BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Trevor Lowe pulled a line drive over the leftfield fence and around the foul pole to lead off the bottom of the 18th inning, lifting Western Kentucky to a 3-2 win over No. 24 Kentucky, in the longest game played in college baseball in 2013, on Tuesday night in front of 3,571 at Bowling Green Ballpark.
Kentucky (24-16) and Western Kentucky battled in a pitcher’s duel throughout the game, with WKU taking a 1-0 lead with a run in the third and UK answering on the strength of Austin Cousino’s solo homer to lead off the top of the sixth inning. UK took advantage of a three-base, two-out error in the top of the 13th to take a 2-1 lead before WKU took advantage of a two-out fielding error to score the game-tying from third in the bottom of the 13th.
In the bottom of the 14th, WKU got its first two runners on with a hit by pitch and a five-pitch walk, prompting UK to go to freshman righty Zach Strecker to face slugging WKU first baseman Ryan Huck. After allowing a Huck walk, Strecker got out of the jam without the walk-off run scoring. Strecker went on to work scoreless innings in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th innings, before Lowe got a laser home run just over the fence in leftfield, bending around the foul pole.
UK had its best chance to win the game in the top of the 17th inning, as Matt Reida – whose two-out error in the bottom of the 13th inning allowed the game-tying run to score from third base – tripled to lead off the frame. After a pitching change due to injury, UK’s Jeff Boehm and Cousino struck out with the infield in and Max Kuhn grounded out with the bases loaded to stretch into the 18th.
The marathon is the second UK game in the last two years that has stretched to historic proportions, as UK and Kent State played a 21-inning game in the opener of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the longest game in Southeastern Conference history.
The game on Tuesday lasted five hours and 57 minutes, saw a total of 33 runners left on base between the two games and had heroic pitching performances in relief.
UK collected eight hits in the game, with Cousino adding a homer and a double and Reed going 2-for-6 with a double and a pair of intentional walks in the extra frames. UK also got hits from Reida, J.T. Riddle, Micheal Thomas and Lucas Witt.
UK freshman starter Kyle Cody worked his second quality start of the year, tossing six strong innings on a career-high 97 pitches. The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder allowed four hits and one run, walking one and equaling his career-high with seven strikeouts. After allowing a run on a two-out double in the third, Cody did not allow a hit over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, surrendering just a two-out walk.
Sophomore right-hander Chandler Shepherd took over in relief of Cody to start the seventh, working two innings into the ninth, allowing one hit and two walks, striking out two. Senior Walter Wijas worked 1.1 innings, allowing a hit no runs, walking two. Junior Trevor Gott came on with the go-ahead run in scoring position and one out in the 10th inning, getting two strikeouts to escape the jam. Gott worked a heroic 3.1 innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run, striking out five.
Freshman Ryne Combs came on in the 13th with the game-winning run at third, getting a strikeout to end the threat. Combs got the out in the 13th, walking one and hitting one.
Strecker (1-1) came on in a two-one, no-out jam in the 14th inning and after a walk loaded the bases with no one out, getting out of the jam unscathed to stretch the game further into extras. Strecker suffered the hard-luck loss, working four innings, allowing four hits and the solo homer in the 18th, walking one and striking out five.
Western Kentucky (22-19) starter Justin Hageman worked 5.1 innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking two and striking out four. He was replaced in the sixth by sidearm southpaw Austin Clay, who turned in 3.1 perfect innings in relief, striking out two. Closer Taylor Haydel took over with two outs in the ninth, working a shutout frame. Ian Tompkins worked 2.1 innings, allowing no baserunners and striking out one. Josh Bartley worked four innings, allowing just an unearned run, with WKU then turning to Jack Thompson and Brennan Pearson. Pearson (2-0) had a heroic outing as he used his secondary stuff in the leadoff triple jam in the 17th to escape the threat, striking out four UK hitters and allowing just one walk.
UK will return to action on Thursday, traveling to No. 16 Ole Miss for a three-game series starting at 7:30 p.m. ET in a national telecast on ESPNU.
The Hilltoppers got on the board in the third inning as Steve Hodgins tripled off the wall in right-centerfield with one out. After a clutch pop out for the second out, Scott Wilcox delivered the key hit with a two-out double off the wall in rightfield, scoring Hodgins with the first run of the game.
UK answered in the top of the sixth inning, as Cousino drilled a first-pitch over the rightfield fence, tying the game at 1-1. It was Cousino’s fifth homer of the year and the 14th of his career.
With two outs in the top of the 13th, Cousino lofted a full-count pop up to rightfield, with Jordan Cessna misplaying the ball for a three-base error. With a 1-2 count, Reed then smashed a double down the leftfield line, scoring Cousino with the go-ahead run.
WKU answered in the bottom of the 13th, getting a pair of singles to leadoff the inning, as Matthew Paculan singled up the middle and Griffith Roark singled off Gott. After a sacrifice bunt pushed the tying run to third base, Blake Crabtree hit into a ground ball at Reed, with the runners holding in scoring position. Cessna then followed with a grounder at Reida with two out, with the UK shortstop slipping while coming up with the ball. His off-balance throw sailed into the dirt and drew Reed off the bag, allowing the tying run to score.
• Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle made his team-leading 106th consecutive start.
o Riddle’s leadoff single in the second has allowed him to reach as the leadoff hitter in 17-of-34 chances.
o Riddle stole his sixth base of the year and the 16th of his career.
o Riddle has now reached in a team-high 10 straight games.
• Freshman Kyle Cody made his seventh career start on the mound.
o Cody threw a career-high 97 pitches.
o He tied his career high with seven strikeouts, also punching out seven earlier vs. WKU.
o Worked his second quality start of the year, owning both of UK’s midweek quality starts.
• Senior Zac Zellers made his third career start and his second consecutive start as the leadoff hitter.
o Zellers was hit by his ninth pitch of the year.
• Sophomore Austin Cousino was hit by his SEC-leading 15th pitch of the year in the first inning.
o Cousino hit his fifth homer of the year and the 14th of his career in the sixth.
It was Cousino’s second leadoff homer of the year and his first game-tying bomb of 2013.
Cousino now has five homers against right-handed pitching and two homers on the road in 2013.
• S¬¬ophomore Max Kuhn drew a leadoff walk in the fourth. He has reached as the leadoff hitter in 20-of-39 chances.
• Sophomore A.J. Reed had his seventh double of the year in the 13th inning.
o Reed had his team-high 13th multi-hit game of the year.
o Reed was intentionally walked for the team-high seventh and eighth times.
• Junior Trevor Gott worked a season-high 3.1 innings in relief.
o Gott threw a career-high 70 pitches.
• Freshman Zach Strecker worked a career-high four innings, striking out a career-best five.