Behind Brian Fletcher’s two home run game and a solid pitching effort from freshman Dexter Price, the Auburn Tigers posted a 7-5, series-salvaging win over the Kentucky Wildcats, on a picture-perfect Sunday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (26-24, 11-16 Southeastern Conference) claimed the series with a doubleheader sweep Saturday. UK’s series win in Lexington over Auburn marked its first since the 1989 season and its first series win over the Tigers since the 2004 season, at Plainsman Park.
Auburn (28-24, 9-18 SEC) chased UK freshman starter Alex Meyer from the game before he got through the third inning. Meyer, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, made his first start in two weeks after taking a line drive off the calf in a game at No. 21 Alabama. Last weekend, Meyer (1-4) missed his start Sunday against Tennessee, with junior right-hander Clint Tilford filling in for Meyer. Meyer, a Greensburg, Ind., native, lasted a career-low 2.2 innings, allowing three hits and five runs, walking a career-high seven, while striking out six. Sophomore southpaw Logan Darnell relieved Meyer and kept the Wildcats in the ballgame, going 5.2 innings allowing two earned runs, on three hits, while striking out five and walking four. It was the longest outing of Darnell’s career, who went five innings last Sunday against Tennessee. Tilford got the final two outs of the game for the Wildcats, getting a groundout to second and then a strikeout to end the ninth.
The Wildcats were led offensively by solo home runs from freshman infielder Andy Burns and junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer. Each UK player reached base safely in the game, with eight of nine Kentucky starters registering at least one hit. Burns and fellow freshman Cory Farris led the way for the Wildcats, with Burns going 2-for-4 and Farris totaling a 2-for-4 game, including his first career extra-base hit. Burns, a native of Fort Collins, Colo., finished the game with two RBI and two runs scored. It was the 12th multi-hit game of the season for Burns and the seventh multi-RBI game of the season. Sophomore Chris Bisson was also 2-for-4 in the game, posting his team high 24th multi-hit game of the season.
Price turned in a stellar outing for the Tigers, improving to 4-2 on the year with six innings. Price allowed six hits and two runs, walking one while striking out three. Auburn used Bradley Hendrix in the seventh, with Hendrix allowing three hits and two runs – one earned – getting two outs in the game. Closer Austin Hubbard then shut the door on the Wildcats, going the final 2.1 innings allowing one earned run on two hits while striking out one, picking up his 11th save of the year.
The Wildcats will return to action in its final home game of the year Tuesday, welcoming Morehead State for a 7 p.m. ET matchup at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Fans can hear the action live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM. The game will also be televised live on BBSN, with Dick Gabriel, Doug Flynn and Ryan Lemond calling the action. UK wraps up its season next weekend, traveling to Florida for a three-game series in Gainesville, set for Thursday-Saturday.
Auburn jumped on top early in the first inning when Trent Mummey hit his 15th home run of the year. The inning started when Meyer walked the leadoff batter in an inning for the 13th time this season. Meyer then worked ahead in the count to Mummey, delivering a first-pitch strike, but the Tiger center fielder ripped a ball high into the air that landed on the observation deck in right field to give AU a 2-0 lead. Meyer got out of the inning by striking out the next three batters.
The Tigers plated another run in the second inning to take a three-run lead. The inning started with a single up the middle by Casey McElroy, who was out at second base when Wes Gilmer grounded into a fielder’s choice. Meyer then walked Dan Gamache but struck out Caleb Bowen for the second out of the inning. AU scored its run when Meyer walked Justin Hargett to load the bases and then Mummey to bring in a run. The inning ended when the Farris caught a fly ball by Hunter Morris with his back against the wall.
AU plated two more runs in the third inning when Meyer allowed the leadoff man to reach for the third straight inning, the second by walk. After a first-pitch strike to Fletcher, the Auburn left fielder sent a rope well over the left center-field wall for his 15th homer of the season. Meyer then struck out the next two batters, but walked the following two and was replaced by sophomore Darnell. The lefty then walked a batter to load the bases, but escaped the inning by getting a fly out in foul ground to Burns.
Kentucky ended Auburn’s no-hit and shutout bid on one swing of the bat, with a round tripper to right-center field by Burns. It was the sixth homer of the year for the freshman. On the first pitch he saw, Burns took the pitch off the light structure in right field to cut the AU lead to four. On the season, five of the six homers by Burns have been hit on the first pitch of the at bat.
Auburn delivered the knock-out punch in the sixth inning when Fletcher hit his second two-run homer of the game. The inning started on a hit-by-pitch and then a missed chance on a double play ball, as Wade’s throw to first was wide. After a strikeout, Fletcher sent a blast to right field giving the Tigers a six run lead.
Kentucky closed the gap in the seventh inning plating three runs on four hits. The rally started with a single by Kapteyn and after a Nidiffer fly out and a Farris double, Kentucky had runners on third and second with one out. Wright then grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Kapteyn and advancing to second when Farris was caught in a rundown between second and third. Burns then singled up the middle to score Wright, advancing to second on the throw home and finally scoring when Glad singled through the right side and the right fielder misplayed the ball. The inning ended when Wade grounded out to short off Hubbard, but the damage had been done as Kentucky cut the six-run lead to three.
Kentucky closed the gap to two in the eighth inning when Nidiffer hit his seventh homer of the season. With two outs, Nidiffer sent a high fly just over the left field wall in front of the scoreboard and just out of the reach of the center fielders out-stretched arm.