LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Tennessee outfielder Kentrail Davis broke up Chris Rusin’s no-hitter in the sixth inning with a two-run homer and UT plated a total of eight runs over the final four innings, to take a 8-2 series-evening win over Kentucky in the second game of the Southeastern Conference series, on a overcast Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Rusin set a new career high with 14 strikeouts against the Volunteers, moving into third place all-time in UK history with 261 career punch-outs. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound lefty eclipsed MLB ace Brandon Webb’s 259 career strikeouts for third place in school annals and now currently sits 10 shy of Brian Reed (1991-94; 271), for second place. Rusin, a senior from Canton, Mich., lasted 7.1 innings, allowing only five hits, walking a career-high five and allowing a career-high six runs. Rusin left the game in the seventh with two runners on base, and UK freshman reliever Braden Kapteyn allowed them to score on the first pitch he threw in the game, a Cody Brown three-run homer.
Kentucky (23-23, 8-15 SEC) handcuffed the UT offense through the first five innings, with UT only totaling one hit entering the seventh inning, the homer from Davis that scored Zach Osborne, who had drawn a walk. After the UT lead-off homer in the seventh from Tyler Horne gave the Volunteers a 3-2 lead, UT broke open the game with four runs on six hits in the eighth, highlighted by Brown’s fifth homer of the year. UT added a run to its lead in the eighth, thanks to a P.J. Polk double and a Blake Forsythe RBI single off the monster in right field.
UK struck out a total of 17 Tennessee hitters, a new season-high for strikeouts in a game for the Volunteers. The Wildcats left a total of eight runners on base, with five left in scoring position. UT scored six of its eight runs of home runs.
UT reliever Bryan Morgado picked up the win, improving to 3-1 on the year, with 4.1 innings of relief of starter Ty’Relle Harris. Morgado struck out five and walked four in 3.1 innings, allowing one hit and one run. Harris lasted 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and one run.
Kentucky was led offensively in the game by senior Chris McClendon who was 2-for-3 with a double, single and an RBI. Junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer went 2-for-4 with two singles, scoring UK’s only two runs in the game. Freshman Andy Burns finished the game 1-for-4 with a single, moving his hitting streak to four games, the current longest on the team is by sophomore shortstop Chris Wade who has not played in the series due to injury. Burns, starting at shortstop in place of Wade, was victim of some hard luck, as his three outs came on hard-hit line outs to the outfield.
The Wildcats will return to action Sunday to play the rubber match against the Volunteers with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live by the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of the Wildcats, Neil Price, calling the action. The game can be heard in Lexington on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM. UK will start freshman right-hander Alex Meyer (1-3, 4.67 ERA), with UT yet to announce a starter.
Kentucky scored first in the game with a RBI double by McClendon. The inning started with a one out single by Nidiffer, pushing a ball over the head of the third baseman. With two outs, McClendon slammed a double over the head of the center fielder, scoring Nidiffer. The inning ended on a laser lineout by Kapteyn.
Tennessee (20-27, 7-17 SEC) took the lead in the sixth inning with one swing of the bat, ending Rusin’s no hit and shutout bid with a two-run bomb to right field. The inning started with a walk to Osborne who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Polk. On a 0-1 count, Davis sent a soaring homer over the tall right-field wall, giving the Volunteers a 2-1 lead.
UT posted an insurance run in the seventh inning when Horne hit a towering home run off the top of the scoreboard in left center field. The homer was the Horne’s seventh homer of the season and only the second hit of the game for the Vols, both of which were long balls.
Kentucky put its first two batters on in the seventh inning when Nidiffer was hit by a pitch and Keenan Wiley walked. After a McClendon sacrifice bunt put runners on third and second with one out, Kapteyn walked with ball four, coming as a wild pitch allowed Nidiffer to score. Morgado then struck out pinch hitter Troy Frazier looking for the second out but walked Chad Wright to load the bases for Burns. Burns hit a laser line drive to right field, but right at the right fielder who caught the ball to end the inning.
Tennessee answered getting a run in the eighth. After a strikeout, Kentucky got a bad break on a chopper off the plate that Davis was able to beat out at first. After stealing second, Davis came home to score on a single to center field by Blake Forsythe after Wiley bobbled the ball on the scoop. After the third consecutive single of the inning, Rusin was relieved from the game by Kapteyn with runners on first and second, one out. The first pitch of the game from Kapteyn was sent soaring over the right field wall by Brown for a three-run shot and his fifth home run of the season.
The Vols added another run in the ninth off sophomore Logan Darnell with a RBI single off the high right field wall by Forsythe.