LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 10 Kentucky split a Friday doubleheader with No. 8 LSU, falling 4-3 in a tense nightcap that saw the Tigers manage one more hit in a critical spot than the Wildcats could muster. UK won the opener 12-5 behind a pair of home runs by Luke Becker (pictured) and Riley Mahan’s five-hit game.
The Cats (27-13, 11-6 SEC) maintained their two-game lead in the SEC East, but certainly were looking for more on a night when they took a 3-0 lead through four innings against LSU’s top starter, Alex Lange. UK drew eight walks and had seven hits against Lange in 5.2 innings but were 0-for-6 with the bases loaded, leaving them juiced in the second, third and fourth innings.
For the game the Cats left 14 runners on bases, going 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and 4-for-21 with runners on base. LSU played a big part of those numbers as well, particularly late in the game. First baseman Nick Coomes, who also had a game-tying two-run single in the fifth inning, made two tremendous defensive plays in the final two innings. He robbed Zach Reks of a game-tying double in the eighth with a diving stop and snatched a double away from Riley Mahan to begin the ninth.
The Tigers (27-13, 10-6) pushed across the winning run in the eighth with a two-strike single by Josh Smith, an infield hit by Michael Papierski and an RBI single by Antoine Duplantis.
In the first game, along with Mahan's career-high five hits and Becker's two home runs (including a seventh-inning grand slam), UK starter Sean Hjelle helped the Cats beat LSU. He worked his sixth quality start of the season, going six innings, allowing three runs on five hits, as the sophomore righthander moved to 6-2 on the season.
The teams will play the rubber game on Sunday at 1 p.m. as heavy rain is forecast for the area on Saturday.
Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics