LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Junior southpaw Taylor Rogers fired a season-high seven innings and senior Thomas McCarthy delivered a clutch two-out, two-run double to lead No. 7 Kentucky to a 4-2 series-opening win over Alabama, on a gorgeous Friday night in front of 2,456 fans at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (39-11, 16-9 Southeastern Conference) will now play a doubleheader on Saturday due to the threat of inclement weather on Sunday in the Central Kentucky area. The twinbill will start at 2 p.m. ET and the first game of the day will be televised on Fox Sports South and C-WKYT by the UK IMG Network. Both games will also be on the UK IMG Radio Network, available in Lexington on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. Former UK star Alex Meyer will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first game of the doubleheader.
The win for the Wildcats gives UK its third series-opening win through its first nine SEC weekends. The Wildcats will be searching for its seventh series win of the year on Saturday in the doubleheader, as UK owns series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 1 LSU and at No. 18 Georgia, at Tennessee and at No. 9 Arkansas.
Rogers (6-3) worked a season-long seven innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, walking one and striking out four. Rogers’ quality start was the sixth of the year for the junior and the 17th of his career, and the outing was the longest for Rogers since May 19, 2011 at No. 4 Florida. UK turned to senior Alex Phillips for the six-out save, with Phillips striking out three in two perfect innings for his sixth save of the year.
With the win, UK has now equaled the second-most wins in conference play in program history, matching the 16 wins the 2008 team posted en route to a school-record 44 wins. Phillips’ save gave UK its 17th on the year, tying the school mark set in 1993 with 17 team saves. UK has also won 39 games in 2012, just shy of equaling the 40 wins from the 1987 club.
The Wildcats got out to an early 2-0 lead with two runs in the bottom of the second behind McCarthy’s two-out, two-RBI double off the wall in rightfield. Alabama answered in the third, taking advantage of a UK throwing error and three hits to even the game at 2-2. UK immediately answered with two runs in the bottom of the third for the lead and the final margin.
UK was led offensively by a two-hit game from Cameron Flynn, who launched his ninth double of the year and McCarthy’s 16th double of 2012. Austin Cousino, Luke Maile, Michael Williams and A.J. Reed also added hits, with Zac Zellers drawing a walk and J.T. Riddle delivering an RBI. Cousino tied the UK freshman school record with his 71st hit in 2012, equaling Chris Gonzalez’s record in 1993.
Alabama (18-31, 7-18 SEC) starter Spencer Turnbull (2-5) worked 2.2 innings, allowing three hits and four runs, walking four and striking out two. Justin Kamplain took over for Turnbull, working a strong four innings, allowing four hits and no runs, walking two and striking out two. Jay Shaw got the final 1.1 innings, not allowing a runner with one strikeout.
The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium in the first of a series-concluding twinbill, the final home games of the 2012 regular-season. Ticket holders can use tickets for Saturday or Sunday to gain admission to either game. Fans not attending either game with tickets for Sunday are eligible for a refund by calling the UK Ticket Office on Monday.
The opening game will be televised live on the UK IMG Network, available on Fox Sports South and locally on C-WKYT, with Dick Gabriel, Doug Flynn and Ryan Lemond calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the radio broadcast with Neil Price live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send junior lefty Jerad Grundy (4-2, 4.08 ERA) to the mound on Saturday to face off with Alabama freshman lefty Jon Keller (1-5, 4.14 ERA).
Alabama threatened in the top of first inning, as Taylor Dugas led off with a 2-1 single smashed up the middle, clipping the glove of Rogers. Jared Reaves then blooped a single down the rightfield line, with Dugas motoring to third base on the play. Rogers then got Ben Moore to pop out softly to Riddle at second base, before turning a 1-6-3 double play to get out of the inning unscathed.
The Wildcats got on the board first in the bottom of the second, as Maile drew a walk in his third consecutive plate appearance to lead off, getting erased on a double play from Riddle. Williams then singled through the right side and Reed drew a full-count walk, with both taking an extra base on a wild pitch. McCarthy then smashed his 16th double of the year off the rightfield wall to score the duo and give UK a 2-0 lead, snapping his 0-for-17 stretch entering the at bat.
Alabama immediately responded in the top of the third inning, as James Tullidge led off with a single to centerfield. After a fly out from Kenny Roberts, Dugas chopped a grounder into the hole on the right side. Riddle ranged deep into the hole but his spinning throw to first sailed wide, allowing Dugas to take second and Tullidge third. Reaves then singled up the middle to score Tullidge and Moore drew a walk to load the bases. Austen Smith then hung a sacrifice fly to right field to score Dugas and even the game at 2-2.
UK regained the lead in the bottom of the third inning, as Cousino was hit by a pitch to lead off and Zellers drew a walk. Flynn then smacked a single to shallow rightfield to load the bases for Maile. Maile worked the count full before chopping a grounder up the middle for an RBI fielder’s choice, allowing Cousino to score with Flynn out at second. Riddle then grounded out to second base to score Zellers and give UK a 4-2 lead.