The BatCats (21-8, 7-2) held a lead in the middle innings against Vanderbilt (18-11, 4-5) but could not hold on in a 6-4 loss on Sunday. Riley Mahan went 3/5 with two home runs and four RBIs today. Despite the loss, Kentucky took the series by winning the first two games. UK has now won their first three SEC series of the season.
Vanderbilt jumped out to their first lead of the series in the first inning. Jeren Kendall walked and stole second to lead off the game for Vandy. Julian Infante got his first of three hits with a single to score Kendall and give Coach Tim Corbin’s crew an early advantage. Through the first couple innings, it appeared that Justin Lewis was struggling with his command for the first time this season. Lewis wiggled out of a couple jams to contain Vanderbilt’s offense early.
UK answered the Dores with a run of their own on a Mahan RBI double in the first inning. Much like Lewis, Vandy starter Drake Fellows struggled with command in the first three innings. Through three frames, the two starters tallied five walks and two hit batters.
Lewis worked out of jams in the second and fourth to keep the game tied at one. Mahan broke the tie in the bottom of the fourth with a bomb that traveled over 400 feet into the parking lot in right field. UK looked to add to the lead in the fifth when Evan White tripled to left, but the Cats couldn’t find a big two out hit in the inning.
Lewis allowed a run to start the sixth inning to end his day. The sophomore allowed two runs over five innings on eight hits and five walks. Every time he got in a serious jam, he was able to wiggle out with minimum damage. Zach Pop entered the game and got two strikeouts and a pick-off to end the threat in the sixth and keep the score at 2-2.
Coach Mingione https://t.co/RQXPtuVuQQ
– Trey Huntsman (@TreyHuntsmanKSR) April 2, 2017
The momentum from tying the game carried over in the seventh for Vandy. Infante singled to lead off the inning and Will Toffey homered to give Vanderbilt their second lead of the series. Pop gave way to Logan Salow after walking the next batter. Salow allowed an inherited run to score but kept the damage down in the 7th and keep UK within three runs.
The strikeout of Connor Kaiser to end the top of the seventh gave UK a little juice heading into the bottom half. Mahan hit his second home run of the game, this time a two-run shot to cut Vanderbilt’s lead to one. Mahan drove in four runs on three extra base hits on Sunday. Maddux Conger settled down and struck out two to end the inning.
Much like he had all series, Infante continued to kill UK’s pitching in the ninth. The sophomore first baseman homered off the batter’s eye to start the eighth inning. It was the first hit Salow had allowed in the last ten inning and his first earned run of the season.
Zach Reks singled with one out in the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Luke Becker. Matt Ruppenthal allowed a deep fly ball from Becker that hung up a little too long for out number two. Mahan had a chance to tie the game with two outs but Ruppenthal got the second baseman to pop up in the infield to end the game.
Mahan now has five homers and 32 RBIs this season.
— Trey Huntsman (@TreyHuntsmanKSR) April 2, 2017
Kentucky still sits atop the SEC East with a 7-2 record in conference. The BatCats have won all three of their SEC series and haven’t lost a series since the first week of the year. Next up for the Cats is a trip to Louisville on Tuesday night. The KSR Baseball Podcast will have Coach Mingione and Louisville Coach Dan McDonnell on the show tomorrow morning previewing the game.