Cats weather Vols, win 5-3

KNOXVILLE -- Collin Cowgill and Sawyer Carroll each homered and Cowgill finished 3-for-4 with three-RBI, as the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats utilized three runs in the top of the eighth inning to break open a 2-2 game, handing the Tennessee Volunteers a 5-3 loss in the series-opener, in front of 1,918 fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Cowgill’s two run, bases-loaded single scored the go-ahead run in the eighth, part of his three-hit, three-RBI performance. The All-American outfielder, starting his first game in left-field since 2006 due to an injured hamstring, strolled to the plate in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and no out. Cowgill ripped 1-0 offering for a single through the left side, scoring Ryan Wilkes and Bryan Rose. Wilkes got the inning started with a double into the right-centerfield gap, his 11th of the season and Rose laid down a perfect bunt single to put Wilkes on third. After Carroll drew a walk to load the bags – Hernandez’s first walk in 33.1 innings – Cowgill came through with the clutch hit screaming through the left side, giving UK a 4-2 advantage. Carroll, who joins Cowgill on nearly every National Player of the Year watch list, scored the fifth UK run on a wild pitch, scampering home from third.

Cowgill led the way with his 3-for-4 day, but UK got hits from every member of its starting lineup, with the exception of freshman shortstop Chris Wade. Sawyer Carroll hit his 13th home run of the season in the first inning, part of a two-run, 1-for-4 day. Cowgill belted his career-high 17th homer of the year, which marked a first at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, as his bomb to dead centerfield sailed over the 30-foot high batters eye behind the centerfield wall, labeled 404-feet from the plate.

Kentucky (36-14, 12-13 Southeastern Conference) got an outstanding outing from its Friday night starter, junior southpaw Chris Rusin. Rusin battled through a 1 hour and 15 minute rain delay, tossing 7.2 innings, allowing only four hits, three runs - one earned, striking out six. Brock Baber worked an inning, allowing one hit and striking out one and senior southpaw Andrew Albers picked up the save, his fourth of the year, getting the final out of the game via a looking strikeout. Albers’ save marked his 12th career, moving him into sole possession of third place in the all-time Wildcat career record books. Lorhn Frazier (1990-93) owns the record with 15 saves, two ahead of Paul Morse’s (1993-94) 13 career saves.

Tennessee (25-25, 11-14 SEC) starter Nick Hernandez took the loss, tossing seven innings, allowing eight hits and five runs, striking out nine. Ty’Relle Harris and Steve Crnkovich each tossed an inning to close out the game.

The series resumes on Saturday with a 1 p.m. ET first pitch. UK will send sophomore southpaw James Paxton (3-2, 3.32 ERA) to the bump to face off with UT ace lefty Brian Morgado (5-3, 3.88. Morgado ranks second in the SEC with 91 strikeouts in just 67.2 innings pitched. The game can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price calling the action. In Lexington fans can hear the game on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.

The Wildcats struck early with a run in the first, taking a 1-0 lead. Carroll belted a 2-2, two-out offering over the right-centerfield fence for his 13th homer of the season.

Tennessee took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, taking advantage of a Wildcat defensive miscue. After Rusin struck out Kentrail Davis on three pitches, Yan Gomes drew a walk. Cody Brown hit a hard grounder into the hole, fielded by Chris Wade who threw a strike to Brian Spear at first base, but the ball slipped out of Spear’s glove, allowing Gomes to scamper to third. Josh Liles ties the game with a double down the left-field line – the first UT hit of the night - scoring Gomes. After Jarred Frazier drew a walk, Jeff Lockwood hung a sacrifice fly into centerfield, scoring Brown.

After sitting through the rain delay, both teams got through the fifth inning unscathed. UK tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the sixth, getting Cowgill’s 17th homer of the season. Cowgill crushed a 1-0 pitch from Hernandez with a vicious line-drive, sending the ball soaring over the batters eye in centerfield.

The Vols narrowed the UK lead to 5-3 with a run in the eighth inning, as P.J. Polk led off with a double off the wall in centerfield. After a groundout moved Polk to third, Gomes scored him with a sacrifice fly into centerfield.