UK Athletics/Chet White

Kentucky Wildcats split doubleheader with LSU to open weekend series

Becker powers Cats to 12-5 win in opener; No. 8 Tigers win 4-3 in nightcap.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky split a Friday doubleheader with No. 8 LSU, falling 4-3 in a hard-fought nightcap that saw the Tigers manage one more hit in a critical spot than the No. 10 Wildcats could muster.

UK won the opener 12-5 behind a pair of home runs by Luke Becker, including a grand slam, and Riley Mahan’s five-hit game. Sophomore right-hander Sean Hjelle worked his sixth quality start of the season, improving to 6-2 on the season.

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.

The Cats left 14 runners on bases, going 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

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.

The teams will play the rubber game on Sunday at 1 p.m. as heavy rain is forecast for the area on Saturday.

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