BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Collin Cowgill and Ryan Wilkes delivered solo home runs, lifting the 17th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats to a 2-1 victory over state rival Western Kentucky – sweeping the two-game season series - in front of a WKU school-record 3,057 fans at Nick Denes Field.
Kentucky (31-10, 9-9 Southeastern Conference) got the only two runs it needed from Cowgill and Wilkes. Cowgill’s home run was his 16th of the season, good for second in the NCAA, three behind Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham’s 19 homers on the year. Wilkes belted his sixth of the season after hitting four combined homers in his first three years for the Wildcats.
Kentucky has played in front of three school-record crowds in 2008, setting the UK record with 4,009 fans at UK’s 12-inning win over Louisville on April 8. On Tuesday, Louisville drew 3,652 fans, a school regular season record at Jim Patterson Stadium. WKU’s 3,057 fans marks a school record, toppling the previous record of 1,336 fans from the Louisville-Western game on April 1, a WKU win.
The Wildcat bullpen came through with eight solid innings of relief, after freshman starter Mike Kaczmarek was chased from the game in the second, working only one inning, allowing three hits and no runs. Senior Tommy Warner picked up his third win of the season, tossing five innings of outstanding relief, making one lone mistake, a solo home run from J.B. Paxson. Brock Baber, Andrew Albers and Scott Green combined to shut down WKU through the final three innings, not allowing a hit and striking out four over the final three frames. After Albers got six outs and worked a 1-2 count on Scott Kaskie with two out in the bottom of the ninth, UK turned to closer Scott Green who threw one pitch to get the strikeout and chart his second save of the season. Albers threw first-pitch strikes to all three hitters in the ninth inning.
Keenan Wiley notched a two-hit game, with Cowgill and Wilkes registering the other two hits of UK’s season-low four hits. Wiley extended his hit streak to a team-high 13 games.
The win marks Kentucky 23rd non-conference win in its past 24 games, with the lone blemish coming in a Tuesday night walk-off loss to Louisville at Jim Patterson Stadium.
WKU starter Matt Hightower took the loss, falling to 3-4 on the year after hurling 5 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and the two decisive runs, striking out five.
Kentucky returns to action with a crucial SEC series at No. 10 Vanderbilt this weekend. Fans can catch the action live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price calling the action. In Lexington the game can be found on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
Cowgill got Kentucky on the board in the third inning, sending his team-best 16th home run of the season soaring over the right-centerfield fence. Cowgill’s homer marked his third in the two-game series with the Hilltoppers.
Wilkes gave UK a 2-0 lead with a solo home run in the top of the sixth, his sixth homer of the year. Wilkes connected on a 2-2 offering from Hightower, sending a rocket over the fence in the left-centerfield gap.
Paxson, the WKU backstop, got WKU on the board, lifting a Warner offering high into the air, towering over the fence in right-centerfield for his eighth homer of the year, making it 2-1 UK.