LEXINGTON, Ky. – Second-ranked Kentucky erased a pair of deficits Sunday with three-run third and sixth innings and the Wildcats hung on for a 7-6 victory over top-ranked LSU at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Wildcats (35-6) regained the overall SEC lead with a 13-5 record, one game in front of the Tigers (32-9, 12-6).
"I thought our players gave a great effort (Sunday) and nearly did enough to win this series," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "It was a real back-and-forth game, and we battled on every pitch. We fell just short, but I felt our players competed at a high level in a tough environment against a very good team. We can move forward and continue to play with a lot of confidence as we head down the stretch of the regular season."
Kentucky relieve Tim Peterson (3-0) was credited with the victory as he entered the game in the sixth inning and worked 1.1 scoreless frames, allowing just one walk.
Alex Phillips earned his fourth save of the year, limiting LSU to two hits over the final two innings and allowing an unearned run.
Joey Bourgeois (1-2) absorbed the loss after he relieved starter Aaron Nola to begin the sixth inning, faced three batters and allowed a pair of doubles and threw a wild pitch –eventually leading two of the Cats' three runs in the frame.
Despite the loss, LSU left fielder Raph Rhymes continued his torrid stretch with a 4-for-4 day at the plate that lifted his season average to .500 (70-for-140). Rhymes cracked a double, his second home run of the season and chased in runs in his first three at-bats.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on Rhymes' solo homer.
The Wildcats struck for three runs in the third as center fielder Austin Cousino singled and moved to third on a double by third baseman Thomas McCarthy. Both runners scored on first baseman A.J. Reed's double, and Reed scored on a single by catcher Luke Maile.
LSU tied the game 3-3 in the fourth inning as Rhymes delivered an RBI single and first baseman Mason Katz, who had singled earlier in the inning, scored from third when shortstop Austin Nola grounded into a double play.
Kentucky regained the lead in the fourth when left fielder Zac Zellers led off the fourth inning with a home run, his fifth of the season.
On a day when only the final lead was safe, LSU struck for two runs in the sixth inning to gain a 5-4 advantage. Rhymes ripped a run-scoring double and DH Jordy Snikeris produced an RBI single in the inning.
Kentucky responded with three runs in the bottom of the sixth against Bourgeois and Chris Cotton. The Wildcats lined four doubles in the inning, including run-scoring hits by second baseman J.T. Riddle, shortstop Matt Reida and Cousino.
The Tigers had a chance to draw even again in the eighth inning after Katz produced his third singl;e of the day and Rhymes rolled his fourth hit into left field. McCarthy misplayed an Austin Nola grounder to allow Katz to score and close the gap to 7-6, but Phillips ended the threat by inducing a double-play grounder off of Snikeris' bat – LSU's third of the day.
Phillips retired the Tigers in order in the ninth to preserve the UK win.
Aaron Nola pitched the first five innings for the Tigers, allowing four runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. UK starter Corey Littrell was charged with five runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings, and he recorded two walks and four strikeouts.
LSU returns to action at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when the Tigers play host to Southeastern Louisiana (28-13) at Alex Box Stadium.
Kentucky survives Rhymes, LSU rally
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