LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Trailing 6-4 after seven innings, Kentucky plated three runs in the top of the eighth, highlighted by sophomore outfielder Bryan Rose’s go-ahead RBI double with two outs, scoring catcher Marcus Nidiffer from first base, lifting UK to a dramatic 8-7 win over the Louisville Cardinals, Tuesday night in front of 2,442 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kentucky (19-16) had a 4-1 lead through four innings, before allowing three UL runs in the fifth inning and two runs in the bottom of the seventh, with the Cardinals taking a 6-4 lead entering the eighth inning. The UK rally started with a one-out walk from Chris McClendon, with shortstop Chris Wade ripping an opposite-field triple into right-center field gap, scoring McClendon and giving Wade his first career triple. With Wade at third, Keenan Wiley drilled a single down the left-field line, scoring the game-tying run. After Wiley was caught stealing trying to move into scoring position, Nidiffer kept the inning alive with a single into left field. Rose’s first extra-base hit of the year came in heroic fashion, a line-drive double into the left-center field gap, with Nidiffer scampering from first with the go-ahead run. UK added an insurance run that proved to be the game-winner, as UL walked the bases loaded and Wade notched an RBI walk in the ninth.
“I was really pleased and proud to see (the team not quit after falling behind) because that’s certainly been an issue for us here the last couple of weeks, but they responded,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “If I know exactly why, I would do it every time. If we would had that earlier in the year – we came back many times but for whatever reason – the last couple of weeks it hasn’t happened for us. I was really pleased to see it tonight and hopefully we’ll continue forward with it.”
UK has continued to dominate the series with the Cardinals, winning 12 of the last 16 meetings, dating back to 2000. UK holds a 22-15-1 lead in games played in Louisville, splitting the last two meetings at Jim Patterson Stadium. The last three contests have seen three drama-filled rivalry tilts, with each meeting being decided by one run. Overall, UK leads the series 63-31-1.
On the mound, UK got a career pitching performance from freshman Braden Kapteyn (2-0), who pitched the final three innings, allowing one hit and one run, striking out four without issuing a walk. Kapteyn’s lone run allowed came in the bottom of the ninth, when no UK defender covered the bag after a two-out groundout to third base, allowing Louisville’s base runner, Chris Dominguez – who had reached on a bloop double down the line – to score on defensive indifference from second base. On the year, Kapteyn has tossed 18.2 innings, striking out 26, posting a 2-0 record and a team-high three saves.
“He’s showing up, isn’t he?” Henderson said of Kapteyn. “He’s growing up. He’s learning how to slow the game down a little bit. He’s approaching it one pitch at a time, he threw different pitches for strikes, which is usually a recipe for success. Typically you’re going to enjoy that outing, and that’s what he did tonight.”
Freshman outfielder Chad Wright had the game of his career, starting in the lead-off spot for the second game of his career. Wright, a Paducah, Ky., native, started the game reaching on an error, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI, belting his second homer of the year. Wright’s two RBI were his first RBI since March 8 against Indiana State. To start the game, Wright reached in four straight plate appearances, coming just a double shy of hitting for the cycle, notching his first career triple into the seventh inning.
“(Chad Wright) keeps getting better and better and better,” Henderson said. “He slows down at the plate, he plays really good defense, he can think – the game does not speed up on him – and I’m just really pleased that he is at Kentucky. He’s going to turn out to be a really great player here.”
Second baseman Chris Bisson notched his fourth consecutive multi-hit game, going 2-for-5 with an RBI. Wade and Wiley each charted multi-hit games, with Rose, Andy Burns and Marcus Nidiffer each contributing a hit. Wright, Wade and Rose each finished with two RBI.
The loss snaps Louisville’s four-game winning streak. The Cardinals were led offensively by All-American Chris Dominguez, who tallied three hits and an RBI, while Ryan Wright finished with a game-high three RBI on a 1-for-4 night. Louisville ace closer, freshman righty Tony Zych, took the loss, allowing three hits and two runs, walking two in one inning of work. Zych, rated as the 49th-best freshman in college baseball in the preseason by Baseball America, entered the game with a 2-0 record and a 0.47 ERA in 19 innings, issuing only two walks while striking out 16.
Kentucky returns to action, hitting the road to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a three-game set in Starkville, Miss., part of MSU’s Super Bulldog Weekend festivities. Fans can hear the action live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. In Lexington, the games can be heard live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
On the mound, starter Clint Tilford lasted 4.2 innings, allowing three hits, three runs, walking two and striking out five. Tilford, a West Paducah, Ky., native, left the game with only one run allowed through 4.2, turning the ball over the Tyler Henry, who allowed two inherited runners to score. Henry worked 1.1 innings, with three hits and two runs allowed, before Logan Darnell relieved him, with Darnell not recording an out while allowing three straight base runners to reach, before Henderson handed the ball to Kapteyn.
The Wildcats struck for a run in the top of the first, but a runner interference call from third base umpire John Bennett negated the second run for UK in the inning. Wright led off the inning working a 3-1 count on Landers before fisting a ball to the shortstop, who bobbled the slow roller for an error. Andy Burns followed, working an impressive 12-pitch at bat before doubling over the center fielders head in right-center field, moving Wright to third. Bisson followed, ripping a 1-1 offering from Landers into the right field, scoring Wright for his team-best 29th RBI of the season. With Bisson on first and Burns on third, Gunner Glad hit a hard ball to the second baseman, who turned the double play, getting Glad and Bisson out on the play with Burns trotting home. However, Bennett called runners interference on Bisson at second, negating the run, further reinforcing Bisson and Glad out and calling Burns back to third. McClendon grounded out to third, with third baseman Chris Dominguez heavily shading the hole between the shortstop and third base, ending the inning.
UK added two runs to its lead to take a 3-0 lead after the top of the second. Wade led off with his seventh double of the year, a hard hit ball to the wall in left-center field. Wiley followed with a bloop single into center field, putting runners on the corners for Nidiffer who drew a walk to load the bags. Rose tallied his third RBI of the year with a fielder’s choice, scoring Wade. Wright followed and laid down a beautiful push bunt to the right side of the infield, scoring Wiley and giving Wright his first RBI since March 8 against Indiana State.
UL totaled a run on three hits in the third inning, narrowing the UK lead to 3-1. After Tilford got Drew Haynes to ground out to lead off the inning, Josh Richmond doubled into center field, his eighth double of the year. Tilford got Adam Duvall to strike out swinging for the second out, but first baseman Andrew Clark doubled off the top of the wall in right field, scoring Richmond from second.
UK got the run back in the top of the fourth, as Wright belted a 0-1 offering from Gabriel Shaw for his second homer of the year. Wright’s two-out, no-doubt blast into the foliage past the right-field fence, was his second of the season.
Louisville struck for three runs on two hits in the fifth inning, evening up the game at 4-4. Tilford started the inning and got the first two hitters out, before issuing back-to-back walks to Duvall and Clark. UK turned to Henry to get out of the jam with Dominguez at the dish and Henry did exactly what he wanted to do, forcing soft contact in the infield, but McClendon couldn’t get to the ball in time, with Dominguez loaded the bags with an infield single, diving head first into first base. Henry then hit Phil Wunderlich to bring home Duvall and Ryan Wright singled up the middle, scoring the two game-tying runs.
UK had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh inning, as Wright ripped his first career triple into right-center field with one out. Needing a fly ball to take the lead, Burns struck out swinging and Bisson struck out looking on a breaking ball from Logsdon to end the UK threat.
Louisville (24-10) plated two runs on two hits to take a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Duvall led off with a double down the left-field line and Clark drew his second walk of the game. Dominguez scored Duvall with a single through the left side and Wunderlich drew a walk. UK turned to Kapteyn, who immediately got an out, as Wright hung a sacrifice fly into center, scoring Clark. Kapteyn then got Jeff Arnold swinging and John Dao to fly out to center.
The Wildcats mounted a three-run rally to take a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth inning. With one out, McClendon drew a full-count walk, setting the stage for Wade. UK’s shortstop delivered, ripping his first career triple into the right-center field gap, scoring McClendon. With the game-tying run at third and only one out, Wiley came up with his most clutch hit of the season, lining a hard-hit RBI single down the left-field line to score Wade and tie the game. After Wiley was caught stealing for the first time since 2008, Marcus Nidiffer kept the inning alive with his first single of the night, a hard-hit ball to left field. That two-out single brought Bryan Rose to the plate, who immediately doubled to the wall in left-center field, with Nidiffer showcasing some speed to motor around from first for the go-ahead run.
UK added a run in the ninth inning, a run that proved to be the difference. UK got a lead-off walk from Burns and three consecutive walks from Glad, McClendon and Wade, with Wade’s RBI walk scoring Burns with the game-winning run.
Louisville nearly pulled off the miracle in the bottom of the ninth, as Dominguez doubled down the right-field line, a high floater that landed in fair territory with three UK defenders converging on the ball. With one out, Kapteyn got Wunderlich to ground out, moving Dominguez to third but no UK defender covered home plate, allowing Dominguez to score from second on a routine ground out to third base. Kapteyn got Wright to pop out to clinch the game.