The Volunteers pounced on UK starter Zack Brown, who has struggled through the first half of the season after turning in a terrific 2015 campaign. The junior right-hander surrendered nine runs on 10 hits and one walk before departing after five innings of work.
Brown (1-5) saw his season ERA swell to 7.12 after posting a 3.48 figure last season as UK's Friday night ace.
The Cats have lost the series opener in each of their three SEC matchups this season, but recovered to win the previous two (Georgia and Florida) by winning the last two games.
Tennessee (17-9, 3-4 SEC) got a strong outing from Aaron Soto in his second career start. Soto (3-0) worked 7.1 innings, allowing only two runs on three hits and a pair of walks.
There were few offensive highlights for Kentucky (18-8, 4-3 SEC), but Gunnar McNeill hit a two-run homer in the Cats' five-run eighth before the Vols countered with five runs in their half of the inning. UT's Rodgers hit a three-run homer in the eighth to give him the cycle and cap a monster day at the plate.
McNeill's 2-for-4 day helped him extend his hitting streak to a program-record 21 games.UK's Evan White also extended his streak to 19 games with a two-run double.The series will resume on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The series will resume on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.