Vanderbilt used a six-run seventh inning to come back and beat #18 Kentucky (34-21, 13-17) by a score of 9-6 to sweep the weekend series. The series loss in Nashville dropped UK to the ten seed in the SEC Tournament.
The Cats’ offense scored a combined two runs in the first two games of the series, but the bats warmed up today. Luke Heyer, Kole Cottam, and Luke Becker all hit balls out of the park in support of starting pitcher Zack Thompson. Heading into the seventh inning, UK led 6-3 over the Commodores. VU jumped all over the Cats’ bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. The Commodores scored six runs against Mason Hazelwood and Brad Schanezer as UK gifted them a series sweep.
Before the collapse in the seventh, UK looked like a team moving in the right direction. Heyer opened the game with a two-run home run in the first inning. Heyer’s SEC-leading 18th home run of the season would be the difference up until the third inning. Trailing 2-1, Vanderbilt took their first lead of the day on a two-run home run by Pat DeMarco.
UK starter Zack Thompson was brilliant outside of allowing DeMarco’s home run. The only run Thompson allowed other than the home run came on a questionable balk call in the first inning. The sophomore pitcher did a good job of settling down after the balk and the home run. Thompson struck out six in five strong innings.
Even when the Cats got down in the third inning, their offense battled back. In the top of the fifth, UK saw their power bats lead the charge against VU starter Mason Hickman. Cottam put UK back in front with a two-run home run over the high wall in left. Becker followed with a solo home run to deep right to put UK ahead 5-3. Hickman would remain on the mound and see UK tack on their sixth run of the day and fourth in the fifth inning.
Thompson exited following the fifth inning and gave way to freshman Mason Hazelwood on the mound. Hazelwood did a good job of navigating trouble in the sixth, but the seventh inning brought more problems. The Commodores put two men on before Jayson Gonzalez drove in a run on a sac fly. Hazelwood allowed a second run when he threw an errant pickoff attempt past first base. With Hazelwood running on fumes, UK went to Brad Schaenzer with two on and one out in the seventh inning. Things would go from bad to worse with Schanezer on the mound. The senior would throw only four pitches, but he allowed four runs to cross home plate. Philip Clarke drove in a pair of runs to put the Commodores in front before Stephen Scott drove a ball out of the ballpark to give VU a 9-6 lead after seven innings.
The bad luck would continue for the Cats in the ninth inning. Trailing by three, UK loaded the bases with one out. Becker smoked a line drive up the middle that was snagged by the VU shortstop who then touched second base to double off Trey Dawson and end the game.
The seventh inning was the killer for UK tonight. The Cats were swept this weekend for the first time since February of 2017. UK will need a big week in Hoover to feel good about reaching the NCAA Tournament.