FAYETTEVILLE – Derrick Bleeker hit a go-ahead two-out, three-run triple in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift No. 11 Arkansas to a dramatic 8-7 win over No. 3 Kentucky on Friday night at Baum Stadium.
With the victory, the Razorbacks improve to 25-8 on the season and 8-5 in Southeastern Conference play, while Kentucky drops to 30-5 and 9-4 in league play.
Due to expected inclement weather on Sunday, Arkansas and Kentucky will wrap up the series with a Saturday doubleheader with each game scheduled for nine innings. First pitch for the first game is set for 2:05 p.m. with game two to follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one. The first game of the doubleheader will be televised by CST. Only Saturday season and single-game tickets will be accepted for the doubleheader. Fans with single-game tickets for Sunday’s game can exchange those for a general admission ticket for Saturday’s game or for a reserved ticket for any remaining 2012 home game, based on availability. Arkansas will start Barrett Astin (2-2, 0.84) in the first game of the doubleheader and DJ Baxendale (6-1, 4.20) in the second game, while Kentucky will counter with Jerad Grundy (3-1, 4.32) in the opener and Corey Littrell (5-0, 2.02) in the nightcap.
With Kentucky leading 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Razorbacks put together a three-run rally to take the lead. Jacob Morris was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and then moved to second on a single to center by Tim Carver. A sacrifice bunt by Joe Serrano advanced the runners to second and third. After a strikeout of Dominic Ficociello for the second out of the inning, Matt Reynolds was intentionally walked to load the bases. Bleeker then hit a sinking liner to center. Kentucky center fielder Austin Cousino attempted to make a diving catch, but the ball got past him and rolled all the way to the wall. All three runners scored on the play and Bleeker attempted to stretch the triple into an inside the park homer, but he was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Cade Lynch would sit Kentucky down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the 8-7 Arkansas victory.
Carver was outstanding at the plate for Arkansas in the win, going a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored. The four hits set a new career high for the senior infielder. Along with his exploits at the plate, Carver also made a great sliding catch in foul territory in the seventh inning. Cameron Flynn hit a pop up into foul territory along the left field line. Carver raced from his shortstop position and made a sliding catch next to the tarp for the out.
Bleeker had a game-high three RBI, all coming on the seventh-inning triple. Ficociello extending his hitting streak to 10 games, going 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored, while Reynolds also had a RBI.
Thomas McCarthy had three hits and a pair of RBI to lead the Wildcats offensively. Cousino went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored, while A.J. Reed also drove in two runs. Matt Reida added a pair of hits and scored two runs.
Lynch (1-1) was fantastic out of the Arkansas bullpen to earn his first win of the season. The junior lefty tossed a season-high 5.2 innings, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out four.
Kentucky reliever Alex Phillips (5-1) took the loss after giving up three runs on two hits in two innings of work.
Neither starter factored into the decision. Arkansas starter Ryne Stanek gave up six runs, five earned, on eight hits with six strikeouts in 3.1 innings. Kentucky starter Taylor Rogers allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings.
The Razorbacks struck first with a run in the bottom of the first. Carver led off the inning with a double and then advanced to third after a ground out to second by Jacob Mahan. A groundout to short stop by Ficociello scored Carver for the game’s first run.
Kentucky took its first lead of the game with two runs in the top of the third. Reida led off the inning with a single to center field. After a strikeout of Cousino for the first out of the inning, McCarthy doubled to the gap in left-center field to put runners on second and third. Reed then grounded a single to center field to score both runs to give the Wildcats the lead.
Arkansas regained the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third. Morris began the inning with a double to left and came in to score on an opposite field single to right by Carver. With one out, Ficociello lined a triple just inside the right field line to score Carver from first and put the Razorbacks in front 3-2. A ground out to short by Reynolds scored Carver from third.
The Wildcats responded with four run top of the fourth. Zac Zellers drew a leadoff walk. With one out, Michael Williams and Reida hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. Cousino then doubled off the right field wall to score Zellers and Williams and tie the game at four. A passed ball allowed Reida to score and advanced Cousino to third. McCarthy then hit a sacrifice fly to left to bring home Cousino for the fourth run of the inning.
Arkansas trimmed the lead to one with a run in the home half of the fourth. Brian Anderson reached on an infield single with one out and then advanced to second on a single to center by Jake Wise. After a fly out to left by Morris, Carver came through with a two-out single to left-center to score Anderson from second base.
Kentucky stretched the lead back to two with a run in the top of the sixth. With one out, Cousino reached on a bunt single to first and scored all the way from first on a double to center field by McCarthy.