Arkansas beats UK with walk-off grand slam

No. 30 Kentucky fell behind by seven runs after four innings then plated 11 runs to take a 16-13 lead into the bottom of the ninth but No. 10 Arkansas loaded the bases with two outs and down to the last strike of the game, Collin Kuhn hit a walk-off grand slam to lift the Razorbacks to a series victory with a 17-16 win Sunday afternoon, in front of 7,614 fans at Baum Stadium.

Kentucky (18-11, 2-7 Southeastern Conference) entered the game Sunday needing a win to secure its first series victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville in 17 years, dating back to 1993. UK posted a 12-8 win over the Razorbacks on Friday night, snapping their seven-game winning streak, and fell 10-1 Saturday afternoon to UA.

The Wildcats opened up the game with a five-run outburst in top of the second inning, before the Razorbacks answered with eight runs in the bottom of the second, two runs in the third and three runs in the fourth. UK climbed back in the game with a pair of two-run homers in the fifth and sixth innings and the Wildcats took a three-run lead with a seven run top of the eighth inning.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, with UK closer Matt Little on the mound for his second inning of work, Arkansas mounted a last-ditch rally. After Monk Kreder grounded out to lead off, Little issued a walk to Jarrod McKinney and then struck out Tim Carver. James McCann then lined a single into rightfield to put two runners on base with the No. 9 spot in the order due up. Arkansas turned to first baseman Andy Wilkins, who pulled a hamstring in Saturday’s game and was listed as being out for 10-14 games, to pinch hit. Wilkins drew a full-count walk and was relieved by a pinch runner with Kuhn coming to the plate. Kuhn worked the count to 2-2 before drilling the walk-off grand slam to end the game. The hit was just the 10th allowed by Little in 24.1 innings this season and the home run was the first he had allowed in his career.

With UK trailing by four runs entering the top of the eighth inning, the Wildcats began an improbable comeback, plating seven runs on five hits to take a three-run lead. Taylor Black led off with a single into left field and Andy Burns drew a walk. Chad Wright then singled through the left side to score Black and cut the lead to three. Chris Bisson followed and drew a walk and Gunner Glad came through with a two-RBI single through the left side to tie the game at 13-13. Cory Farris then came through with a big RBI single through the left side to give UK its first lead of the game, 14-13. That brought up senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley who drilled an opposite-field, three-run home run to put UK up 16-13.

The Wildcats were led at the plate by Burns, who launched his sixth and seventh homers of the year in the comeback effort, going 2-for-4 with three RBI and a walk. Glad hit his sixth homer of the year and totaled a team-high four RBI, batting 2-for-5, while Black charted a career-high three hits, including a three-run homer in the second inning. Wright and Farris each totaled two hits. Wiley hit his fourth homer of the season, going 1-for-3 with the big three RBI.

UK starter Alex Meyer was roughed up in the second inning, getting chased from the game after going 1.2 innings. Meyer allowed six hits and eight runs – seven earned – walking two and striking out three. Meyer was relieved by Sean Bouthilette, who went 1.1 innings, allowing three hits and two runs. Freshmen hurlers Sam Kidd and Walter Wijas followed, with Kidd allowing six hits and three runs in his inning of work and Wijas allowing a hit and a walk in his frame. Sophomore Braden Kapteyn, juniors Mike Kaczmarek and Nick Kennedy also worked in the game, with Kapteyn hurling a scoreless frame, Kaczmarek getting one out in the seventh and Kennedy got two outs to get UK out of the seventh inning. Little (1-1) was saddled with the loss, allowing the decisive four runs in the ninth, going 1.2 innings, allowing just two hits, walking three and striking out three.

Arkansas (22-6, 6-3 SEC) starter Brett Eibner went 5.2 innings, allowing nine hits and nine runs – eight earned – striking out six. He was relieved by senior right-hander Jeremy Heatley who tossed 1.1 innings in relief without allowing a run, before freshman closer D.J. Baxendale was called upon in the top of the eighth inning. Baxendale looked to be the losing pitcher before the Arkansas ninth-inning rally, allowing seven runs on five hits and two walks, getting two outs in the eighth. Arkansas Friday-night starter Mike Bolsinger (4-1) relieved Baxendale in the eighth and picked up the win, going 1.1 perfect innings.

The Wildcats return to action Tuesday, hosting No. 8 Louisville at 7 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast 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, former UK and MLB Gold Glove infielder Doug Flynn and Ryan Lemond calling the action. Fans can see the game on Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52).

After a scoreless first inning, the Wildcats exploded for five runs on four hits and a UA error in the top of the second. Kaptyen led off with a ball drilled into the hole on the left side of the infield for a single and Farris followed with a first-pitch single through the right side. That brought up Wiley, who laid down a bunt on the third-base line but Eibner’s throw to first sailed high and wide, allowing Kapteyn to score and Wiley reach second. Black followed and drilled the first pitch he saw high over the left-field fence, his second homer of the year and putting UK up 4-0. After Marcus Nidiffer struck out, Burns hit his sixth homer of the year on a 1-2 count, a line-drive jack over the left-field wall.

Arkansas immediately answered, plating eight runs on six hits and a UK error, including the first eight hitters in the inning reaching base safely. Kreder led off with a single into right-centerfield and Travis Sample singled up the middle, with Tim Carver scoring Kreder with a single into left-centerfield. James McCann then plated three with a three-run homer of the left-field fence. Matt Vinson drew a walk and Kuhn got hit by a pitch. Bo Bigham then notched an RBI double into left-centerfield. Zack Cox followed and hit a grounder to second base but the throw to first sailed wide, allowing another run to score. After Eibner made the first out and Kreder struck out, Travis Sample singled up the middle with two outs.

The Razorbacks got two runs on three hits in the third inning, taking a 10-5 lead. With two outs, Kuhn was jammed with a pitch and pushed a bat-handle single into leftfield. Bigham followed and singled through the right side, bringing up Cox. Cox got a two-strike bat-handle single of his own, scoring Kuhn. With the count at 2-2 on Eibner, Bouthilette threw a wild pitch, with Bigham coming home to score.

Arkansas plated three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Sample singled up the middle with one out and Carver scored him with a double down the left-field line. McCann scored Carver with a single into centerfield, with Vinson and Kuhn following with hits. Bigham scored Vinson with a single through the left side.

UK got two runs in the top of the fifth inning, cutting the Arkansas lead to 13-7. Bisson singled with one out up the middle and Glad got his sixth homer of the year and his fourth in the last five games with a no-doubt jack over the left-centerfield fence.

The Wildcats continued to chip away in the top of the sixth inning as Black singled on the first pitch with one out to leftfield and Burns hit his second homer of the day, a line-drive bullet over the left-centerfield fence.