LEXINGTON, Ky. Take it home, John Rhodes.
The breakout freshman belted a game-winning, walk-off home run with two outs in the ninth to give Kentucky a 9-8 victory over Murray State on Wednesday night at Kentucky Proud Park, delivering his biggest moment to date in what has been an impressive start to his collegiate career.
The Chattanooga, Tennessee native got just enough of a fastball from Jake Jones for the first home run of his career, willing it over the fence as it hit the padding on the left field wall and careened into the UK bullpen. It capped a three-hit night that also included a double and earlier saw him extend his reached base safely streak to seven consecutive plate appearances.
“I was looking fastball,” Rhodes said. “I got my swing off, capped (the ball) a little but thankful for the wind. (A game-winning home run is) something you dream about every night and it’s crazy that it came true.”
Rhodes’ home run gave the Wildcats (7-6) their second walk-off win of the homestand and second walk-off round tripper in Kentucky Proud Park’s short history. In two games this week, Rhodes has gone 5-for-7 with two doubles, four RBI and his game-winning home run while reaching base eight times in 10 trips to the plate (a walk and two hit by pitch).
The Cats showed impressive resolve throughout the contest, erasing a 4-0 deficit and then responding after Murray State tied the game with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth. Freshman Zack Lee picked up the first win of his career by stranding two inherited runners in scoring position after entering the game with two outs in the ninth.
Top 1st – Jake Slunder singled to CF and scored on Ryan Perkins’ home run to RCF. Bryson Bloomer singled to CF and scored on Brock Anderson’s triple down the RF line. Anderson scored on Skylar McPhee’s groundout. Murray 4, UK 0.
Bottom 1st – Austin Schultz doubled into the LF corner and scored on T.J. Collett’s single to CF. Murray 4, UK 1.
Bottom 2nd – John Rhodes doubled to leadoff the inning. Matt Golda and Zeke Lewis walked to load the bases. Chase Estep walked, forcing Rhodes home. Tanner Holen hit a SAC fly to CF, scoring Golda. Murray 4, UK 3.
Bottom 3rd – Schultz singled and advanced to third on Collett’s single to RF. Oraj Anu reached on a fielder’s choice. Rhodes singled to CF, scoring Schultz. Golda doubled down the LF line, scoring Anu and Rhodes. Estep singled to RCF, scoring Golda. UK 7, Murray 4.
Top 4th – Trey Woosley walked and Alex Crump singled, moving Woosley to third. Jordan Holly hit a SAC fly, scoring Woosley. Slunder doubled to LF, scoring Crump. UK 7, Murray 6.
Bottom 5th – Anu reached on a fielding error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, third on Rhodes’ groundout and scored on Golda’s SAC fly to CF. UK 8, Murray 6.
Top 9th – Holly and Perkins singled. Bloomer singled to RF, scoring Holly. Anderson doubled to RF, scoring Perkins. UK 8, Murray 8.
Bottom 9th – Rhodes homered to LF. UK 9, Murray 8.
• The walk-off win was the second of Kentucky’s homestand, having also defeated Appalachian State on a bases loaded walk in the 15th inning on Feb. 23.
• This was UK’s first walk-off home run since Ryan Shinn hit a two-run blast to defeat Middle Tennessee 5-4 on Mar. 10, 2019.
• This is the 10th consecutive game the UK pitching staff has struck out 10 or more opposing batters.
• Freshman INF/OF John Rhodes went 3-for-5 with three runs, two RBI, a double and the game-winning home run.
o It was his first career home run.
o It was his second three-hit game of his career and set a new career-high in runs scored.
o In two games this week he is 5-for-7 with two doubles, three runs, four RBI, two HBP, a walk and his game-winning home run.
o He reached base safely in seven consecutive plate appearances upon opening the game with hits in each of his first two at-bats.
• Junior RHP Carson Coleman struck out the side in the seventh inning.
o Of the 15 outs he has recorded this season, 12 have come via strikeout.
o He’s had at least two strikeouts in all five of his outings this season.