LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sophomore Keenan Wiley’s first career home run in the bottom of the 12th inning lifted the ninth-ranked Kentucky baseball team to a dramatic 7-6 walk-off win over in-state rival Louisville – its seventh win in the past nine meetings between the two schools - in front of a lively 4,009 fans at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Wiley, an outfielder from Richmond, Ky., needed 215 career at bats to loft the first dinger of his collegiate career. A speedy, lead-off hitter, Wiley ripped Gavin Logsdon’s second pitch of the leadoff at-bat in the 12th, an inside fastball that soared over the 30-foot wall towering in right field. Wiley went 4-for-6 at the plate, with three runs scored and two RBI, in addition to throwing out, from left field, the game-tying run at the plate.
In two career games vs. Louisville, Wiley is batting .556 (5-for-9) with four runs scored, a double, a homer and two RBI.
The walk-off was the second of Wiley’s career, as the left-fielder notched a walk-off single to beat Purdue earlier in the season.
Wiley was not the only Wildcat to chart four hits, as second baseman Ryan Wilkes starred at the plate and in the field, batting 4-for-6 with two runs scored. Wilkes, a former three-year starter at shortstop, started and turned all three of UK’s double plays – in the first, the 10th and the 12th innings.
Kentucky (26-5, 7-5 SEC) improved its record to 7-2 vs. the Cardinals in the John Cohen-era, claiming the past two meetings, including winning four straight in Lexington.
In a wild game in terms of scoring, Kentucky played a season-high 21 players. After using all three of its everyday catchers, Cohen’s club was forced to scratch out a win with its starting first baseman, senior Brian Spear behind the dish in extra innings. Louisville was in a similar situation, having to put in Kyle Cheesbrough, a player it was considering redshirting, late in the game as a defensive replacement to starting catcher Derrick Alfonso, who suffered an injury earlier in the contest. The Cardinals also played a total of 21 players.
The Wildcats got a solid starting pitching performance from sophomore right-hander Clint Tilford, who toiled 6 2/3 innings, at one time retiring 16 consecutive UL batters. Tilford allowed four hits and one earned run, striking out five. Andrew Albers, Tyler Howe, Aaron Lovett, Brock Baber and Tyler Henry closed out the game, with Henry notching his second win of the season, tossing a scoreless top of the 12th.
Logsdon, UL’s reliever, took the loss, throwing just two pitches, with his second pitch coming as Wiley’s walk-off winner. Bob Revesz got the start for UL, working 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs. The Cardinals used its weekend staff in the game, running Zach Pitts and Justin Marks to the mound in mid week, middle-inning work. Thomas Royse and B.J. Rosenberg combined to work five innings, with Rosenberg getting the most work, allowing just two hits in four innings.
Kentucky, the only SEC team to avoid a sweep in conference over the past three years, returns to action, traveling to No. 11 Georgia for a crucial three-game set, beginning on Friday with a 6:30 p.m. ET first pitch. Saturday’s game will function as the FSN Game of the Week, with the Larry Conley and Dave Neal calling the action with a 4 p.m. ET first pitch.
Louisville (16-13, 4-5 Big East) took an early 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the second inning, taking advantage of a two Wildcat errors. Ole Miss transfer Andrew Clark led off with a single through the right side, the second consecutive lead-off single allowed by Tilford. Designated hitter Jeff Arnold worked a full-count walk, but the fourth ball of the at bat skidded away from Howe, UK’s backstop. Howe located the ball and came up firing – attempting to get Clark at third – throwing a ball in the dirt at Chris McClendon, UK’s third baseman. The ball got away from McClendon, allowing one run to score and charging an error to Howe. McClendon tracked the ball down and fired to the plate, trying to get Arnold, moving all the way from first on a walk, but his throw went in the dirt, scooting into the UK dugout and allowing Arnold to go all the way around the bases on a walk.
The Wildcats wasted no time answering, plating one run on two hits. Louisville native Troy Frazier led off with a single through the left side and Chris Wade laid down a sacrifice to move Frazier to second. Wiley notched his first RBI of the contest, an RBI single through the right side.
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, UK got two runs on three hits to take a 3-2 lead. Wilkes led off with a double down the left-field line, his seventh two-bagger of the year. Spear scored him, belting a 0-1 offering to centerfield, just over the centerfielders leaping glove at the fence. The homer was Spear’s sixth of the season.
UK got a 4-2 lead in the sixth, on two hits, beginning with a bunt single from Wiley with one out. Wilkes followed with a single up the middle and after Cowgill loaded the bases with a walk, Spear lofted a sacrifice fly to score Wiley.
Louisville answered to cut the lead to 4-3 with a run in the seventh inning, as Arnold reached on a fielders choice and Phil Wunderlich got a pitch-hit single. Tyler Mickits scored him with a single. Drew Haynes pinch hit, coming up with a single to Wiley in left. Wiley fielded the hoper and fired a bouncing strike to Howe behind the plate, who made the tag to keep the game-tying run from scoring.
Louisville took a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning, getting a three-run homer from Chris Dominguez.
Kentucky tied up the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, getting two runs on three hits to send a tie game into the ninth. Wiley led off with a double down the line, and Wiles followed with a single to right field, moving Wiley to third. Collin Cowgill extended his hit streak to a team-best 10 games, ripping a hard hit grounder at Dominguez at third, taking a bad bounce off the lip of the grass, scoring Wiley. Spear laid down a sacrifice and pinch hitter Bryan Rose hung a sacrifice fly, scoring Wilkes with the game-tying run.
After a scoreless ninth, 10th and 11th, UK got the run it needed in the bottom of the 12th, Wiley’s solo shot, well over the monster in right field. UK had a golden opportunity in the 10th inning with the bases loaded and nobody out, but good defense and timely pitching from the Cardinals sent the game into the 12th.