LEXINGTON, Ky. – WKU racked up 11 hits for the seventh time in its past nine games but couldn’t survive two big innings by No. 27 Kentucky Tuesday night as the Hilltoppers fell 10-3 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (15-6), the NCAA leader in runs per game, scored four in the first inning to take the early advantage but WKU (12-9) trimmed its deficit to 4-2 with runs in the third and fourth innings. The Hilltoppers brought the tying run to the plate on five occasions between the fourth and the sixth inning but could not do any more damage before the Wildcats took control with a six-run seventh inning.
WKU starter Josh Bartley (2-2) forced two-straight groundouts before Kentucky strung together a four-run two-out rally with hits from A.J. Reed, Michael Thomas and Matt Reida. Ka’ai Tom and Storm Wilson both drew walks while Marcus Carson was plunked to walk in another run.
Trailing 4-0 in the third inning, the Hilltoppers began to chip away as freshman shortstop Leiff Clarkson and sophomore outfielder Trevor Lowe reached base with no outs. Senior Scott Wilcox moved the speedsters over with a sac bunt to set up junior first baseman Ryan Church’s 14th RBI of the year to cut the deficit to 4-1. WKU had runners on the corners with one out in the frame but Kentucky turned a double play to end the Hilltopper threat.
Sophomore outfielder Anderson Miller, a Lexington native, trimmed Kentucky’s lead to 4-2 in the fourth inning with an RBI triple off the right field wall. Miller’s second-career triple plated junior catcher Ryan Messex, who previously led off the inning with a double to right field.
Miller became the first Hilltopper to record two triples in the same game since Matt Payton accomplished the feat against South Alabama on April 9, 2010 when he ripped an opposite field three-bagger in the sixth. Clarkson nearly plated Miller with an infield hit but a bang-bang play at first went Kentucky’s way to end WKU’s scoring opportunity.
Kentucky exploded for six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to seize control of the contest, using two-run singles from Wilson and Austin Cousino, an RBI hit from Carson and a Hilltopper error to inflict the final damage. The Hilltoppers mustered one run in the ninth inning after a hard-hit grounder was bobbled by Wildcat second baseman JaVon Shelby, allowing Clarkson to score his second run of the game.
Bartley was tagged with his second loss of the year after giving up four runs and seven hits in five innings of work. He was very effective during the second through fifth innings, giving up four hits and no runs after surrendering four runs in the first. Relievers Sam Higgs, Brennan Pearson and Ian Tompkins all worked full innings of relief work out of the bullpen.
Miller, Messex and Lowe all finished with a pair of hits for the Hilltoppers while Church and Miller were responsible for WKU’s RBI. Senior outfielder Regan Flaherty extended his hitting streak to 10 games, which is the longest of his career and the longest for any current Hilltoppers’ career.