“Kentucky had lost only two games in this stadium all year, so it's a tribute to our players to come here and win two today,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri
After a rainout Friday night, Saturday started with a 10-inning pitching duel.
Ryan Verdugo (7-2) pitched eight complete innings, and Jared Bradford (8-4) entered the game in relief and earned the win. Verdugo allowed one unearned run on just three hits and struck out seven batters. Bradford pitched the ninth and 10th innings and allowed no runs, no hits and struck out one.
Designated hitter Chris McGhee and third baseman Michael Hollander sparked the Tiger’s offense for its 8 hits and three runs.
With LSU (31-16-1, 11-11-1 SEC) trailing 1-0, McGhee and Hollander led off the sixth inning with singles. McGhee stole third and Hollander stole second on strike three to Derek Helenihi. A groundout by left fielder Blake Dean scored McGhee for the tie.
McGhee showed up again in extra innings, this time as the go-ahead run. With two outs and two strikes, McGhee smacked a single into left field and promptly stole second base. Hollander did not squander the opportunity, hitting a double to center field and scoring McGhee. Helenihi gave the Tigers an insurance run with a single, scoring Hollander for the final 3-1 score.
As has been the case recently, the Tigers found themselves down early. Kentucky (34-13, 11-12 SEC) took a 1-0 lead in the third inning because of LSU miscues.
Verdugo got into trouble by walking one batter and hitting another with a pitch. Kentucky designated hitter Bryan Rose laid down a bunt, and the Wildcats scored a runner from second on a throwing error by Verdugo.
Bradford did not flinch with the game on his shoulders. The right hander got six consecutive outs in the ninth and 10th innings, throwing only 17 pitches.
Game two showcased LSU’s offensive talents as the Tigers scored 12 runs on 13 hits.
The scoring started off immediately with three runs in the top of the first inning. After McGhee walked to start the game, Hollander reached base on a throwing error. An RBI groundout by LSU catcher Micah Gibbs scored McGhee from third, and three consecutive singles scored two more runs for an early 3-0 LSU lead.
The Tigers did not take their foot off the gas pedal in the second inning. Jared Mitchell started the inning by blasting a home run over the center field wall. McGhee and Hollander continued with their impressive days as each scored again. McGhee reached base after being hit by a pitch, and a Hollander double scored him all the way from first. Gibbs slapped a single past second base, scoring Hollander for a 6-0 lead after just two innings. McGhee added an RBI groundout, scoring first baseman Sean Ochinko for a 7-0 lead in the third.
The Wildcats got onto the board in the third inning. Kentucky catcher Tyler Howe and second baseman Ryan Wilkes each hit doubles on the first two pitches of the third inning. First baseman Brian Spear added a two-RBI home run that cut the deficit to 7-3.
Ochinko had LSU’s answer in the top of the fourth. With two outs and left fielder Blake Dean on first, Ochinko hit a home run deep to left field for a 9-2 lead.
Kentucky bounced back with a three-run fourth. The Wildcats slapped two consecutive hits into the outfield, including a two-RBI double by left fielder Keenan Wiley. The runs cut the lead to 9-5, but would be Kentucky’s last.
The Tigers secured the win with a run in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh. Jared Mitchell made the game 10-5 without doing much work. After being hit by a pitch, Mitchell stole second and advanced to third on throwing error. He then reached home on a wild pitch. Designated hitter Nicholas Pontiff and Hollander walked in the seventh inning, and scored the game’s final runs on a triple by Helenihi.
Jared Bradford shined again in his second appearance of the day. Blake Martin (3-3) earned the win through five complete innings, allowing five runs on six hits. He also walked two and struck out four. Bradford entered in the sixth, and the Wildcats’ offense fizzled. Bradford allowed just two hits and no run and added four strike outs with no walks.
The Tigers will go for their second-straight SEC sweep tomorrow at noon at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington.