnell started the inning for Kentucky, getting the leadoff hitting Norfork to fly out to left. After Liles walked, Kentucky turned to Kennedy out of the bullpen who gave up a single to start his outing and then struck out Polk looking for the second out. With two on and two outs, Duffy smashed a line drive into centerfield landing over the wall just to the left of the batters eye. The fourth homer of the year for Duffy made the score 10-7 Kentucky.
After the Tennessee rally, the Wildcats responded again with Black belting his second homer of the game. Burns leadoff the inning by belting one to the warning track in left and then Nidiffer singled to leftfield. Black then lined a homer over the porch in leftfield for his first multi-homer game of his career. The two-run shot by Black gave Kentucky a 12-7 lead.
UT got a run in the bottom of the ninth inning on a groundout by Matt Ramsey to cut the UK lead to four. The Vols would not get any closer with Kentucky pulling out the 12-8 victory.