LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After allowing the game-tying home run in the top of the ninth inning, sophomore catcher Marcus Nidiffer connected on a 2-1 offering from Purdue ace closer Josh Lindblom, ripping a walk-off home run to dead centerfield to give the No. 4 Kentucky baseball team the series sweep with a 4-3 win over the Boilermakers, on Monday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Kentucky earlier topped Purdue 6-1 in game one of the twinbill.
Nidiffer, who relieved starting catcher Tyler Howe in the sixth inning, strolled to the plate after UK senior Andrew Albers had allowed the game-tying home run by Purdue catcher Eric Nielsen in the top of the ninth. With one out, Nidiffer dialed in on the Lindblom offering, sending a no-doubt shot soaring into the middle of the batters eye in centerfield for the difference.
The loss marks Purdue’s third loss of the season in walk-off fashion, the second of the three-game series with UK. Of Purdue’s (0-9) nine losses, five came in one-run games, with six losses coming combined from No. 9 Baylor and No. 4 Kentucky.
Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday with a double-header slated to start at 1 p.m. ET. The game will mark the final non-conference game before the Wildcats enter the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference, facing off with Alabama on Friday-Sunday.
For the third consecutive game, UK battled through a pitching duel of sorts, as sophomore southpaw James Paxton and Purdue righty Allan Donato performed admirably on the bump. Paxton lasted 5 2/3 no-hit innings, striking out three, improving his ERA to 0.57 with the outing. With UK carried a no-hitter 7 2/3 innings before senior Aaron Lovett allowed back-to-back hits. Albers (3-0) takes the courtesy win despite allowing the game-tying bomb, the first homer of the year for Purdue. Lovett worked 1 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and two runs.
Most notably, Kentucky has not committed a fielding error in seven consecutive games, getting outstanding defensive plays from several players, including Chris Wade. Wade, making his 13th consecutive start at shortstop, made a diving snag deep on the infield grass, throwing out the runner at first to save a single. Collin Cowgill, who was ranked by Baseball America as the outfielder in the SEC with the best arm during the 2007 preseason, threw out his second runner of the year attempting to score from second base on a single up the middle. For the year, UK is fielding at a .978 clip (11 total team errors, seven coming from freshmen).
Lindblom took the loss, allowing UK the walk-off, game winner for the second time in three games. Lindblom, considered by many to be a first-round MLB talent and the best closer in the Big Ten, could not solve the bats of the Wildcats, dropping to 0-2 after the weekend. Donato worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs.
Kentucky (13-0) got multi-hit games from three Wildcats, including Nidiffer, Sawyer Carroll and Ryan Wilkes. Wade and Keenan Wiley extended their hit streaks to a team-high 11 games, each posting 1-for-3 days while hitting in the eight and nine holes, respectively.
Preseason All-America outfielder Collin Cowgill, batting leadoff for the first time of the year and the first time since April 2, 2006, ripped his fourth double of the season, improving his batting average to .360 (18-for-50), with three home runs and 14 RBI. Wade, who entered the game ranked second in the SEC in doubles, connected on his club-best eighth two-bagger of the season.
The Wildcats took an early lead in the second inning, beginning with a Wilkes bunt single. Chris McClendon moved Wilkes to second with a sacrifice and Howe moved Wilkes over with a groundout. Wade plated Wilkes with a double into the left-center field gap. Wiley following, ripping a hard single, deep into the hole that Purdue third baseman Dan Black should have held. Instead, Black fired a ball over the head of the first baseman, allowing Wade to score from second.
UK added to its lead in the fifth, as Cowgill ripped a one-out double down the left-field line for his fourth two-bagger of the campaign. The speedy centerfielder, who leads UK with eight steals, took third on a wild pitch and Brian Spear drove him in with a single to centerfield, his 10th RBI of the year.
Lovett entered for Paxton in the sixth, retiring five straight before allowing the first hit of the game. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior, gave up a double to Nick Overmeyer and a single through the left side to Jordan Comadena. Albers came on in relief, forcing Ryne White, the 2007 Big Ten batting champion into a blop single that just fell into shallow centerfield for an RBI. Black followed with a single to centerfield, putting Purdue one run away from UK.
With Albers still on the bump, Purdue’s first hitter in the top of the ninth popped out to Wade at shortstop. Nielsen ripped a 2-2 offering from Albers well over the left-field fence, tying up the game.
With UK tied in the bottom of the ninth inning for the second game of the series, Nidiffer followed a pinch hitting Bryan Rose with his second homer of the season, the game-winning shot off the batters eye in centerfield.