Lexington, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team battled the 11th-ranked team in the nation for six-and-a-half innings on Wednesday, but a six-run outburst by Kentucky in the bottom of the seventh lifted the Wildcats to a 12-5 win over the Hilltoppers at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
WKU (8-11) led 5-4 before two runs by the Wildcats (22-2) in the bottom of the fifth gave them a one-run lead of their own.
That score held until the seventh when UK sent 10 men to the plate and scored six times to blow the game open. After a Mike Brown single got the inning started, Jason Kipnis tripled down the line in left to stretch the Kentucky lead to two. Sean Coughlin followed with a sacrifice fly, to make it 8-5, and two straight singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. A walk to Ryan Wilkes forced home the third run of the inning, and an Antone DeJesus RBI singled followed by an Anthony Ottrando run-scoring groundout capped off the frame to put UK in front 12-5.
The Wildcats stuck first in the game as a second-inning triple by Wilkes was followed up by a DeJesus groundout to make it 1-0. However, WKU came right back with five runs in the top of the third to pull in front.
Back-to-back singles by Scott Kaskie and Terrence Dayleg got the rally started, and a one-out single by Troy Frazier tied the game at 1-1. With two outs, two straight run-scoring singles by Wade Gaynor and Tyler Bumgarner put the Toppers in front. J.B. Paxson followed with a two-run double to extend the WKU lead to 5-1.
That would be the only inning in which the Hilltoppers would score, however, as eight UK relievers combined to blank WKU on just three hits over the final six innings, allowing the Wildcats to make their comeback.
The Toppers collected 10 hits in the game, with Kaskie, Dayleg, Frazier and Gaynor accounting for two hits each. Brown and Coughlin each had two hits four UK, and Coughlin added a game-high three RBI.
Peter Wiggins (0-2) suffered the loss as he allowed two runs on no hits while walking three batters in his one inning of relief. Matt Hightower got the start on the mound for WKU, allowing four runs on five hits over his three innings of work. Clint Tilford (1-0) got the win in relief for UK.
WKU will look to break its two-game losing skid the weekend when it host Albany in a three-game nonconference series at Nick Denes Field. The series gets underway with a 6 p.m. (CDT) game on Friday (March 23).