Despite the struggles Auburn held a two-run lead with reliever Bradley Hendrix on the mound in the eighth and looking to close things out and win the series with one game still remaining on Sunday. Instead the Tigers fell apart allowing the Wildcats to steal the win. It started with the first pitch as Hendrix grooved one to Gunner Glad and he deposited it over the wall in left field for a home run.
Now leading just one at 7-6, Hendrix remained in the game and hit Keenan Wiley with a pitch to put the tying run on base. Following a ground ball to move the runner to second, Auburn called on closer Austin Hubbard to finish things off. Instead thing fell apart quickly. Following a strikeout, Hubbard allowed a two-out single to center field by Chris Bisson to score Wiley and tie the game at seven. Stealing second and third for Kentucky's seventh and eighth stolen bases of the game, Bisson scored on an error by Hunter Morris to put the Wildcats back in front. It could have been worse as another single to right field by Chad Wright was minimized as Justin Fradejas threw out the runner Cory Farris at the plate to end the inning.
Now trailing 8-7, Auburn failed to do anything in its final two at-bats and dropped the game to even the series. There was a moment of hope in the bottom of the ninth as back to back singles by Wes Gilmer and Justin Hargett put the tying run on second base. Following a groundout by Justin Fradejas, Trent Mummey hit a fly ball to deep center field. Wiley made the grab on the warning track to seal the win for the Wildcats. The loss drops Auburn to 26-14 overall and 9-8 in SEC play with Sunday's second game still to come. Kentucky improves to 23-16 and 6-11 with the win.
The game started out well for the Tigers after picking things up from the suspension on Saturday. Freshman Slade Smith entered with the bases loaded and nobody out facing Lance Ray. Throwing a strike on the first pitch, the freshman got a ground ball to Hargett who threw to Casey McElroy at second. His throw to first completed the double play to end the Kentucky threat, one of several in this game.
The Wildcats would get on the board first in the top of the second as three consecutive singles scored Glad to make it 1-0. That's all Kentucky would get though as a failed sacrifice bunt gave Smith a chance to get out of it with no more damage. He did his part with a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.
With one swing of the bat Auburn got back even in the bottom of the second as junior Kevin Patterson got a fastball and drove it over the wall in left field for his 11th home run of the season. The Tigers took the lead for the first time an inning later as a two-out walk to Hunter Morris gave Tony Caldwell the chance to drive him home. A fly ball into right-center field turned into an adventure for the Wildcats as it glanced off the fielder and bounced far enough away for Morris to score all the way from first.
Once again Kentucky would threaten in the fourth and come up with a pair of runs to take the lead back. A leadoff walk to Bisson and an infield single put Smith in trouble. He came back to get a groundout for out number one and a batter interference was the second out, but Ray delivered his fourth double of the series to score both runners and put Kentucky back in front 3-2.
Auburn missed a golden opportunity to take the lead back in the bottom of the fourth as a walk to Patterson and a double by Dan Gamache to right field that just missed leaving the yard put the Tigers in great scoring position. Another walk to Hargett loaded the bases for the top of the order and Fradejas. A walk to him scored Patterson to tie the game with Mummey, Brian Fletcher and Morris due up. A pop up and two strikeouts later and the game was still tied at three.
Things remained that way until the top of the sixth. With reliever Sean Ray in the game after coming on in to start the fifth, the Wildcats got a one-out walk to speedy Neiko Johnson. Following a fly ball to center field for the second out of the inning, a stolen base and a passed ball moved him to third. He would later score on a Keenan Wiley single to put Kentucky back in front 4-3.
A pair of Auburn runs in the bottom of the sixth on a Morris sacrifice fly and a Caldwell groundout put the Tigers back in front, but again Kentucky would strike on offense thanks to plenty of help from the Tigers. A single, a walk, and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with the speedy Johnson coming to the plate. Hitting a high chopper to short, it forced McElroy to hurry and he couldn't make the play. That allowed a run to score and tie the game once again at five.
Auburn would again come up big offensively in the bottom of the seventh as a pair of doubles from Hargett and Mummey pushed across two runs to give Auburn a two-run cushion with two innings left to play. Unfortunately on this day it was too much give and not enough take for the Tigers in the loss as Kentucky made the plays to win and even the series.
Game two is scheduled to begin at 2:50 p.m. with Grant Dayton on the mound in the seven-inning game against Taylor Rogers from Kentucky.