LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sophomore Keenan Wiley’s single through the left side of the infield - with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning - scored Neiko Johnson from second base, giving the No. 9 Kentucky baseball team a dramatic, come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Purdue Boilermakers, on Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (11-0) strolled to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with its 7-8-9 hitters due up. Senior catcher Tyler Howe, whose two passed balls in the fourth inning allowed Purdue’s two runs to score, led off the inning with a single into left field. The speedy Johnson was immediately inserted to pinch run for Howe, and Ryan Wilkes, the UK season and career record holder for sacrifices, moved Johnson into scoring position with a perfectly-placed sacrifice bunt. After Wade struck out, Wiley booted a 0-2 offering from Purdue ace closer Josh Lindblom - thought by some to be a future first-round MLB draft pick – through the left side of the infield. Johnson, leading off at second, had to jump high in the air to avoid being struck by Wiley’s line-drive single, scampering home to score the winning run.
The Wildcats outlasted the pitching duel with the Boilermakers, as both starters hurled gems through six innings. Kentucky junior starter Scott Green, a preseason All-Southeastern Conference selection, worked six innings allowing only four hits and two unearned runs, striking out nine. Purdue starter Matt Bischoff, the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, went six innings, allowing five hits, one walk, and striking out 10.
Wiley was one of four Wildcats to chart multi-hit games, finishing 2-for-5 with the game-winning RBI. Sawyer Carroll, the reigning SEC and National Player of the Week, continued his blistering pace, going 2-for-4 with a double. In the past eight games, Carroll is batting .655 (19-for-29), with four doubles, a triple, four homers, and 19 RBI, swiping 3-of-3 bases. Wilkes and Wade each added two hits and Spear, Howe, and Chris McClendon each tallied a hit.
The game marked just the second time in 2008 that UK had to battle into the bottom of the ninth inning and the first home game the Wildcats had to utilize the full nine innings. The contest also marked the first game UK had not notched double-figure runs, as UK entered the game averaging over 13 runs per game and outscoring its opposition, 136-22. It marked Kentucky’s third come-from-behind victory of the season, previously securing come-back wins over South Alabama and Fairfield.
Senior southpaw Andrew Albers, who led UK with 15 starting assignments in 2007, notched the win, working the final 1 1/3 innings, striking out one and allowing no hits. Senior right-hander Aaron Lovett, UK’s primary closer in 2007, came on in relief of Green in the seventh, working 1 2/3 innings, allowing only two hits. When Albers entered for Lovett with two outs in the top of the eighth, Purdue had strung together two infield singles, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Lindblom took the loss, working the final 1 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and one run.
Bischoff, who was tabbed by Baseball America as the Big Ten Preseason Pitcher of the Year, allowed a lone blemish, that coming off the bat of Wildcat freshman shortstop Chris Wade, who connected on a line-drive homer over the left-field wall in the third inning for his second home run of the season. The homer broke a 0-0 tie, giving UK a lead it would surrender in the next half inning.
Purdue (0-7) took a lead in the top of the fourth inning, as the Boilermakers utilized two passed balls to take a 2-1 advantage. Leadoff man Jordan Comadena led off the inning with a double down the left-field line, advancing to third on a passed ball. Facing adversity, Green immediately struck out Purdue’s leading hitter and the 2007 Big Ten batting champion Ryne White, but Howe could not control the ball, which squirted back to the backstop, allowing Comadena to score. Boilermaker third baseman Dan Black followed with a double, putting runners on second and third. Alex Jaffee lofted a ball into centerfield, allowing White to touch home.
UK continued to trail for the next three innings, finally tying the contest with a lone run in the seventh inning. Wilkes, UK’s senior second baseman, singled up the middle with one out and Wade notched a single to right field. With two outs, Brian Spear ripped a single through the left side, enabling Wilkes to score the tying run.
Kentucky returns to action on Monday with a doubleheader with Purdue, beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Fans can catch the action live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price calling the action on Lexington station WXRA 1580-AM.