NASHVILLE – After No. 1 Kentucky rallied with three runs in the top of the eighth inning to erase a three-run hole, the Wildcats just missed a two-out sliding grab in rightfield that allowed the game-winning run to score in the bottom of the eighth, with Vanderbilt evening the series with a 4-3 win over the Wildcats, on a steamy Saturday afternoon in front of 2,837 at Hawkins Field.
After Vanderbilt’s standout freshman pitcher Tyler Beede, ranked as the top freshmen in college baseball, tossed seven shutout innings in the start, UK pounced on the Vanderbilt bullpen in the eighth inning to erase the 3-0 VU lead with three runs. Vanderbilt then mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Conrad Gregor singled through the infield and Spencer Navin hung a fly ball down the line in rightfield. UK rightfielder Cameron Flynn tracked the ball as it tailed away from him, attempting a sliding grab on the line, with the ball skidding off his glove for the game-winning RBI triple.
Kentucky (36-8, 14-6 Southeastern Conference) suffered the loss on Saturday to even the three-game series with the Commodores. The Wildcats will be seeking their seventh consecutive league series win to open up conference play. The series-finale rubber match is the sixth consecutive UK weekend set to come down to the final game of the series. UK entered the Saturday game holding a one-game lead overall in the SEC and a two-game lead in the Eastern Division.
The Wildcats charted eight hits in the game, with UK getting two hits from Luke Maile and Austin Cousino, with Cousino launching his SEC-leading 18th double of the year. UK also got hits from Thomas McCarthy, Zac Zellers, J.T. Riddle and Michael Williams, with Riddle tying the game in the eighth with a two-out, two-RBI single.
UK starter Jerad Grundy worked 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking one without a strikeout. With runner runners on base and two outs in the sixth inning, Walter Wijas replaced Grundy on the bump, working out of the jam to get the next two outs, before freshman Sam Mahar replaced him in the seventh. Mahar took the loss, allowing the decisive run in 1.1 innings, striking out one. UK also used Chandler Shepherd and Trevor Gott to get out of the eighth inning, with Shepherd allowing the game-deciding hit on the fly ball to rightfield.
Vanderbilt (20-23, 8-12 SEC) starter’s Beede was dominating in his eighth career start. The Toronto Blue Jays 2011 first-round draft pick who was ranked as the top freshmen in college baseball in the preseason by Baseball America, worked seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and four walks, striking out eight. Will Clinard (5-2) took over for Beede to start the eighth, allowing three runs on three hits, striking out two in one inning of work. Jared Miller got the first out in the ninth, before Drew Verhagen picked up the save with the final two outs in the game.
UK will conclude the series on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET at Hawkins Field. The game will be available on the UK IMG Radio Network, with fans in Central Kentucky able to hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Vanderbilt got on the board first with a one-out solo homer into the left-centerfield gap from Spencer Navin in the bottom of the second, his third homer of the year. After getting Chris Harvey to groundout to short for the second out, Connor Harrell singled to leftfield. Vince Conde then smashed a double into the gap to score Harrell for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, Vanderbilt plated a two-out run to push its lead to 3-0. Conrad Gregor led off with a bloop single into shallow left-centerfield, taking second on a sacrifice bunt from Navin. After a fly ball for the second out, Harrell connected on a two-strike single into centerfield, scoring Gregor.
The Wildcats plated three runs in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game at 3-3. McCarthy led off with a single through the right side, taking second on a wild pitch. Maile then scored McCarthy with a single into the gap in right-centerfield getting moved to second after Flynn was plunked by a pitch. After a strikeout of Zellers, Riddle smashed a two-out, two-RBI single through the left side to tie the game at 3-3.
Vanderbilt took the lead for good in the eighth inning, as Gregor singled through the right side with two outs. Navin then lofted a fly ball down the rightfield line, with Flynn’s sliding effort on the line failing as the ball bounced off his glove, with Gregor scoring from first for the game-winning run.