LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Freshman Taylor Rogers tossed 7.2 innings and allowed only single runs in the first and eighth innings to lead the Kentucky baseball team to an 8-2 win over No. 19 Alabama, securing the series win, on a gorgeous Saturday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers was brilliant in his fourth career Southeastern Conference start. After allowing a single run in the top of the first inning, Rogers posted six consecutive scoreless innings, before allowing the second Alabama run in the top of the eighth inning, his final frame of work. Rogers (4-3) finished with 7.2 innings pitched, five hits and two runs allowed, not issuing a walk and striking out five. He forced 13 ground outs in the game and is now averaging 13.86 ground-outs forced per nine innings pitched.
Kentucky (21-11, 4-7 Southeastern Conference) had another blistering performance at the plate, charting eight runs on 13 hits. The Wildcats had another standout performance from junior shortstop Taylor Black, who tied a career-high with three hits and three RBI, hitting his third home run of the season. Senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley totaled three hits for the second consecutive game, driving in two RBI, factoring into four of the five innings UK plated runs. Wiley finished 3-for-4 with his first triple of the season and the third of his career, also adding a stolen base. In the series, Wiley is batting 6-for-7 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, two RBI and a triple, stealing one base.
UK junior Lance Ray also had an excellent game, going 2-for-4 with his second double and second home run of the season, while Andy Burns and Chris Bisson each charted two hits. Braden Kapteyn added a hit and senior Gunner Glad drew a walk, going 0-for-3 and snapping his career-long 11-game hitting streak. Ray drew the starting assignment in leftfield for the first time in his career, as UK standout leadoff man, leftfielder and leading hitter Chad Wright was unavailable in the game due to illness.
After pulling Rogers in the eighth inning, UK turned to right-handed closer Matt Little, who tossed the final 1.1 innings to secure the win for the Wildcats, Little struck out two and walked one in his team-best 15th appearance of the season. On the year, Little owns a 2.70 ERA in 26.2 innings, saving five games and allowing only 11 hits in 26.2 innings, striking out 38.
The win secures UK’s first series victory of the season and lifts UK to its sixth win over a top 25 opponent this season. Alabama entered the weekend ranked as high as No. 19 in the latest Rivals.com/Yahoo! Sports top 25 poll, also being ranked in the four other major polling services.
The series win over Alabama was UK’s first since sweeping the Tide in 2008 in the SEC opening series in Lexington. Last season, Alabama claimed the series with a 3-2 win in the rubber match Sunday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama (20-11, 4-7 SEC) starter Jimmy Nelson (4-1) took his first loss of the season, allowing 10 hits and seven runs – six earned – in 5.2 innings of work. Nelson walked one and struck out five, before turning it over to Jonathan Smart and Tyler White out of the Alabama bullpen. Smart tossed 1.1 innings, allowing three hits, one walk and one runs, while White tossed a scoreless eighth inning.
The series will conclude Sunday at 1 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, detailing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM. UK will send sophomore right-hander Alex Meyer (4-2, 7.64 ERA) to the mound Sunday, facing off with Alabama freshman lefty Taylor Wolfe (2-1, 4.01 ERA).
Alabama got on the board in the top of the first inning, plating one run to take a 1-0 lead without recording a hit. On the first pitch of the game, Rogers’ inside fastball missed, plunking lead-off man Jon Kelton. After Taylor Dugas laid down a sacrifice bunt and Josh Rutledge moved Kelton to third with a groundout to second base, a wild pitch scored Kelton during Clay Jones plate appearance.
UK answered with a run in the bottom of the first, evening the game at 1-1. Bisson led off the inning, hanging a double down the opposite-field line on the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning. After Wiley reached on a swinging bunt down the first-base line, Bisson scampered to third base. Glad scored Bisson with a sacrifice fly into left-centerfield, Glad’s second sacrifice fly of the year.
The Wildcats added to the lead with three runs on two hits and one Alabama error in the bottom of the second. Kapteyn led off with a four-pitch walk and Black belted a 3-1 offering from Nelson high and over the left-field fence, just sneaking inside the foul pole for Black’s third homer of the year. After freshman backstop Luke Maile popped out, Ray doubled down the left-field line, moving to third after Bisson reached on Rutledge’s error at shortstop. Wiley scored Ray with a sacrifice fly to rightfield.
In the bottom of the fifth, UK tacked on another run, stretched its lead to 5-1. Wiley led off the inning with a single to centerfield and Burns scored him with a double down the left-field line, Burns’ fifth double of the season.
UK added two runs in the bottom of the sixth, stretching its lead to 7-1. With two outs, Ray belted his second homer of the year, a towering jack that flirted with the foul pole down the right-field line. Bisson followed and skidded a single through the right side of the infield, scoring after Wiley found the gap in left-centerfield, motoring all the way around to third base for his first triple of the year.
In the seventh inning, UK added a run, as Burns led off with a single and was out after Cory Farris hit into a fielder’s choice. Kapteyn then singled to left field and Black notched his third RBI of the game with a single into left-centerfield, scoring Farris.
Alabama got a run back in the top of the eighth, cutting the lead to 8-2 and chasing Rogers from the game. Rogers led off Kelton and Dugas by hitting them both with first pitches. He then got Josh Rutledge to hit into line-drive out to leftfield, with Ray’s throw to get a tagging Kelton at third going as his first outfield assist. Clay Jones then scored Dugas with a single into left-centerfield.