LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Freshman Jordan Cooper tossed a career-high seven innings in his fourth career conference start and Taylor Black, Chris Bisson and Luke Maile each hit home runs, leading the Kentucky baseball team to a series-clinching 9-4 win over No. 20 LSU, the defending national champions, Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (28-23, 11-15 Southeastern Conference) got another strong outing from Cooper (4-4), the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week. The native of Shelbyville, Tenn., tossed a career-high seven innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, walking one and striking out a career-best five. Last weekend, Cooper helped lead UK to a series-evening win over No. 4 South Carolina, going 6.2 innings and allowing only one run in the winning effort.
The win clinches UK’s second consecutive series win and its third series win over a ranked opponent in 2010. UK has now won four consecutive games against ranked teams and owns 11 wins over ranked foes, and a total of 13 wins over teams currently ranked entering the weekend. UK, ranked No. 22 in the NCAA RPI released Monday, owns series victories over No. 20 LSU, No. 4 South Carolina and No. 19 Alabama, in addition to victories over No. 12 Coastal Carolina, No. 19 Ole Miss, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 7 Louisville and No. 29 Auburn, also picking up wins over teams not ranked at the time of the game but currently ranked, No. 17 San Diego and No. 15 Virginia Tech. UK has also suffered walk-off losses to No. 20 Vanderbilt, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 29 Auburn and No. 11 Louisville.
The series win over the Tigers marks UK’s first series victory over LSU since the 2007 season, when UK won two in Baton Rouge. Sunday, UK will be seeking its first series sweep of the Tigers since the 1991 season, the only sweep UK owns against LSU in program history. Entering the weekend, LSU had won five of the last seven meetings between the two schools.
UK got three home runs in the game, with Bisson and Maile launching two-run homers and Black hitting a solo homer, his 10th of the season. The most impressive performance of the game came from freshman outfielder Brian Adams, a scholarship wide receiver on the football team. Adams, making just his fourth career start and his second start in conference play, went 2-for-4 at the plate with two runs scored and a stolen base. While playing leftfield, Adams made a game-changing catch up against the wall, robbing LSU’s Mikie Mahtook of a two-run home run in the fifth inning with UK holding a 6-1 lead, in addition to getting his first career outfield assist, nabbing All-American Blake Dean trying to stretch a single into a double.
The Wildcats got a three-hit performance from senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI. Adams, Black, Bisson, Maile, Lance Ray and Gunner Glad joined the hit parade for UK, each notching multi-hit games, as UK rolled to 17 total hits, equaling the most hits in an SEC game for UK this year. Each starter contributed a hit, as Chad Wright went 1-for-5 with an RBI and senior Keenan Wiley added a 1-for-4 afternoon. Bisson finished 2-for-5 with his fifth homer of the season and Maile’s roundtripper was his third of the year.
With Black’s 10th homer of the year, it marked the first time for UK to have four players with 10 or more home runs in a single season since the 2006 SEC Championship season. Glad and Andy Burns lead the team with 11 homers, while Ray has added 10 homers. In 2006, UK had a total of four players with 15 or more home runs, a first in program annals and just the fifth time in league history a team had had four players with at least 15 home runs. UK has hit 79 total homers this year, good for second in the league, just shy of the school-record 99 homers hit during 2006. Last season, Nidiffer – who owns nine homers in 2010 – was the only player on the team with double-digit homers, leading the team with 10 homers.
LSU (34-17, 12-14 SEC) starter Jordan Rittiner (4-4) suffered the loss, lasting 3.1 innings, giving up nine hits and four earned runs while striking out three. Chris Matulis was the first out of the pen for the Tigers, going 0.2 of an innings and giving up four hits and two earned runs while Mitch Mormann also went 0.2 innings, allowing four hits and three earned runs. Joey Bourgeois pitched the final 3.1 innings of the game, allowing no hits and no runs while striking out three.
The series will conclude Sunday at 12 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium, the final home game of the 2010 season. The game has been moved up from the original start time of 1 p.m. ET due to the threat of rain Sunday. 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, in addition to complete coverage on UKathletics.com. UK will send sophomore right-hander Alex Meyer (5-2, 6.23 ERA) to the mound to face off with LSU right-hander Austin Ross (3-4, 5.43 ERA).
LSU picked up solid offensive games from Dean and Leon Landry who each went 2-for-4 in the contest with Landry belting his fifth homer of the year and plating two RBI. Micah Gibbs and Mahtook each posted an RBI in the game with Mahtook going 1-for-3.
LSU scored first in the game for the second time in the series, getting a sacrifice fly from Mahtook to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
The lead would be short lived as Kentucky rattled off nine unanswered over the next two innings to take a commanding 9-1 lead. The UK scoring started in the fourth inning when Kentucky plated six runs behind two-run homers from Maile and Bisson. After Bisson’s homer gave UK a 4-1 lead, Wright lined out for the first out of the inning followed by back-to-back singles by Glad and Ray with Glad scoring on the RBI double by Nidiffer. With runners on second and third, Wiley then slapped a RBI single the other way to plate the sixth run of the inning and give UK a 6-1 lead. The inning ended when Nidiffer was caught trying to score on the Wiley single and Wiley was picked off at second base.
The Wildcats would score three more runs in the fifth inning highlighted by the solo homer by Black to leadoff the frame. After Maile struck out, Adams singled into right-centerfield, stealing second and then advancing to third on the groundout by Bisson. Wright then laced a double down the leftfield line to score Adams from third. Glad would then walk and Ray would hit an opposite-field single to score Wright and give UK the 9-1 lead.
The most exciting play of the game happened in the top of the fifth inning when Adams robbed Mahtook of a two-run homer. After Cooper got two quick outs to start the inning, Tyler Hanover singled up the middle and then Mahtook sent a high soaring drive into leftfield. Adams tracked the ball to the wall, making a leap at the last second to reach his glove over the wall and catch the ball for the third and final out of the inning.
LSU scored one run in the top of the seventh inning on a solo homer by Leon Landry. Landry leadoff the inning with a solo shot over the centerfield wall to cut the UK lead to 9-2.
The Tigers would score two more runs in the top of the eighth inning, chasing Cooper from the game after he gave up back-to-back singles to Mahtook and Austin Nola to start the frame. UK would counter with Kapteyn to pitch to Blake Dean, who singled to right to load the bases for Micah Gibbs. Gibbs would hit a deep fly to right-centerfield that Wright caught with his back against the wall for a sacrifice fly. Landry then grounded into a fielder’s choice to score the second run and Kapteyn got Alex Edward to strike out swinging to end the inning.