KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Kentucky got a career-high five innings from freshman Jordan Cooper but couldn’t muster enough offense, as the Tennessee Volunteers posted a 3-1 win over the Wildcats, claiming the series on Sunday afternoon in front of 1,800 fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Cooper (2-4), a native of Shelbyville, Tenn., picked up a tough-luck loss, going five strong innings, allowing two runs, all earned, on four hits while striking out two and walking three. Kentucky used two pitchers out of the bullpen in juniors Mike Kaczmarek and Nick Kennedy. Kaczmarek got Kentucky out of a bases loaded jam with no outs in the sixth, allowing only one run and striking out two. Kaczmarek’s ended the game with 1.1 innings pitched, one hit, one run, none earned and two strikeouts. Kennedy pitched the final 1.2 for Kentucky, giving up one hit and no runs while striking out one.
Kentucky (24-20, 7-14 Southeastern Conference) could not find its offense at the plate, gathering only six hits on 2-for-4 days from junior Chris Bisson and senior Gunner Glad and a hit each from sophomores Braden Kapteyn and Andy Burns. Bisson gathered the only extra-base hit in the game with a double to lead off the eighth inning. Glad scored UK’s only run of the game on the RBI single by Kapteyn, who finished 1-for-3.
Tennessee (24-21, 8-13 SEC) used three pitchers in the game, getting a solid start and the win from sophomore Steven Gruver (3-3), going six innings and allowing one run on four hits while walking two and striking out two. The UT bullpen came on in the seventh inning to close the door on the Wildcats, giving UT three innings of shutout pitching from the bullpen. Sophomore Will Locante pitched the seventh inning, giving up a hit and striking out one. Locante started the eighth, giving up a double to Bisson and then hitting sophomore Chad Wright to put the tying run on base. Tennessee then turned to senior Steve Crnkovich who was untouchable in his two innings of work, getting two foul outs and a groundout to end the UK threat in the eighth and having a relatively calm ninth inning for the save.
Offensively, UT was led by an RBI each from junior Khayyan Norfork and sophomore Matt Ramsey, both coming on RBI groundouts. Norfork ended the game 1-for-3 with a run scored while Ramsey went 0-for-4. Juniors P.J. Polk and Blake Forsythe each charted a hit along with sophomore Zach Osborne and freshman Chris Fritts.
Kentucky will return to action Friday at 7 p.m. ET, hosting South Carolina for a three-game set. The Friday and Saturday contests will be televised by the Big Blue Sports Network, with Dick Gabriel (play-by-play), Ryan Lemond (sideline) and former UK infielder and MLB Gold Glove winner Doug Flynn (color) detailing the action. All three games will 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 took the early lead, mounting a two-out rally in the first inning. After Bisson and Wright made two quick outs, Glad singled through the left side and Lance Ray walked to set up an RBI chance for Kapteyn. Kapteyn then hit a slow rolling grounder in the hole between second and third to score Glad and give UK a 1-0 lead.
Tennessee recorded a run in the second inning without hitting a ball out of the infield. Zach Osborne started the inning with an infield single on a high chopper to the left side, advancing to second when Cody Grisham struck out swinging on a wild pitch. Osborne then moved to third on a balk later scoring on the groundout to first by Norfork. Josh Liles grounded out to second to end the inning with the game tied at one.
UT loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the sixth inning off Cooper. Kentucky went with Kaczmarek to try to limit the damage and the junior did just that, allowing only one run and no hits. After Cooper loaded the bases by giving up two singles and a walk, Kaczmarek came into the game and struck out the pinch hitting Matt Hamaker for the first out and then got Ramsey to ground a hard-hit ball back to the mound that Kaczmarek had trouble fielding. Kaczmarek could only get the out at first instead of the inning-ending double play, allowing Polk to score and give the Vols a 2-1 lead. The inning ended when Kaczmarek got Osborne to strike out swinging.
The Vols plated an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on an error by Glad. Kaczmarek started the inning, getting Grisham to groundout to short but then allowed Norfork to single up the middle to get the rally started. With Liles batting, Norfork stole second on a wild pitch that allowed him to advance to third. UK would turn to the pen to bring in Kennedy who would eventually walk Liles. Liles then started a rundown between first and second with Glad chasing Liles. Norfork then broke for home to score from third when Glad’s throw sailed high over the outstretched glove of catcher Michael Williams. Norfork was credited a stolen base at home to give UT a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish. Kennedy got out of the inning with two foul outs.