NASHVILLE -- After rallying to even the game with a run in the top of the eighth, Vanderbilt won the game in the bottom of the eighth with five runs and a Connor Harrell grand slam to post a 6-1 win over No. 1 Kentucky to win the series and hand the Wildcats their first series defeat of 2012, on a hot Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Field.
Kentucky (36-8, 14-7 Southeastern Conference) suffered its first series loss of the year in the rubber match on Sunday at Vanderbilt. UK had won its first six SEC weekends to open play and opened up the series with a 5-2 win on Friday night, before Vanderbilt rallied with game-winning runs in the bottom of the eighth inning in both games to win the series.
The Wildcats collected five hits in the game, with Luke Maile charting UK’s only two-hit game. UK also got hits from Thomas McCarthy, Zac Zellers and Matt Reida.
UK starter Corey Littrell worked 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and walking two with four strikeouts. He allowed the decisive run in the third to suffer his first loss of the year. Tim Peterson took over in the sixth inning with two runners on and one out, getting a pair of strikeouts to get out of the jam. Peterson worked 1.2 shutout innings, not allowing a runner and striking out three. Senior Alex Phillips (5-2) suffered the loss, allowing one hit and one run, walking one. UK’s Trevor Gott allowed his first hit in SEC play on the year, going as Harrell’s grand slam, pitching the three outs in the eighth.
Vanderbilt (21-23, 9-12 SEC) starter Kevin Ziomek was dominating through 5.2 shutout innings, allowing only three hits with four walks, striking out eight. With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, Brian Miller replaced Ziomek and left the bases loaded, working one shutout inning. Sam Selman (6-3) came on with the bases loaded in the seventh getting a strikeout to get out of the jam.
UK will return to action in a matchup of the two teams in the SEC ranked No. 1, with top-ranked UK hosting top-ranked Florida in a three-game series with implications on the conference title race. UK will host UF on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET as part of the ESPNU SEC Thursday Night Game of the Week.
The Dores got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning, as Vince Conde singled up the middle to leadoff, stealing second base. After a pair of strikeouts from Littrell, Tony Kemp worked a full-count walk to bring up Mike Yastrzemski. Yastrzemski blooped a ball down the shallow leftfield line, with UK playing the lefty hitter to pull. Zellers diving play in shallow leftfield fell short, with Conde motoring home from second base for the first run of the game.
UK evened up the game in the eighth inning, as Maile led off with a single to centerfield, advancing to scoring position on Flynn’s sacrifice bunt. UK got a break with Zellers up and a 2-0 count, when Selman balked after tripping on the rubber on the mound, moving Maile to third with one out. Riddle then grounded a slow roller at short, just beating the back end of the double play for the RBI fielder’s choice, evening the game at 1-1.
Vanderbilt won the game in the eighth inning, as Yastrzemski led off with a single to rightfield off Phillips, then Anthony Gomez drew a walk. UK turned to Gott with runners on first and second and no outs, walking Conrad Gregor, just the second walk he had allowed in conference play all year. He then hit Spencer Navin to bring home the go-ahead run and re-load the bases. Harrell then connected on his fourth homer of the year, a no-doubt blast over the fence in leftfield, the first hit Gott had allowed in conference play all year.