Behind 20 runs – including 13 runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings – the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats notched its first series sweep over the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville in 20 years, handing UT a 20-5 loss on a windy Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Kentucky (38-14, 14-13 Southeastern Conference) got its first sweep over the Vols in Knoxville since 1988, utilizing monster days at the plate from Chris McClendon and Ryan Wilkes. Wilkes finished the game 3-for-4 with a club-high four RBI, including his ninth home run of the season. McClendon reached base safely each of his first five plate appearances, with doubles in three consecutive at bats. The junior third baseman finished 4-for-5 with three RBI.
The sweep is UK’s second SEC sweep of the year, as UK opened the conference season with a sweep of Alabama at Cliff Hagan Stadium
During UK’s 4-0 week, Wilkes hit .476 (10-for-21) with eight runs scored, one double, three homers and 12 RBI, laying down one sacrifice bunt. On the year, Wilkes is batting .380 with 11 doubles, one triple, nine homers and 34 RBI. Brian Spear and Keenan Wiley each contributed multi-hit games as every Wildcat starter tallied a hit. UK finished with 16 hits and an SEC game-high 20 runs, getting home runs from Wilkes, Sawyer Carroll and Chris Wade. Spear finished with three RBI on a 2-for-4 day at the dish.
Carroll and Cowgill, UK’s two National Player of the Year candidates, had excellent days at the plate as well, as Cowgill reached base safely 6-of-6 times, going 1-for-3 with three walks, reaching on an error and a fielder’s choice. Carroll hit his 14th homer of the season, finishing 1-for-2 with three runs scored and three RBI.
Both starters in the game lasted only seven outs before the bullpen was called upon. Greg Dombrowski, UK’s three-year Sunday starter and all-time career record holder for winning percentage, lasted 2.1 innings, allowing seven hits, five runs – four earned – striking out one. Andrew Albers pitched brilliant in relief of Dombrowski tossing 5.2 innings shut-out innings, allowing four hits and striking out eight. Brock Baber closed out the game, working a hitless ninth inning.
Tennessee (25-27, 11-16 SEC) starter Zan Stone worked 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and one run. The Vols then turned to DH Jeff Lockwood, who lasted only 0.1 innings, allowing three hits, two runs and walking one. Ty’Relle Harris followed Lockwood in the pen, working 1.1 innings, allowing three hits and five runs, walking two and striking out one. Steve Crnkovich worked one inning, allowing three hits and five runs. Ryne Simpson worked 1.1 innings, allowing three hits and five runs, walking two and striking out one. D.J. Leffler finished off the game for UT, going 2.2 innings and allowing two hits and two runs, walking three and striking out two.
Kentucky returns to action with a rare Monday game, its final non-conference game of the season with Murray State in Paducah, Ky. First pitch at Brooks Stadium Monday is slated for 7 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 game. In Lexington, the game can be found on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
Tennessee struck first in the second inning, getting an unearned run to take a 1-0 lead. After Dombrowski got the first out, Danny Lima hit a high hopper at McClendon at third base, who quickly fielded the ball and fired an off-balance throw that got by Spear at first base, scooting into right field and allowing Lima to move to third. Dombrowski plunked Tanner Moore with just Dombrowski’s second hit-by-pitch of the year, setting up the double play. Dombrowski induced the double play ground ball, but in the exchange from Wade at shortstop and Wilkes at second, Wilkes could not get the ball cleanly out of his glove, keeping UT out of the double play and allowing Lima to score the first run of the game.
The Wildcats immediately answered with three runs in the third inning, taking a 3-1 lead. After Tyler Howe grounded out to lead off, Marcus Nidiffer ripped a single into left field, moving to second on a wild pitch and to third on a groundout. McClendon scored Nidiffer with his second double in as many at bats – his eighth of the year. Carroll got hit by a pitch and Cowgill scored McClendon with an RBI single deep into the hole. Wilkes continued his hot-hitting week, scoring Carroll with an RBI single into left field.
UT took a lead with a four run, six hit inning in the third. P.J. Polk singled through the left side to lead off and after Kentrail Davis struck out, Lockwood doubled Polk home, with a two-bagger hit to centerfield. Cody Brown connected on his eighth home run of the season, getting a ball up in the win in left field, soaring over the bleachers. Shawn Griffin doubled into centerfield and Lima scored Griffin with a single up the middle, making it 5-3 UT.
Kentucky immediately answered with five runs in the fourth inning, taking an 8-5 lead. Howe led off the frame with a walk and Nidiffer reached on a fielding error charged to Brown, UT’s third baseman. After a Wiley sacrifice, McClendon ripped his third double in as many at bats, scoring Howe. Carroll, hitting from the left side, ripped an opposite field jack into the seats in left field, a three-run homer, his 14th of the year. Cowgill drew his team-best 40th walk of the season, moving to third on Wilkes second hit of the game, a single through the right side. Spear scored Cowgill with a fielder’s choice, hit hard up the middle.
UK continued to pile it on in the fifth inning, plating five runs on three hits, to take a commanding 13-5 lead. Howe led off by getting hit by his NCAA-leading 26th pitch of the season. Nidiffer laid down a sacrifice and Wiley scored him with a triple off the wall in left-centerfield, his second three-bagger of the year. McClendon continued to be perfect at the plate, ripping a single up the middle to score Wiley. Carroll got hit by his second pitch of the game and Cowgill drew his second consecutive walk. Wilkes hit into an RBI fielders choice and Spear scored two with a double into the left-centerfield gap, making it 13-5 Wildcats.
The Wildcats again put up five runs in the seventh extending its lead to 18-5, as McClendon reached base for the fifth time in as many attempts, drawing his first walk in the game. Carroll followed with a walk of his own, out at second base after Cowgill hit into a fielders choice. On the attempted double play turn from Lima at second, the ball sailed past Gomes at first, allowing McClendon to scored from second on the error. Wilkes continued to swing the blistering bat, ripping his third homer of the week and his ninth of the year, a two-run shot to the opposite field. After Spear singled, Wade ripped his fifth homer of the year, a bomb hit to the same spot Wilkes did, the left-centerfield alley.
UK added two runs in the ninth, as Spear led off with a walk , scoring on Howe’s double, with Howe plating after Wiley ripped an RBI single up the middle.