LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The No. 1 LSU Tigers plated two runs in the first inning and got a strong starting pitching performance from ace Kevin Gausman, posting a 5-4 win over No. 2 Kentucky in the series opener, LSU’s eighth consecutive win, on a gorgeous Friday night in front of a season-best 3,785 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (33-6, 11-5 Southeastern Conference) suffered the series-opening loss for the third time in five SEC weekends. The Wildcats allowed LSU to jump out to an early lead in the first inning with two runs on two hits and two UK errors, adding a run in the fourth and breaking up the 3-3 tie with two, two-out runs in the top of the fifth. After falling in the series opener in three of its last four weekends, Kentucky has rallied to win the series with wins in the final two games.
The one-run loss was just the third in UK’s 14 one-run games in 2012, as the Wildcats own a 11-3 record in 2012 in one-run tilts. The Wildcats also dropped to 9-5 in games played against top-25 foes, with the Tigers entering the series as a consensus top-five team, ranked as high as No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball. With the win, LSU takes a one-game lead in the SEC standings as the two clubs entered the series opener tied atop the standings.
The five runs would be all Gausman (7-1) would need in his 10th start of the year. The flame-throwing LSU right-hander won his league-leading seventh game of the year. He worked seven strong innings, allowing a season-high 10 hits and four runs, walking one and striking out 11. Chris Cotton took over for Gausman to start the eighth, working a shutout eighth inning, before closer Nick Goody struck out the side in the ninth inning for his sixth save of the year.
UK starter Taylor Rogers (4-2) suffered the loss after allowing eight hits and five runs – three earned – walking two and striking out four in six innings. The quality start was his fourth of the year and the 15th of his two-year career. He was replaced to start the seventh by freshman Chandler Shepherd, who tossed three shutout innings in his second SEC appearance, striking out three and allowing only two hits.
UK was led offensively by a 10-hit attack, with Zac Zellers leading the club with a 3-for-4 game with one RBI. Cameron Flynn added a 2-for-4 game with a RBI and a double, while UK also got doubles from Thomas McCarthy and Cameron Flynn. Michael Williams added a hit and two RBI.
The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be televised live on the UK IMG Network, with Dick Gabriel, Doug Flynn and Brian Milam calling the action. Fans can see the game live on Fox Sports South regionally, in Lexington on CWKYT-TV and in Louisville on WYMO-TV. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio, with Neil Price calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
LSU (32-7, 12-4 SEC) got on the board in the top of the first, plating two runs on two hits and taking advantage of two UK errors. Arby Fields drew a full-count walk, before advancing to scoring position, as UK had Fields picked off but the throw to second base sailed into leftfield. After a fly out to rightfield from Mason Katz, Raph Rhymes ripped a line drive up the middle. Riddle made a nice play to range up the middle and keep it in the infield, with his off-balance throw sailing past first base for a throwing error, with Fields scoring on the error and Rhymes taking third base. Austin Nola then scored Rhymes with a single up the middle, giving LSU an early 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats got a run in the bottom of the second, as Zellers reached on a one-out single up the middle, advancing to second on a single through the right side from Riddle. With one out and a 3-2 count on Williams, the senior chopped a grounder on the right side, with Zellers and Riddle on the move with the pitch. Williams was out on the play at first base, with Zellers hustling from second base to score on the grounder, making it 2-1 LSU.
LSU struck for a run in the top of the fourth to stretch its lead to 3-1, as Tyler Moore belted his second homer of the year over the rightfield fence.
UK rallied in the bottom of the fourth inning, plating two runs to even up the game at 3-3. Maile led off the inning with a double down the leftfield line, his 10th double of the year. Flynn then scored him with a double smashed to left-centerfield. Zellers then singled to rightfield to score Flynn and even the game.
LSU immediately responded to regain the lead, plating two runs on a two-out hit in the top of the fifth inning. Fields reached on a one-out double, with Austin Cousino’s leaping grab in left-centerfield keeping the ball from sailing over the fence for a homer. After a full-count walk to Mason Katz and a fly out to leftfield, Nola pounded a double into the right-centerfield gap, scoring the two with Nola thrown out at third base to end the inning and give LSU a 5-3 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, UK plated one run to cut the lead to 5-4. Flynn led off with a single and Zellers followed with a single to rightfield. After a foul fly pop up from Riddle, Williams scored Flynn with a single to leftfield.