Don't ya just Lov-ett? Kentucky 9 Alabama 3

HOOVER, Ala. -- "Don't ya just Lov-ett," a small but hearty contingent of Kentucky fans chanted as Kentucky senior righthander Aaron Lovett (5-1) threw a complete game in his first career start for the Wildcats and Chris McClendon went two for three with three RBIs as Kentucky defeated Alabama 9-3 in each team's first game of the SEC tournament.

The second session of the day began with a robust crowd of 11,967 in attendance, many of them sporting the crimson and white colors of the Alabama Crimson Tide, playing nearly in their backyard. The final game concluded with mostly blue and white in the stands as the game ended after 2 a.m. local time in a game Kentucky controlled with four runs in the sixth inning.

As the game passed 2 a.m., few fans were left but the hearty Wildcat faithful

Lovett's start was anything but solid out of the gate. The first four Crimson Tide batters to face Lovett all singled, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. The Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the first on two unearned runs, and after only one out in Alabama's second at bat,a towering shot to right field was launched by Alabama centerfielder Tyler Odle to give Alabama a 3-2 lead.

Kentucky Coach John Cohen remained confident, however. "They got off to a quick start and we have been letting teams do that all year. It is not something that happened just because of tournament play but our guys have battled back from being down all season."

Lovett settled down quickly

Indeed the Wildcats did battle back, as Alabama would never score again in the game, as Lovett secured the next twenty-three outs without a runner crossing home plate.

The game was tied 3-3 in the fourth inning before Kentucky broke the game open with six runs in the next two innings. In the fifth, a two-out rally began with a Sawyer Carroll double down the right field line. Collin Cowgill was hit by a pitch putting two runners on with two outs. The count reached 2-2 on UK third baseman Chris McClendon, and a daring move to start the runners paid off, as McClendon broke his bat with a seeing eye single up the middle, and Cowgill roared around the bases to score from first base with a head first slide and his left arm outstretched just nipping the back of the plate to avoid the tag.

Coach Vorhoff encourages Sawyer Carroll

In the sixth inning Kentucky extended its lead from 5-3 to the final 9-3 score, courtesy of three hits, a walk, and a big error by the Alabama third baseman. With two runners on, Wildcat leadoff hitter Keenan Wiley stepped to the plate and attempted to sacrifice the runners over. The bunt was fielded cleanly, but a rushed throw went sailing over the first baseman's head, and two runs scored, with Wiley ending up at third base. A Carroll sacrifice fly drove in Wiley, giving Carroll 78 RBIs for the season, a new Wildcat record.

Keenan Wiley's bunt sparked a 4-run sixth inning

Aaron Lovett, Tyler Howe and Sawyer Carroll celebrating victory

Aaron Lovett being congratulated by Collin Cowgill

Wildcats celebrate victory over Alabama with the Alabama logo as their backdrop

Kentucky (42-15) will next face Ole Miss (35-22) in the winner's bracket late game tomorrow night, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. CT. Alabama (32-25) will face # 1 seed Georgia (35-20-1) in an elimination contest at 1 p.m.

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