LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Riding a 25-2 home record entering Saturday’s doubleheader, the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats dropped both games of a twinbill to the streaking LSU Tigers – winners of eight consecutive games – 3-1, 12-5, on a windy Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (34-13, 11-12 Southeastern Conference) entered the day with just two home losses on the year – the first game of a doubleheader with Mississippi State and a Saturday game against No. 22 Florida. The Wildcats had not lost a series at home since the 2007 season finale with Auburn.
The Wildcats will attempt to salvage the series on Sunday, with first pitch at Cliff Hagan Stadium slated for 1 p.m. ET. 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.
Kentucky will its school-record holder for career winning percentage, senior righty Greg Dombrowski (5-0, 2.96 ERA) to the hill for the Sunday start. LSU will send junior right-hander Jordan Brown (3-0, 4.30 ERA) to the mound.
UK has not been swept in an SEC series at home since UK head coach John Cohen’s first season at the helm, a setback to the Florida Gators in March of 2004.
LSU (31-16-1, 11-11-1 SEC) entered the series as one of the hottest teams in college baseball, highlighted by a sweep last weekend of then-ranked No. 7 South Carolina. The Tigers continued their blistering pace, getting a 10th inning rally in game one to secure the opening win and exploding for 13 hits and 12 runs in the nightcap.
UK got in an early hole as its Saturday starter James Paxton threw just six pitches – all balls – without recording an out. UK attempted a cadre of relievers following Paxton and none could effectively retire the Tiger hitters, who tallied 10 runs in the first five innings. Tommy Warner (3-1) took the loss, working one inning, allowing four hits and three runs.
The Wildcats, who entered the day ranking second on the conference in fielding percentage, tied its season high of four errors.
Senior Ryan Wilkes carried the Wildcats at the plate with a 3-for-5 performance – including two doubles – scoring one run and adding an RBI. Brian Spear, Chris Wade, Keenan Wiley and Tyler Howe each added hits, with Spear ripping his seventh homer of the year, a two-run jack.
LSU got multi-hit performances from Derek Helenihi, Blake Dean, Sean Ochinko, D.J. LeMahieu and Jared Mitchell.
Tiger starter Blake Martin (3-3) got the win, tossing five innings, allowing six hits and five runs. Jared Bradford finished off the game for his second save of the year, striking out four in four innings, allowing two hits. Bradford pitched well in both games of the twinbill, working in six total innings, not allowing an earned run.
LSU laid it on UK in the first inning, getting a four-pitch leadoff walk from Chris McGhee. Paxton started the next hitter, Michael Hollander with two balls, immediately invoking his early exit. Warner came on in relief and Hollander laid down a sacrifice bunt, fielded by Warner, who attempted to get the lead runner. Warner’s throw to second sailed way high for an error. After Helenihi laid down a sacrifice bunt, Micah Gibbs scored one with an RBI groundout. Dean scored another run with a single into right field. Ochinko followed with an infield single of his own and LeMahieu notched an RBI with a single through the right side.
The Tigers got three more runs in the second inning, as Mitchell lead off a home run into the scoreboard in left-centerfield. McGhee got hit by a pitch and Hollander scored him with a double into the gap, later scoring on a Gibbs single up the middle.
LSU added another run in the third, as Ochinko popped up to start the inning. UK’s steady third baseman Chris McClendon could not field the routine pop fly, dropping in the infield for a fielding error. Ochinko came around to score on an RBI groundout from McGhee.
Kentucky attempted to get back in the game with three runs in the third inning, beginning with a Howe lead off double. Wilkes followed, scoring Howe with a double of his own. Spear scored Wilkes, lofting his seventh homer of the year over the left-field fence, narrowing the LSU lead to 7-3.
LSU stretched its lead in the fourth inning, with two runs to make it a 9-3 game. After Lovett got the first two hitters swinging, he issued a full-count walk to Dean. Ochinko lofted his third home run over the left-field wall, extending the Tiger lead.
UK answered with two more runs in the fourth, as Spencer Korus led off with a walk and Chris Wade ripped his SEC-leading 18th double of the year into left field, putting two runners in scoring position. Wiley scored the two with a single into center, cutting the lead to 9-5.
LSU got to the 10 run mark in the fifth inning, as Mitchell led off getting hit by a Mike Kaczmarek pitch. Mitchell, a wide receiver on the LSU National Championship football team, promptly stole second, moving to third on a throwing error, charged to Howe. Mitchell came around to score on a wild pitch.
LSU got two more runs in the seventh, as Nicholas Pontiff and Hollander drew walks. Helenihi cleared the bases with a triple, his club-high fourth of the year.
- GO CATS -
LSU Hands No. 16 UK Series-Opening 10-Inning Loss
LSU Gets Two Runs in the Top of the 10th to Claim 3-1 Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After battling through a 1-1 pitchers duel through nine innings, the LSU Tigers used two runs in the top of the 10th inning to take a 3-1 lead that it would not surrender, holding off the 16th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the series-opener 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Chris Rusin and LSU’s Ryan Verdugo dueled through the eighth inning, with Rusin tossing 8.2 innings, allowing five hits, one run and striking out five. Rusin issued two walks, his first walks in a span of 13.2 innings. Verdugo, scheduled to start the Sunday game, got the starting nod in the series opener, tossing eight innings of three-hit, one run ball, striking out seven. Jared Bradford (8-4) took the win, tossing two perfect innings of relief. UK’s right-hander Scott Green (5-3) took the loss, allowing the two decisive runs in his one inning of action, striking out the first three batters he faced.
The loss was just UK’s third home loss in the past 28 games, as the Wildcats have posted a 25-3 record at Cliff Hagan in 2008.
Collin Cowgill, Ryan Wilkes and Keenan Wiley were the only UK players to chart hits. LSU got multi-hit games from Chris McGhee, Sean Ochinko and Michael Hollander, each finishing with two hits.
Kentucky got on the board in the third, taking a 1-0 lead on a walk, hit batter and a throwing error. Keenan Wiley led off with a walk and Marcus Nidiffer got hit by a pitch. Bryan Rose attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, which was fielded by Verdugo, who fired the ball over Sean Ochinko’s head at first base, allowing Wiley to score from second.
LSU answered, tying the game 1-1 in the top of the sixth. Chris McGhee led off with a single and Michael Hollander followed with a single up into the right-centerfield gap. Rusin got Derek Helenihi to strikeout swinging, but the runners were off with the pitch, advancing to second and third. Blake Dean got the Tigers on the board, notching an RBI groundout that scored McGhee from third.
Kentucky appeared to have taken a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth. Rose got the inning started reaching at first on a throwing error, charged to LSU’s shortstop. The next hitter, Cowgill ripped a double in to the left-centerfield gap, moving Rose to third. LSU intentionally walked Sawyer Carroll to load the bases, setting the stage for Brian Rose to be the hero. Spear hit a rolling grounder at LSU’s shortstop, who flipped the ball to second to get Carroll. Ryan Schimpf, the LSU second baseman did not attempt to make the turn, allowing Rose to make it home with the go-ahead run. Tony Maners, the third base umpire, immediately ruled Carroll out on runner’s interference, voiding the go-ahead run and ending the inning.
LSU took the lead in the top of the 10th, getting three consecutive two-out hits off Green to stretch a 3-1 advantage. McGhee singled through the left side and stole second. Hollander scored the go-ahead run, a double off the wall in the left-centerfield gap. Helenihi continued the rally, scoring Hollander with a single through the left side.