Walk-off homer sends Cats to crushing defeat

HOOVER, Ala. -- In a tight contest and an immediate instant classic that saw the game tied or the lead change hands nine times over the final six innings, Ole Miss outfielder Michael Guerrero belted a one out, two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Rebels a 8-7 win over 19th-ranked Kentucky in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, in front of 6,853 fans at Regions Park.

After Kentucky had taken a 7-6 lead with a run in the top of the ninth inning, UK entered the final half inning needing three outs with the heart of the Ole Miss order coming up to the plate. Senior reliever Andrew Albers started the inning, allowing a first-pitch single into centerfield from Logan Power. The Wildcats turned to right-hander Scott Green to close the game out with the tying run on. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound junior needed three pitches to strike out clean-up hitter Cody Overbeck, getting the slugger to chase on a low breaking ball. Guerrero, the fifth man in the lineup, got an inside fastball from Green, clocked in the mid-90s with the first pitch, turning on the ball and sending it soaring over the left-field fence for the walk-off homer, his sixth of the year.

The game was tied or changed hands nine times in the final six innings, with the two teams engaging in a slugfest that will go down in one of the more exciting games in SEC Tournament history, a three-hour, 50-minute epic. This marks the second consecutive game that UK has finished its SEC Tournament contest after 2 a.m. ET.

A day after UK scored its first five runs with two outs, the Wildcats continued its clutch hitting, pushing across its first four runs with two out vs. Ole Miss.

Kentucky will face Alabama in an elimination game on Friday, with first pitch at Regions Park set for 7:30 p.m. ET. UK will send its all-time record holder for career winning percentage to the hill, Greg Dombrowski (5-0, 3.67 ERA) to face Alabama right-hander Robert Farris (2-3, 6.35 ERA). Alabama is coming off a 5-2 win over No. 6 Georgia on Thursday.

Sawyer Carroll, UK’s first-team All-SEC outfielder, came to the plate in the top of the ninth, with UK needing a base runner to attempt to secure the second round win that would have given the Wildcats Friday off. Carroll belted a triple into the right-centerfield gap, scoring on Collin Cowgill’s sacrifice fly to right field, giving UK a short-lived 7-6 lead.

UK starter James Paxton, six days removed from posting a complete-game shutout over the Rebels in Lexington, lasted only 3.1 innings, allowing four hits and four runs, walking five. Tommy Warner and Brock Baber came on in relief, with Baber tossing a career-high four innings. Green took the loss (6-4), allowing the game-winning run.

Ole Miss lefty Drew Pomeranz lasted 4.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, striking out five. Brett Bukvich and Jake Morgan followed in the bullpen, with Moran notching the win in 2.1 innings, allowing one hit and two runs – one earned.

Troy Frazier got the only multi-hit game for UK, going 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Chris Wade and Keenan Wiley each tallied club-high two RBI, as every member of the lineup – with the exception of Ryan Wilkes – finished with a hit.

Ole Miss took a 3-0 lead in the third, getting a one-out hit into left from Fuller Smith. After Logan Power drew a walk, Cody Overbeck singled into left, scoring Smith. After Michael Guerrero flied out, Matt Smith connected on a single to centerfield, scoring Power and Overbeck.

Kentucky evened up the game with three runs on four hits in the fourth inning. After a hard line-out from Carroll, Cowgill ripped a first-pitch single through the left side. McClendon got his first hit of the game, connecting on a single hit up the middle. After McClendon advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch, Wade lined his SEC-high 22nd double of the season down the left-field line, scoring Cowgill and McClendon. With Wade on second, Frazier notched an RBI single into centerfield, scoring Wade.

Ole Miss regained the lead, plating one run on one hit and an error in the fourth. Paxton issued a lead-off walk to Zach Miller and when attempting a pick-off move, threw errantly past the bag, moving Miller to third. Freshman shortstop Tim Ferguson scored Miller with a sacrifice fly.

After a scoreless fifth inning, UK tied the game with a run in the sixth inning, beginning a span of a run per inning for UK in the final four frames. Frazier ripped a two-out double and after a Marcus Nidiffer walk, Wiley scored him with an RBI single.

UK took a 5-4 lead in the next frame, as Cowgill reached second base on a throwing error, swiping third base on Ole Miss catcher Brett Basham, arguably the best defensive catcher in the SEC. Spear scored Cowgill, with a single hit through the left side of a drawn-in infield.

Ole Miss immediately responded in the bottom half of the seventh, putting up a two-out rally, that saw Guerrero single through the left side off Baber. Slugger Matt Smith connected on Baber’s 0-1 offering, sending the ball sailing into right-centerfield for his 13th homer of the year.

The lead was short-lived however, as UK answered with a run in the top of the eighth, again putting a runner on via a fielding error, as Frazier reached second on a booted ball by the OM shortstop. After Nidiffer executed a sacrifice bunt, Wiley hit a high hoper to Smith at first base, who attempted to get the tying run at home plate. Frazier ducked in behind the tag of Basham, scoring the game-tying run.

Carroll led off the ninth with his triple, the third of the year, scoring on Cowgill’s sacrifice fly.

Power got a first-pitch single from Albers into centerfield and after Green struck out Overbeck on three pitches, Guerrero put the finishing touches on the contest with his walk-off homer.

Guerrero, Smith and Jordan Henry led the Rebels at the dish, with multi-hit games, with Smith finishing with four RBI and Guerrero adding the decisive two.