Cliff Hagan Stadium is an oasis for the University of Kentucky baseball team this season. The No. 16 Wildcats have only lost at home twice all season and have put up an incredible number of runs within the friendly confines off of Cooper Drive.
The Cats certainly outscored the visiting and No. 22 Vanderbilt Commodores for their third straight SEC series win, and by taking two of three from the Dores', the Bat Cats improved their record to 21-8 and 7-2 in conference play.
Kentucky Vaulted Over Vandy Early
Friday's showdown with the Commodores was essentially over by the end of the 3rd inning. Even more impressive was how UK managed to rock the usually steady Patrick Ruby, who came into the contest with a 1.40 ERA in his last six appearances.
Kentucky ganged up on Ruby in the bottom of the 2nd inning. They easily loaded the bases and drew first blood after Ruby hit Troy Squires with a pitch which allowed Riley Mahan to run home. Marcus Carson and Evan White's dueling RBI singles added another two runs. A throwing error by Vandy brought Carson and Squires across the plate to put Kentucky's lead at 5-0.
Troy Marshall and Connor Heady dialed the clock back to baseball's early days in the bottom of the next inning by notching RBI bunts.
Tristan Pompey's three-run smash in the bottom of the 7th ended Kentucky's scoring for the day. He finished the day 3-of-4 with three RBI and three runs scored.
The 10-3 win was starter Sean Hjelle's fourth victory on the year against two losses. He tied a season-high with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. Hjelle also gave up three runs on five hits
Logue Lounges on the Mound in the Series Clincher
Another early offensive outburst and stellar pitching from Zach Logue earned the Wildcats not only the series, but the program's best conference start in 25 years.
Logue (5-1) threw a career-high eight innings and struck out seven Commodore batsmen. He gave up six hits and a walk. The only run that Logue gave up was a solo homer to Jeren Kendall in the bottom of the 8th inning.
The Wildcats used another five-run inning to burst the game open, this time in the bottom of the 3rd. Two singles, a triple, and a sacrifice were how UK did their damage. Kentucky added two runs in the 5th to increase their lead to 7-0.
Vandy added four runs to the scoreboard in the final two frames but never seriously challenged the boys in blue.
Six Wildcats finished with a RBI led by Kole Cottam who finished 2-of-4 at the plate with a pair of RBIs to boot.
The Commodores Did Not Want to Face the Broom
With a sweep on the line, Vanderbilt rose to the occasion and nipped Kentucky in the later innings to salvage the series with a win.
Kentucky held a slight 2-1 lead for much of the game thanks to a Riley Mahan RBI double in the bottom of the 1st and then a homer from Mahan in the bottom of the 5th.
Vandy tied the game in the top of the 6th inning and sent UK starter Justin Lewis to the bench with his worst outing of the season. Lewis gave up two runs, eight hits, and walked five batters. His replacement, Zach Pop, got UK out of the jam but gave up the go-ahead run in a three-run Vand rally the next inning. Logan Salow came on for Pop and pitched three solid innings though he surrendered a home run.
Mahan launched another two-run bomb, this time in the bottom of the 6th to pull UK within two, 6-4. However, the Cats would get no closer and fell to the Nashville Nine, 7-4.