Tide Baseball Loses SEC Opener

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats took advantage of three walks and three wild pitches in a four-run fourth inning to post a 7-5 win over the University of Alabama Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools.



Kentucky (16-0, 1-0 SEC), who extended the nation's longest winning streak to 16 games, took advantage of three walks and three wild pitches by Tide starter Austin Hyatt to score four runs and grab a 6-3 lead.

Chris Wade's bases loaded sacrifice fly scored Chris McClendon with the tying run as UK evened the score at 3-3. Ryan Wilkes scored the go-ahead run on the second of three wild pitches by Hyatt to put UK in front 4-3. Tyler Howe scored on the third wild pitch with two outs to give the Cats a 5-4 lead. Cowgill then lined a double to right to score Keenan Wiley, who reached on a two out walk, to put UK in front 6-3.

Hyatt (2-1) left after the Cowgill's two-out double and was charged with six runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings. He added four strikeouts and walked three in his 86-pitch performance.

UA relievers Miers Quigley and Casey Kebodeaux held UK to one run over the final 4 1/3 innings, but the trio of Tide pitchers walked nine and hit two batters in the loss

Alabama (9-6, 0-1 SEC) jumped on the nation's fourth-ranked team with two runs in the top of the first inning when junior DH Alex Avila slammed a two-run home run over the scoreboard in left-center field. Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge led off the game with the single to left field and scored on Avila's sixth home run of the season and fourth in his last three games.

Wilkes' first home run of the season on a 3-1 pitch to center field trimmed UA's lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the second inning.

Sophomore left fielder Brandon May, who led the Tide with four hits, gave Alabama a 3-1 lead in the top of the third inning with a two-out home run to right field. It was May's second home run of the season and first career SEC home run.

Cowgill's fourth home run of the season over the scoreboard in left center field pulled UK to within 3-2 in the bottom of the third inning. The UK centerfielder paced the Cats with three extra base hits and three RBI in the win.

After UK's four-run inning, Alabama got a run back in the fifth when May singled past Wilkes at second base and scored on senior first baseman Matt Bentley's RBI double off the center field wall to make it 6-4.

UK starter Chris Rusin (3-0) allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings, with three strikeouts and one walk.

The Crimson Tide added another two-out run in the sixth inning off reliever Brock Baber to close the gap to 6-5. Junior center fielder Alex Kubal reached on a fielder's choice and took second on a throwing error by Wilkes at second base. Rutledge followed with an RBI single to center to pull UA within a run.

Kentucky added a two-out run of its own in the bottom of the inning to take a 7-5 lead. Wiley was hit by a pitch with two outs and scored on Cowgill's third hit of the game, a double off the center field wall.

UK closer James Paxton retired eight of the 10 batters he faced to earn his first save of the 2008 season. He allowed one hit and struck out five in 2 2/3 scoreless innings on the mound.

Alabama and Kentucky continue this three-game series with a 2 p.m. (EST) game at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Tide is expected to send senior left-hander Will Stroup (2-0, 3.31 ERA) the mound against UK right-hander Scott Green (2-0, 1.50 ERA).

GAME NOTES:

*Junior DH Alex Avila (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) extended his career-high hitting streak to nine games with a first-inning home run. It was Avila's sixth home run of the season and his fourth in the last three games. Avila has homered in three straight games, including two three-run home runs in the Tide's 17-2 win at North Alabama on Tuesday. He also homered against Samford and Kentucky.

*Avila is batting .383 (13-for-34) with 11 runs scored, five home runs and 16 RBI during his nine-game hitting streak.

*Avila has homered in first SEC at-bat in each of the last two seasons. He hit a solo home run last year against Tennessee on March 16 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

*The Crimson Tide hit two home runs in its 2008 SEC opener and has eight home runs in the last three games.

*Alabama sophomore left fielder Brandon May and Kentucky sophomore first baseman Kevin Bishop were teammates at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., and played on the 2006 Georgia Class 5A State Championship and No. 6 national ranking by Baseball America.

*Alabama had its six-game winning streak snapped with the loss to Kentucky.

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